Mexican-style pork butt – or carnitas – is simple, hearty and packed with flavor. Slow-cooking pork butt in its own juices produces a tender, juicy, shredded meat that is perfect rolled in a tortilla with a little pico de gallo and some sour cream, if you’re feeling wild. Making pork carnitas is not at all difficult or complicated, especially if you have access to a slow cooker. If not, a heavy pot with a lid will also work. The main thing is to let the meat simmer all day.
Trim as much of the visible fat off the pork butt as you can. A little fat makes the end result juicy and tender; too much makes it unpleasant to eat.
Pour a generous amount of olive oil into your slow cooker or pot. Use a paper towel to spread it on the bottom and sides of the cooker or pot until the inside is well coated. If there is more than a few tablespoons of oil left in the bottom of the pot, either soak it up or pour it out.
Peel two large onions and cut them in half. Slice them thinly and toss them into the slow cooker or pot. Two onions is about right for a 4 lb. pork butt so adjust the number up or down depending on what size you have.
Peel six to eight cloves of garlic and smash them gently with the flat of a knife. Toss them into the cooker or pot with the onions.
Lay the pork butt on top of the onions and garlic. If one side has more fat in it, put that side up so the juices can run down through the meat as it cooks.
Sprinkle the pork, onions and garlic with a generous amount of chili powder, cumin and thyme. Add a little salt and pepper, but go easy on the salt.
Pour about 1 cup of water into the cooker or pot. You can also use one cup of beer and ½-cup of water for slightly more flavor. Turn the slow cooker on high, cover the meat and leave it alone for six hours. Turn the heat under the pot on high and let the water or beer come to a boil. Cover the pot, turn it down to a low simmer and let it sit for six hours.
Take the pork butt out of the slow cooker or pot when the meat shreds easily if you scrape at it with a fork. Place it in a bowl and shred with two forks. You can also let it cool and use your hands.
Scoop the onions and garlic out with a slotted spoon and add a spoonful or two to the shredded carnitas for a bit of added flavor.
Never eat or serve undercooked pork.