I’ve only smoked meats a few times and while the outcome has always excelled my expectations, the method of using charcoal was difficult. Using charcoal to smoke is tiresome and difficult to regulate the temperature that you need to maintain over so many hours. After many month’s of debate with myself, I decided to get a pellet smoker. I did a lot of research and weighed the pros and cons before deciding on a Z-Grill. I’ve used it 3 times now and the meat has come out excellent, the cleanup has been fairly easy and has made the overall experience of smoking meats much more enjoyable. Recently my sister Kat gave me a bag of Gourmet Pistachio flavored pellets made here in New Mexico. I couldn’t wait to give it a try and thought smoked carnitas sounded so good using a pork butt roast with a red chile rub. I couldn’t have been more happy with the results. After 11 hours in the smoker, it reached the desired internal temperature of 203 degrees. I left it wrapped and set in a cooler to steam and rest for 2 additional hours. The moment I unwrapped the aluminum foil, the aroma of smoked pork permeated the kitchen. It smelled so good and we couldn’t wait to pick off a little piece to try. It was moist and tender and pulled apart so easily. The bark with all the spices is my favorite part. We set aside enough to make tacos and vacuum sealed the rest in half pound packages for the freezer. You can make so many meals with smoked carnitas. Try making tacos, taquitos, wraps, nachos, quesadillas, or a burrito bowl with rice and beans. Maybe I can convince anyone who is considering smoking meats that a pellet smoker is the way to go. It’s like a whole new level of cooking. I find it a fun experience from the first couple of hours when the aroma starts to infuse the air until the moment you take that first bite.
First comes the rub. I made it with 3 different types of red chile that I ground myself. The rub includes salt, NM red chile, Ancho chile, Chile de Arbol, paprika, coriander, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, white pepper and espresso powder.
Mix it all together and set aside. I used a little more than half of the rub on this roast. I put the remaining rub in a small spice jar to keep for another time.
This roast is just over 7 pounds. Prep the roast the night before with a rinse and pat dry with paper towels. Place on heavy duty aluminum foil.
Rub the spices into the roast on all sides. I made a thick rub using just over half the spice mix. Wrap the aluminum foil around the roast and refrigerate overnight.
These are the pellets I used . . . Flavors of the Southwest. They are certified New Mexico True and currently sold at 3 stores in New Mexico. I do not believe you can order them online, at least I can’t find where to order on their site. The website is Out of the Woods Manufacturing if you want to check it out to see where they are sold. Currently they are selling Pistachio and Rosemary pellets for the smoker but coming soon they will also be featuring Red Chile, Green Chile and Pecan flavored pellets. I can’t wait!!
This is my new smoker. I researched and researched until I was dizzy with all the information. I wanted something that would regulate the temperature with easy cleanup. I found Z-Grills have several different levels to pick from. You can start basic but there are several levels that have more perks so that you can pick and choose what works best for you. So far I’ve been extremely happy using mine.
I added my pellets to the hopper and set my smoker temperature to 225 degrees. I found a great blog Smoked Meat Sundays that had all the info I needed to smoke pulled pork. This blog has a wealth of information on all things smoked. It was a great read and I suggest anyone who is a novice like me to check it out.
I’m starting this early in the morning. Pull your pork out of the fridge and set out at room temperature for 1 hour prior to smoking. Place your internal probe into the thickest part of the pork and place inside the smoker. The sun is shining directly on my grill so the pork is lit up like it’s on fire. Shut the lid and check on it in 2 hours.
This is at 2 hour in. The sunlight is moving so only half of the pork is on fire! Every 2 hours I spritzed the pork with apple juice. Normally when making barbeque you would include some type of sugar in your rub. Since this is for carnitas the rub was all spice. To get that great caramelized bark on the outside it needs a spritz of juice or cola every hour or every 2 hours. Since I have approximately 10 – 11 hours to smoke I went with spritzing every 2 hours. Just fill a small spray bottle with apple juice and spritz all over the pork, return the lid and wait until another 2 hours have passed.
4 hours in and the internal temperature is rising at a very slow rate. Give it another spritz of apple juice and shut the lid.
According to Nick at “Smoked Meat Sunday” the pork should gradually rise at a steady rate to reach an internal temp of 160 – 165 degrees. Usually after that there is portion of time called a “stall” in which it can take 2 – 5 hours for the internal temperature to start rising again. For me it stalled at about 148 degrees and didn’t start rising for 3 – 4 hours. It took 8 hours to get to 165 degrees. I was unsure that I could actually get to an internal temperature of 203 in the 2 – 3 hours remaining that I had allotted for. When this happens and the stall lasts for over 2 hours it’s time to kick start the pork so that the internal temperature will start to rise again. To do this, remove the pork and place in a disposable aluminum tray. Pour your apple juice (I added about 1 cup) in the bottom of the pan and cover it with aluminum foil. Make sure to leave your internal probe inserted so that you can keep monitoring the temperature.
Raise the temperature on the smoker to 250 degrees and return to pork to the smoker and continue on. This did the trick and in no time the pork started to push through the stall and the temperature began to rise internally. At the 11 hour mark I finally hit the magical internal temp of 203 degrees. It actually finished fairly close to what I had estimated at 90 minutes per pound.
Once the internal temperature hits the 203 degree mark, remove the pork (tray, wrap and all) from the smoker and place in an ice chest. Wrap it up in a towel so that it will continue to steam which will make the pork so moist and tender.
Put a lid on it and let it rest for 2 hours.
After 13 hours we unwrapped it and took a peek. The bark is just what I had hoped for and it looks very moist.
Time to stick a fork in it and see what’s underneath all that bark. It pulls away so easy and that pink undertones are just what we wanted. That first taste was smoky and spicy and so tender; it was like tasting the best dang smoked carnitas I’ve ever had!
I started picking it apart on one end and in no time I had a platter full of carnitas.
The first thing we made was Carnitas Tacos. These are topped with cilantro, red onion and cotija cheese.
Also, Carnitas Taco topped with avocado, tomato and salsa verde with cotija cheese.
NM Inspired Pistachio Smoked Carnitas
Large Pork Butt Roast (5 -10 Pounds)
Red Chile Carnitas Rub
2 tablespoons NM Red Chile, ground
2 tablespoons Ancho Chile, ground
1 tablespoon Chile de Arbol, ground
1 tablespoon Paprika
1 tablespoon Salt
1 tablespoon Coriander
1 tablespoon Garlic Powder
1 tablespoon Onion Powder
2 teaspoons Black Pepper
2 teaspoons White Pepper
1 teaspoon Espresso Powder
Whisk all the spices together in a bowl. Transfer to a jar with a lid. Any unused spice mix will last approximately 6 month’s.
Prep the pork butt the day before you smoke: Rinse the pork and pat dry with paper towels. Generously rub the spice rub over all sides of the pork. Depending on the size of your pork butt, you may have some left over spice rub . Wrap the pork in heavy duty aluminum foil and place in the refrigerator overnight.
Day of smoke: Remove the pork from the refrigerator and let sit out to room temperature for 1 hour prior to smoking. Prepare your pellet smoker and set the temperature to 225 degrees. If you don’t have an instant read thermometer that comes with your smoker I highly recommend you purchase one to monitor the internal temperature of your meat throughout the smoke process. The one I use is a Therm Pro Thermometer with Dual Probe Model No. TP-08S. Place the food probe into the thickest part of the pork roast. When the smoker has reached 225 degrees place the roast in the smoker and shut the lid. Every two hours, spritz the pork with apple juice which will help the pork create a “bark” that will seal in the juices leaving the pork very tender and easy to pull apart.
Pulled pork needs to cook to an internal temperature of 200 – 203 degrees. The approximate time it takes to smoke pulled pork is 90 minutes per pound. The internal temperature will rise at a steady rate until it doesn’t. Try to reach 160 – 165 degrees at 225 degrees. At some point you will encounter a stall in which the temperature will stop rising. For me this happened when my internal temperature reached 148 degrees. If after the pork reaches 165 degrees and continues to stall for 2 hours you can raise the temperature on the smoker to 250 degrees. Place the pork in a disposable aluminum tray, pour a cup of apple juice in the bottom of the tray and cover the pork with aluminum foil. This should jump start your pork and push it to get through the stall. For me this helped to raise the internal temperature and it continued at a steady pace for 3 hours to get to the desired 203 degrees.
Once you get to 203 degrees remove the pork from the smoker. Don’t remove the aluminum foil. Wrap a towel around the tray with the meat inside and wrapped in foil. Put the whole tray with towel inside a cooler and cover with the lid. Let rest and steam for 2 hours.
When it’s rested for 2 hours you may remove the tray from the cooler. It will still be too warm to handle without oven mitts. Remove the aluminum foil carefully as the steam will be hot as it escapes when opened. Remove the pork to a platter and pull apart with 2 forks.
Once cooled the pork can be frozen. We like to vacuum seal the meat as it will keep fresh longer that way. To reheat, let the pork sit in the refrigerator 24 hours prior. In a 3 quart pot or larger heat water to boiling. Remove the pot from heat and submerge the vacuum sealed bag into the water and let sit for 15 minutes. Use scissors to open the package and serve.
Smoked Carnitas can be used to make tacos, taquitos, tortilla wraps, nachos, quesadillas, enchiladas, burritos or burrito bowls.