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Instant Pot Carnitas


I Ate Oklahoma is brought to you in part by:

#PigOutOKC is brought to you by the Oklahoma Pork Council. Twice a month we’ll be delving into restaurants and recipes that bring home the bacon (among other delicious cuts of pork). Experiencing your own pork-fueled adventure? Use the hashtag #PigOutOKC to let the rest of us in on the fun.

Some people can open up a refrigerator, see a bunch of disparate foods and Beautiful Mind up a recipe on the spot that both satisfies and delights. I am not one of those people. Not even close.

Either I plan a whole meal based around one main dish or I starve until I give in and eat a bowl of cereal or grab some fast food.

My one saving grace is a pre-made protein of some sort. Eggs, for instance, can be a great base for almost any meal. Lunch meat, too, in a pinch.

Frying up carnitas

But if you want something that really holds up from meal to meal to meal and can sort of become anything you need, I highly recommend carnitas.

Carnitas (literal translation: little meat) is one of the greatest taco fillings known to humankind and, probably, whatever animals are walking underfoot when you’re eating a taco.

Pork shoulder (sometimes called a Boston butt roast, because life is fun) is seasoned, cooked in lard, shredded and crisped up in a cast iron skillet for meat that is crispy and creamy, moist but not wet, and perfect for anything from tacos, burritos and enchiladas to sandwiches, salads and omelets.

Now, I’m all for doing things the traditional way...if it’s easy. But when I can mix in a little technology for a more foolproof cooking experience, I’d be a food not to take the help.

Maybe you’ve heard of the Instant Pot (aka the modern electric pressure cooker everybody on Pinterest is crazy about)? I have one and I love it and now I use it for stuff like this constantly. Here’s the recipe:

Electric Pressure Cooker Carnitas

4-5 lb Boston butt pork roast, trimmed of overly excessive fat and cut into 2-inch chunks

1 yellow onion, peeled and roughly chopped into large pieces

6 (or more) cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

1 T garlic salt

1 T cumin

2 t dried oregano

2 t sugar

1 t coriander

1 t chili powder

1 t paprika

1 large orange, cut in half

1 c water


1. After you’ve cut the pork up, feel free to take off any enormous chunks of fat, but don’t dig too deep. The fat is going to melt in the recipe and infuse the meat with flavor.

2. Mix together the spices and toss them with the pork chunks, massaging the seasonings into the meat. Put all of that in the Instant Pot (or, like mine, the off-brand Chinese Instant Pot knock-off) and cover with the onions and garlic. Squeeze the orange halves over the meat. Get rough. Imagine all the ways this orange wronged you. Take the rest of the orange and smash it, pulp side down, into the Instant Pot with the other ingredients.

3. Pour water over everything. Secure the lid. Put the pressure valve on closed or locked or whatever yours calls it.

4. Hit the “manual” button and set the cooker for high pressure for 45 minutes. Once it’s done, let it naturally release pressure for 15 minutes or so, then hit the quick release. Pull the meat out of the broth, leaving the garlic, onions, orange peel and juice behind. Let cool down for a while. Grab some root beer. Breathe.

5. The key to great carnitas is a mix between fall apart moist bites and bits of crispy fried meat.

6a. Do you want to use your broiler? You can. Get out a baking sheet and spread the pork chunks out, then smash them with a fork and tear them apart. Make sure it’s all even and then shove it under the broiler. Watch it crisp up, don’t let it burn. Pull it out, flip it over and do it again.


6b. Do you want to avoid your broiler? You can. Put half the pork in a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat. Smash with a fork (or use a potato masher, like I did for some reason) and fry until crisp, then flip and fry some more. Transfer that to a large bowl and repeat with the other half of the pork.

Now you’ve got a whole mess of carnitas to eat. Shove them in tacos or burritos or enchiladas. Sprinkle on a salad. Use as a filling in an omelet. Eat it with your hands like some kind of animal. It’s up to you.

The Oklahoma Pork Council represents the interests all of pork producers throughout the state, promoting pork and pork products, funding research and educating consumers and producers about the pork industry. Learn more about the OPC, find recipes and more at OKPork.org.

About the Author

Founder and Eater-in-Chief of I Ate Oklahoma, Greg Elwell has been reviewing restaurants and writing about Oklahoma’s food culture for more than a decade. Where a normal person orders one meal, this guy gets three. He is almost certainly going to die young and those who love him most are fairly ambivalent about it. You can email Greg at greg@iateoklahoma.com.