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a skillet, a slow cooker and the broiler


Sometimes I am shocked when I discover the recipes that I have NOT posted on this site in the last five years.

I found a pork shoulder in my freezer and decided that the best thing I could do with it was to make carnitas. I would have sworn, that by now, I would have posted my carnitas recipe. I typed “carnitas” in the search bar over there on the right … No, there was no carnitas to be found. Strange!

crispy browned carnias

In the old days, I’d make carnitas one of two classic ways … deep-frying it in lard (oh my!) or slow roasting it in a hot oven for hours on end (not the best idea in the AZ summer!) … today, I use a slow cooker. OK, not only a slow cooker. Also a skillet at the beginning and a sheet pan, under the broiler, at the end.

The skillet, and a bit of olive oil, are needed at the beginning to brown the meat.  The slow cooker is used in the middle to make the meat fork-tender, without heating up the entire kitchen. Finally, the broiler is used for only about 10 minutes, in the end, to make the pork crispy. Soft meat (which is what the slow cooker produces) does not qualify as carnitas! Below is a photo of some of the meat scrapes from the bottom of the slow cooker, placed in a tortilla. This is what you don’t want! Soft, over shredded, soggy meat. This is not carnitas!

unbrowned over shredded

Even though there are three distinctly different cooking stages, the hands-on time is minimal. Totally worth it!

crispy carnitas

Slow Cooker Crispy Carnitas

  • 4 to 5 pounds boneless pork shoulder, excess fat trimmed, cut into large chunks
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, more as needed
  • 8 ounces beer (I used a lager)
  • 1 large onion, peeled and diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 3 chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, finely minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder

Season the chunks of pork with salt and pepper.

 brown pork

Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the pork and sear on all sides until well browned. Do this in batches so that you do not overcrowd the pan, there should be a bit of space between each piece of meat, as shown.

slow cooker

As the pork is browned, transfer the pieces to a slow cooker. Add additional olive oil to the skillet if needed between batches.


Add the onion to the skillet and cook in the browned bits (the fond) left in the pan until the onion is soft and translucent.


Add the beer and scrape up all the browned bits, pour into the slow cooker, over the meat.


Add the garlic, chipotle, cumin, and chili powder.


Stir to combine and coat the meat.

half time

Cook on low for 6 hours or until the pork is completely tender and shreds easily with a fork.  During the last 10 minutes of cooking time, preheat the broiler to high and line a large baking sheet with foil.


Use a slotted spoon or spider to transfer the pork to the prepared baking sheet.

2 forks

Use 2 forks to shred the meat into bite-sized pieces (do not shred too finely) as you spread it in one layer on the baking sheet. Reserve the broth in the slow cooker.

1st broil

Place under the broiler for 5 minutes, or until the edges of the pork pieces begin to brown and crisp. Remove from the oven and use a large metal spatula to carefully turn over the pork pieces. Sprinkle the meat with about 1/3 cup of broth.

brown and crisp

Broil for an additional 5 minutes to get the meat crispy all over.

crispy browned carnias

Serve in tacos, burritos, salads, or eat straight from the pan. Delish!

Serves 8 to 10

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