Pressure-Cooked Carnitas - Modernist Cuisine

Pressure-Cooked Carnitas

Recipe • January 22, 2013

I love my pressure cooker. I love it so much that I’ve started taking it with me to friends’ houses, and once even to a cabin during a ski trip. It’s gotten to the point where when I ask my friends, “what do you want me to make when you come over this Saturday?” they reply, “I don’t know, Judy, something in your pressure cooker?”

While my friends and family tease me, they have always been wowed by the results. Meats like these carnitas, vegetable soups, and risotto are just some of my new favorite dishes to make. Having learned these techniques, I can apply them to other recipes, or add my own flavors, which allows me to be more creative in the kitchen.

Judy Oldfield-Wilson, Online Writer


carnitas, plate-up

We love serving this dish with our Pressure-Cooked Fresh-Corn Tamales and Refried Bean Foam.

Pressure-cooked carnitas, shredded

Shred the meat, using two forks, if serving the carnitas in a burrito or taco.

Steamed Duck Bun

We have several variations of this technique in Modernist Cuisine at Home, such as our Braised Duck with Steamed Buns.

Carnitas, step 1


Freezing extra stock in ice cube trays makes it easy to store.

Carnitas, step 6

Add the pork to the reduced liquid and simmer until the meat browns and the liquid is reduced to a glaze.

Carnitas, step 3

To quickly depressurize the pressure cooker, run the rim of the lid under cold water.

Additional Tips and Substitutions

Steps 14
  • We like to leave all of the tendons and sinews in the meat. If you don’t care for them, trim them off before cooking the pork.
  • For extra flavor, use bone-in, skin-on pork shoulder. Pressure cook it with the pork stock at 1 bar / 15 psi for 2 hours. You can then use the skin to make our Pressure-Cooked Chicharrón (see page 222 of Modernist Cuisine at Home).
  • You can buy pork stock, or make your own (see page 86 of Modernist Cuisine at Home).
  • You can also substitute water for the pork stock.
  • If you choose to make your own pork stock, freeze extra stock in an ice cube tray for easy storage.
  • Set the burner on high to bring the pressure cooker up to 1 bar / 15 psi. Once it reaches full pressure, turn the burner down, keeping just enough heat to maintain pressure.
  • When cooking finishes, remove the pressure cooker from the heat and let it depressurize naturally, or run the rim of the lid under cold water to depressurize it more quickly.
  • Before straining the liquid, you can refrigerate the meat and liquid together overnight for added flavors (and to give you the ability to work ahead).
  • You can also cook your carnitas sous vide. Cook the pork and stock together at 65°C / 149°F for 36 hours.
Steps 57
  • Achiote paste can be found in Mexican grocery stores. You can also make your own by following the recipe on page 219 of Modernist Cuisine at Home.
  • For extra kick, try adding a little ancho powder.
  • Cook the strained liquid over high heat until it has reduced by at least two-thirds and is syrupy.
  • If you are going to serve your carnitas in tacos or burritos, shred the meat, using two forks. Otherwise, let them stay as they are, or cut them into bite-size pieces.
  • Our favorite way to serve carnitas is in our Pressure-Cooked Fresh-Corn Tamales with our Salsa Verde, with Refried Bean Foam and Pressure-Cooked Chicharrón on the side.
  • The carnitas freeze very well, so if you have a large-enough pressure cooker, consider doubling or even tripling the recipe.
  • A traditional recipe for carnitas requires that you cook off all of the liquid until the meat becomes crispy. We prefer using the power of a pressure cooker to braise the meat. It might not be exactly traditional, but we think it’s delicious, and you will, too! In fact, we’ve applied this technique to all sorts of meats in Modernist Cuisine at Home. Some variations include Pork Shoulder Fricassee with Apple and Morels, Korean Short-Rib Lettuce Wraps, Pork Belly Adobo, and Braised Duck with Steamed Buns.
  • To read what The Wall Street Journal has to say about pressure cookers, click here.

Check out our Modernist Seven-Layer Dip recipe, which use our carnitas as the first layer.