Fast Food. Slow food. Healthy food. Convenient food. There is so much focus on finding the best way to prepare and consume our food. I don’t have kids, but I can completely understand the urge to get dinner on the table in 30 minutes or less during weekdays. Even on the weekends, when I have more time to spend in the kitchen, there are days when I have little time to prepare food.
I have been hearing about the Instant Pot for months. I simply dismissed it as just another gadget that would take up valuable counter space. A couple of weeks ago, I finally caved in and got one. I went to visit my neighborhood butcher on the same day I expected delivery of the Instant Pot to pick up some pork belly destined for homemade bacon. I saw a good-looking cut of pork shoulder and started daydreaming about carnitas. And hey, I had that Instant Pot waiting for me at home! It was perfect timing.
Getting started took me longer than I thought. I assumed I’d be able to figure things out on my own. That was not the case. One piece of advice: read the manual or watch a youtube video on how to get started. After unboxing the Instant Pot, you have to install the anti-block shield, and the condensation collector. After that, you are pretty much set. It is probably good to take note of the items you should not cook in it: pasta, fried foods, etc.
The carnitas are so tender and flavorful. I don’t think I could have gotten them that tender if I cooked them in my Dutch oven for the same amount of time.
It is difficult to decide to get one more gadget that will take up some precious counter top space. So far, I can see myself using the Instant Pot a lot. Not only does it cook tougher cuts of meat faster, it can also keep the food warm until you are ready to eat it.
Instant Pot Carnitas
Recipe adapted from The Kitchn
- 4 lb pork shoulder (Boston Butt), cut into two pieces
- 6 large garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground Chipotle pepper
- 2 Chipotle peppers in adobo, seeds removed and minced
- 2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 cup water
- oil for browning the meat
- corn tortillas, avocado, cilantro, and limes for serving
- cornstarch, if you would like to thicken the juices
- Press Saute to preheat the Instant Pot. When the display reads Hot, add about 1 teaspoon of oil and one piece of the pork and brown on all sides. Remove the meat and place on a plate. Repeat with the second piece of pork.
- Turn Instant Pot off, add garlic, black pepper, cumin, oregano, salt, cinnamon, ground Chipotle, and Chipotles in adobo, and briefly sauté. Add in the orange juice, water, and browned meat.
- Press Manual, set the timer to 80 minutes. Once the time is up, do a natural release, which will take about another 20 minutes. If you don’t get back to it once the 80 minutes are up, the pot will stain in keep warm mode.
- Check that the valve has dropped before opening the lid. Carefully open the lid. Turn the pot off. Remove the meat to a large plate or board, shred, and remove any pieces of fat or bone as you go along. The meat will be delicious as is, but it’s even better if you broil it until brown before serving. Taste the carnitas, they may need a sprinkle of salt.
- Reserve the liquid, and separate the fat from the juices. You can do this by sticking the liquid in the freezer. The fat on top will freeze and it should be easy to remove. You can use this liquid as a sauce. I thickened it by adding 1 tablespoon of cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons of water to 1 1/2 cups of the cooking liquid and bringing that up to a simmer in a small pot.
- Serve on corn tortillas, with avocado, cilantro, and lime wedges. The meat freezes well.
Note: if you are making this for a crowd, this will serve about 8 people if you are only serving tacos, with no sides. If you are serving sides, this could serve up to 12. Remember that the number of servings will depend on how much fat the pork shoulder has. The more fat it has, the less meat you will get.