Crock-Pot® carnitas are a variation on a classic Mexican dish made from shredded, seasoned pork that is cooked for a long time over low heat. Instead of a traditional preparation, which involves stove-top cooking in a vat of lard, those who make Crock-Pot® carnitas use a slow cooker to cook the pork until very tender. Recipes for Crock-Pot® carnitas vary, but typically include a variety of spices and seasonings associated with Mexican cooking. After the pork is thoroughly cooked, it is typically served as a filling for tacos or burritos.
Carnitas are typically made from pork shoulder or pork butt, which becomes extremely soft due to slow cooking. Many recipes for carnitas prescribe deep frying the meat after cooking so that some bits of meat become caramelized and crispy, adding to the texture of the dish. While carnitas are a popular dish, they can be challenging to make because many recipes prescribe slow cooking in a significant amount of lard. As many people are concerned about the consumption of fat or simply do not want to handle large amounts of hot lard, there are now several alternative recipes that involve slow cooking in an oven or a commercial slow cooker.
In the United States, a Crock-Pot® is a type of electronic slow-cooking device. In fact, the term Crock-Pot® is actually a specific brand of slow cooker, though many in the United States use it generically when discussing slow-cooking devices. The device typically consists of a thick ceramic cooking pot that is placed in a container that heats the food or liquid that it contains. The temperature of a slow cooker typically remains quite low and cooks the food by simmering it. This slow cooking tenderizes cheap cuts of meat and also enables busy cooks to efficiently prepare one-dish meals such as stews and curries.
Those who appreciate the flavor of carnitas but seek a more convenient way of making them may find Crock-Pot® carnitas to be a good alternative. The slow cooker can produce very tender and flavorful meat without the use of lard and requiring the cook to constantly monitor a large pot of hot fat. The one drawback to Crock-Pot® carnitas is that the meat cannot develop the crispy texture of traditional carnitas. One way to achieve the color and texture of caramelized meat, however, is to place the slow-cooked pork in a pan and run it under the broiler for a few minutes before serving.