Carnitas, AKA "little meats", is a Mexican dish that originated in the state of Michoacán. Carnitas are made by braising or simmering pork lard until tender, then slightly pulled and crisped. The result is juicy, yet crispy. Carnitas are one of my favorite tacos of all time traditionally served on fresh corn tortillas with cilantro and onions. This recipe is great because it only takes around 4 hours total cook time thanks to simmering the pork in the first stage of the cook.

Pro Tip: a boneless pork butt is preferred for this recipe so you do not have to deal with the bone when trimming.

Meat Church How To YouTube Video:

Ranch Water Recipe:


  • 4 lb pork butt
  • 2 C lard aka manteca (sub cooking oil)
  • 12 oz mexican coke (Coke made with real sugar)
  • 2 T Meat Church dia de la Fajita seasoning
  • 1 T comino AKA cumin
  • 2 oranges, halved
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 dozen corn tortillas
  • 1 small white onion, diced
  • 1 bunch cilantro, diced

Prepare the pork
Cut the pork but into 1 - 2" cubes. 

Season liberally with Meat Church dia de la Fajita on all sides. Lightly season with cumin. Allow to adhere for at least 15 minutes. 


Pour lard into a large dutch oven or pot suitable for frying. The goal is for the heated lard to only come 1/2 way up the pieces of pork if possible so adjust accordingly. Heat the lard to at least 300 degrees. 


Place the pork in the dutch oven. Simmer the pork 6 - 8 minutes flipping at least once. 

mill scale yakitori grill

*You can simmer the pork until it's tender which would take longer than 8 minutes obviously. However, in typical Meat Church fashion, we are going to remove the dutch oven from the direct heat and smoke it. You can skip this next smoking step and simmer until tender which is 195 internal if you like. 

Smoke the pork
Remove the dutch oven from the heat. Squeeze the juice of the oranges into the dutch oven. Add the bottle of Mexican coke. Be sure you are not completely submerging the pork. If you are, back off the added liquid. Add 3 bay leaves.


Place the dutch oven, uncovered in a smoker at 250. Smoke until the pork is at least 170 internal. That took 2 hours in this video.


Cover the dutch oven with a lid and increase to 300. Cook until the pork is 195 internal which took 1 1/2 more hours in this video

Remove the dutch oven from the smoker. 

Crisp the carnitas
Using tongs, remove the pork from the dutch oven and place on a sheet pan. Using 2 forks slightly start to pull the pork apart. Do not pull it all the way like traditional pulled pork.

smoked carnitas

Ladle some of the residual lard across the pork and the sheet pan.

Place the sheet pan back in the smoker at 400 for 20 minutes. If you are unable to go as high as 400 in your smoker then increase to 350 and put the pan closest to the firebox rotating a couple times during the cook. This step could also be accomplished with a cast iron skillet over direct heat.

mill scale smoker

Remove the pork and allow to cool for 15 minutes.

Prepare the tortillas
While the pork is cooling prepare your tortillas. Dip the tortillas in heated lard.

corn tortillas

Place tortillas on plancha or a cast iron skillet over medium heat for 1 minute per side. 

mill scale yakitori grill

Build carnitas tacos
Build you tacos with the pork, cilantro and onions. Add hot sauce if you desire. Enjoy one of my favorite tacos of all time!



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