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Pressure Cooker Carnitas


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#1 LindaK

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Posted 11 November 2012 - 09:23 AM

All the rave reviews of pressure cooked carnitas in the Modernist Cuisine at Home discussion convinced me to give it a try. I’m still new to pressure cooking but have generally been pleased with my experiments, particularly with stocks.

I’ve tried three times now, following the directions in Modernist Cuisine, the Hip Pressure Cooking web site, then finally improvising on my own. Each time I’ve been underwhelmed in the results. I’m hoping it’s me, not the recipes, so I’d really like to learn from those who have been happy with their carnitas.

The biggest disappointment was the nearly flavorless meat. It was only a pale resemblance of the lovely porky flavor one gets with a slow roast. I kept cutting back on the amount of liquid I added, but regardless ended up with a lot of very flavorful broth and not very interesting pork. I can see how this would be okay for a braise, but that’s not the goal with carnitas. What’s the correct liquid ratio when making this? Or am I cooking it too long? I tried 25-35 minutes for approx 2 lbs of meat.

And since all the recipes call for reducing the resulting liquid and using it to reheat the meat, I found it difficult to figure out when to add chile paste. On my first try, I added the chile paste to the meat at the start of cooking. Unfortunately, when separating the fat from the broth, most of the chile paste went with it. Next time, I tried adding it to the reduced broth, but without the long slow cooking time the chile flavors tasted raw. What’s the technique for getting this right?

Any advice? I love the idea of quick carnitas and so really want to this one to work.


 


#2 radtek

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Posted 11 November 2012 - 01:16 PM

Carnitas are traditionally braised in lard and spices for hours until very tender then they are caramelized and crisped up with more seasoning. Most folks cheat and just braise them, pick the meat apart and then roast in the oven. There's not much broth. I think you could use the PC for the first part then use the oven or broiler to finish the dish.

#3 nickrey

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Posted 11 November 2012 - 02:36 PM

All the rave reviews of pressure cooked carnitas in the Modernist Cuisine at Home discussion convinced me to give it a try. I’m still new to pressure cooking but have generally been pleased with my experiments, particularly with stocks.

I’ve tried three times now, following the directions in Modernist Cuisine, the Hip Pressure Cooking web site, then finally improvising on my own. Each time I’ve been underwhelmed in the results. I’m hoping it’s me, not the recipes, so I’d really like to learn from those who have been happy with their carnitas.

The biggest disappointment was the nearly flavorless meat. It was only a pale resemblance of the lovely porky flavor one gets with a slow roast. I kept cutting back on the amount of liquid I added, but regardless ended up with a lot of very flavorful broth and not very interesting pork. I can see how this would be okay for a braise, but that’s not the goal with carnitas. What’s the correct liquid ratio when making this? Or am I cooking it too long? I tried 25-35 minutes for approx 2 lbs of meat.

And since all the recipes call for reducing the resulting liquid and using it to reheat the meat, I found it difficult to figure out when to add chile paste. On my first try, I added the chile paste to the meat at the start of cooking. Unfortunately, when separating the fat from the broth, most of the chile paste went with it. Next time, I tried adding it to the reduced broth, but without the long slow cooking time the chile flavors tasted raw. What’s the technique for getting this right?

Any advice? I love the idea of quick carnitas and so really want to this one to work.

The modernist cuisine version of the recipe asks you to reduce the liquid right down so it becomes a glaze for the meat. If you still have liquid as well as the pork, it would seem that you have not taken the reduction far enough.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

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Unless there are three other people." Orson Welles
My eG Foodblog


#4 LindaK

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Posted 11 November 2012 - 04:40 PM

The modernist cuisine version of the recipe asks you to reduce the liquid right down so it becomes a glaze for the meat. If you still have liquid as well as the pork, it would seem that you have not taken the reduction far enough.

Yes, I understood that and reduced the liquid to a glaze. It didn't make up for the lack of flavor left in the meat, it just hid it. And I can't figure out how to integrate the chile paste into the reduction. None of these recipes use chile paste, just powder. I'm looking, but haven't found one yet that calls for chile paste.

Carnitas are traditionally braised in lard and spices for hours until very tender then they are caramelized and crisped up with more seasoning. Most folks cheat and just braise them, pick the meat apart and then roast in the oven. There's not much broth. I think you could use the PC for the first part then use the oven or broiler to finish the dish.

Yes, that's what I'm used to making, and you've perfectly described the shortcut I was hoping for. So far my efforts have fallen far short of the real thing.


 


#5 nickrey

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Posted 11 November 2012 - 06:02 PM

And since all the recipes call for reducing the resulting liquid and using it to reheat the meat, I found it difficult to figure out when to add chile paste. On my first try, I added the chile paste to the meat at the start of cooking. Unfortunately, when separating the fat from the broth, most of the chile paste went with it. Next time, I tried adding it to the reduced broth, but without the long slow cooking time the chile flavors tasted raw. What’s the technique for getting this right?

Why not do what the Indians and Thais do and cook the chili paste separately? In their case, they then add extra ingredients to create the sauce; here you could add the already roasted paste to the broth after you have skimmed the fat off.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four.
Unless there are three other people." Orson Welles
My eG Foodblog


#6 Baselerd

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 09:33 AM

I've made two of MCaH carnitas variations: the chinese duck w/ hoisin sauce and the Korean short ribs with fermented chili sauce. Both turned out excellent - it sounds like you did not reduce the cooking liquid enough.

Once you pressure cook the meat & stock for 30 minutes, you simply strain the meat (reserving the liquid) and mix the liquid with your chile paste at that point. Reduce the chili paste/cooking liquid mixture until it is very syrupy. If it is still thin then the flavor will be pretty weak.

I also think it helps a lot to shred the meat, it gets the flavor mixed in a bit more. It is true that the meat tastes like cardboard after the PC step, so shredding it helps to distribute the glaze better.

#7 JAZ

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 10:43 AM

Linda, I don't know if this will help with the carnitas, but we make a pressure-cooked Asian-style pork shoulder that calls for hardly any liquid -- for 1.5 lbs of meat, we use 1/3 cup hoisin and 1/4 cup rice vinegar (also garlic, ginger and Asian chile-garlic sauce). The meat is cut into chunks, tossed with the sauce and then cooked at high pressure for about 35 minutes. it's not browned first, so it does release fat and liquid, which we then de-fat and reduce and toss back in with the meat. The meat stays very flavorful -- I think because it's not cooked in liquid.

I'm guessing that you could do something similar, then after releasing the pressure, continue to cook the meat in the rendered fat to get the crisp texture of carnitas.

#8 pazzaglia

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 11:36 AM

Linda, how disappointing not to get that "porky" flavor. I wonder if it could be the cut of meat that you're using?

Try using a piece of meat with the bone - the thigh has some nice tough skin and a huge bone going through it. Another way to get more porky-ness, is to save the fat from the de-fatting and use THAT, instead of oil, to fry-up the shredded pork.

There's a reason why pork loin and chops are called "the other white meat" - once cooked they're kinda unidentifiably tasteless. ; )

Ciao,

L

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#9 radtek

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 01:31 PM

Linda, looking at the recipe I'm not sure what they mean by "roast"? Did you use pork-loin? An entire shoulder is a little unwieldy and will produce a lot of meat. The cut that works best is the "Pork Butt" also called "Boston Butt". If you used pork-loin the result would be quite insipid and dry after braising in my opinion. The butt has plenty of fat and collagen and holds up extremely well to extended braising. It's what people use here.

#10 LindaK

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 05:08 PM

I've been using boneless pork butt, and it's always worked well in a traditional slow cooked recipe. Generally I trim it of any excess exterior fat, but it's well marbled meat. And I cut it into chunks of approx 4 inches. I'll look for bone-in next time.

Janet's suggestion about using very little liquid may be the way to go. The recipes I've followed end up using 1-2 cups of water. Combine that with the juices extracted (if that's the right word) from pressure cooking and I've ended up with meat drowning in broth. Flavorful broth rather than flavorful meat.

As a pressure cooker novice, I've taken to heart the cautions about using sufficient liquid. Sounds like I'm overdoing it.

Per Nickrey's advice, I'll check out some of the Thai cooking topics to learn more about adding chile pastes afterwards. I fried it in a little oil before adding it to the juices, but it still tasted raw.


 


#11 Emily_R

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 06:30 PM

I agree with everyone else about the amount of liquid, but I'm surprised at how long people are cooking their pork for. I have a recipe for a pressure cooker pork posole, which cooks chunks of pork shoulder for 8 minutes on high pressure and then uses a natural release. The pork is totally cooked through and tender after that amount of time. 25 to 35 minutes seems like it might be overkill to me.

#12 LindaK

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 05:31 AM

Emily, that's interesting. Less time under pressure would certainly mean moister meat, right? Do you need to cut the meat into very small chunks for it to cook so quickly?


 


#13 Emily_R

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 07:20 AM

Hi Linda -- I guess it depends what you call very small -- the meat is cut in 1 inch chunks, though I'm not super careful about it and sometimes they are bigger. The chunks hold up though -- they don't fall apart, so that I think they would be fine to then roast with fat in the oven. Also, my posole recipe only calls for 1 cup of liquid in it, and that combined with the juices from the pork makes something very liquidy when I take it off the heat. So I think you'd be fine with just 1/2 a cup of liquid for an 8 minute cooking time, particularly if you have a low-venting pressure cooker (something that doesn't use a 'jiggler')...