Instant Pot Tomatillo Pork Carnitas

This recipe, based on two of my other classics, is an experiment on reducing the time needed to braise a pork shoulder so that it is tender enough to pull apart for tacos. In my test I was able to reduce the cooking time from almost 4 hours to 1.5 hours in the Instant Pot. Tenderness will depend on the volume of meat; you may need to compensate if needed.

The tomatillos and spices add a complex, well-rounded flavor that is unbeatable in a charred tortilla topped with the seasoned pork. Enjoy!


2.5 pounds bone-in pork shoulder with some fat
4 tbs. XV olive oil
2 tbs. butter
10 husked, washed and cored tomatillos, halved
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1/2 shallot, sliced
1 medium white onion, roughly chopped
1 tbs. ground coriander
3 tbs. ground cumin, from toasted seed
1 tbs. ground Mexican oregano
2 dry bay leaves
1 tsp. ground dry chipotle, to taste
1 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper
1 tsp. salt, to taste
1/2 cup chicken or pork broth

For the Tacos:
6-inch flour or corn tortillas
Chopped cilantro
Sliced scallion, with greens
Mike’s Famous Guacamole
Fresh diced jalapenos or serrano chilies
Diced red onion
Lime wedges
Sour cream
Grated Cotija cheese
Kosher salt, to taste


Turn on the Instant Pot saute function and set it to HIGH. Add the olive oil and butter and wait until it comes up to temperature and starts to sizzle. Carefully add the pork shoulder to the pot and brown on all sides, about eight minutes total. Using a large tongs, remove the pork and set aside. Switch the saute function to LOW. Add the chopped garlic, shallot and onion. Saute for about four minutes until the onion has softened.

Cancel the saute function. Remove the vegetables and place in a food processor with the tomatillos. Pulse until smooth, about thirty seconds. Add the contents back into the Instant Pot. Add the dry spices and chicken or pork broth. Mix well. Place the browned pork shoulder in the pot and spoon over some of the sauce on the pork so it is evenly covered.

Place the cover on the pot and lock it. Seal the toggle vent. Set the function to pressure cook (HIGH) for 1.5 hours. After cooking, allow the pot to release pressure naturally, about 25-30 minutes. When the pin drops, open the pot lid. Remove the bone from the pork (it should easily pull out) and pull apart the pork into carnitas-sized bites, discarding any excess fat.

Set the Instant Pot saute function to NORMAL and reduce the liquid for about three minutes until thickened. Shut off the function and cover the pot until ready to serve. Discard the bay leaves. Keep the top pressure release vented or use the Instant Pot glass lid, available for purchase on Amazon.

OPTIONAL: For the full carnitas experience, fry the pressure-cooked pulled pork pieces in 1/4 cup canola oil until crispy. Promptly remove and drain on layered paper towel. Serve as shown.

Serve with fired tortillas and garnish with the toppings shown.
Serves 4.

Please Note: You will need at least 1/2 cup of liquid in order for the Instant Pot to come up to pressure and seal. This recipe was tested in an 8-quart Instant Pot Duo.

Vietnamese Charbroiled Pork

Vietnamese Charbroiled Pork | Culinary Compost RecipesThis sublime South Asian recipe can be made as an appetizer, standalone dinner with Jasmine sticky rice, or served in combination with Vietnamese Pho soup. Let the sliced pork rest for at least 3-4 hours in the fridge with the marinade ingredients so the flavors have time to set up.

Use an outdoor grilling basket to ensure an even charbroil sear over real wood charcoal. Serve with fresh lime wedges and hot chili garlic oil, Sriracha or Sambal paste and fish sauce. An amazing recipe — Enjoy!


1/2 pound pork loin, trimmed of excess fat, cut in half lengthwise and then cut into thin slices at a bias (1/4″ thick)
2 tbs. palm or light-brown sugar
1 tbs. minced garlic
2 tbs. minced shallot
1 stalk minced lemongrass (tender inner white and green parts only)
1/4 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper
1 tbs. Red Boat fish sauce
1 tbs. Pearl River black soy sauce
1 tbs. canola or peanut oil

Serve With~
Romaine lettuce or baby spinach
Lime wedges
Sriracha, Sambal paste or hot chili garlic oil
Fish sauce


Prepare the sliced pork and place in a wide mixing bowl. Prepare the other ingredients for the marinade and whisk together in a small prep bowl.

Using a flexible spatula, add the marinade to the pork and mix gently, ensuring all pieces are evenly coated. Transfer to a Ziplock bag and refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours.

One hour before grilling, remove the meat from the fridge and allow to warm up to room temperature in the bag. Prepare an outdoor charcoal grill with enough coal for a medium fire. Keep the coals centered in a mound so the heat is directed 2 inches under the grilling basket.

Lightly wipe down a grilling basket with peanut oil and place in the center of the grilling grate directly over the white-hot coals. Add the meat and spread evenly in a single layer. Grill for 2-3 minutes. Turn once and grill for an additional 2-3 minutes. A long-handled Chinese wok shovel works great for this step. Do NOT overcook the pork.

Using a clean utensil, remove the pork immediately and serve on small decorative plates over spinach or romaine lettuce with lime wedges and your choice of chili sauce. Drizzle lightly with a good quality fish sauce if desired.

PRODUCT NOTES: Red Boat fish sauce is the best I’ve found. It is expensive (a 17 oz. bottle runs about $12) but worth it. I have also had great luck with Pearl River brand black soy sauce. To ensure the best presentation, do not skimp on the quality of these ingredients. Palm sugar is traditionally used, but if your market doesn’t carry it, you can opt for light-brown sugar.

Serves 2-4.

Vietnamese Pho with Charbroiled Pork | Culinary Compost Recipes

Stir-Fry Pork with Vegetables and Black Bean Chili Garlic Sauce

Stir-Fry Pork with Vegetables and Black Bean Chili Garlic SauceThis is a recipe loosely based on one by Fuchsia Dunlop, from her book Every Grain of Rice. The sauce represented here is intensely dark, rich and fragrant; elevated by the Laoganma black bean chili oil.  Look for it in large Asian markets – it is an amazing product. Enjoy!



4 oz. ground pork with a decent amount of fat
1” chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
4 large cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 large shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1” planks
handful of snow peas, trimmed and cut in half
1/4 large red onion, cut in wedges
1/2 yellow bell pepper, sliced in 1” pieces
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced in 1” pieces
1 large scallion, trimmed and cut in 2” sections at a bias

1 heaping tbs. Laoganma® Chili Oil with Black Bean
1/2 tsp. Lee Kum Kee® Black Bean Garlic Sauce
1/2 cup beef stock
1 tbs. dark soy sauce
1 tbs. Shaoxing wine
1 tsp. Gold Plum® Chinkiang black vinegar
1 tsp. packed brown sugar
1 tsp. corn starch
1/4 tsp. ground white pepper
1/4 tsp. ground Szechuan peppercorns*, toasted in a mortar
1 tsp. sesame oil

1 cup Thai Jasmine rice
2 tbs. canola oil, divided



Cut, measure and prepare all ingredients so you have them ready, and at hand.
Prepare the sauce by adding everything except the Laoganma chili oil and sesame oil to a small mixing bowl. Mix well.

Heat a wok over high heat until it starts to smoke. Add 1 tbs. canola oil and swirl the wok to coat. Add the ground pork and stir-fry with a long-handled Chinese spatula until no longer pink and the surface starts to brown. Drain and set the pork aside. Discard the fat from the wok.

Add the remaining canola oil to the wok and stir to coat. Add the Laoganma chili oil, the ginger and garlic. Quickly stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the bell pepper, red onion, mushrooms, carrot and snow peas. Stir-fry until crisp-tender and the surfaces start to char. Add the sauce mixture and stir, scraping to deglaze the wok. Keep stirring for 2-3 minutes until the sauce is reduced by half. Add the pork back to the wok.

Add the chopped scallion and stir for about a minute until it is just wilted. Add the sesame oil. Remove the wok from the heat and serve with jasmine rice.

To prepare the rice:
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a 2.5 quart heavy stock pot. Add the jasmine rice and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally until the liquid is reduced and the surface starts to show pock marks. Cover and cook over very low heat for 20 minutes. Fluff and serve. Time the rice so it is done when you are done with the stir-fry.

Serves 2.

*A note on the Szechuan peppercorns: These may be hard to find, but they add such a unique flavor to this dish. They are not true peppercorns, but actually the seed pods from the Asian prickly ash shrub. Toast one level teaspoon in a small cast-iron skillet over medium heat until they just start to smell fragrant. Shake them occasionally so they don’t scorch. Immediately remove from the heat and transfer to a mortar. Lightly grind by hand until the pods are crushed. Discard the hard black seeds, as they are very gritty. Run through a fine mesh screen and discard the larger pieces. Keep the fine powder in a small airtight spice jar stored in your fridge. It will last about a week before the flavor starts to fade. These peppercorns produce a numbing sensation on your tongue, which is caused by the active compound hydroxy alpha sanshool. The spice is widely used in Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, China and Northern India.

Taos Carnitas-Style Pork Tacos

Taos Carnitas-Style Grilled Pork Tacos | Culinary Compost

This is my signature southwest New Mexican-inspired dish with seasoned grilled pork that is slow-braised and then shredded, carnitas-style. Note that the seasoning is very similar to my other Southwest recipes; the key ingredients invariably being pure New Mexican chili powder, Mexican oregano, toasted and ground cumin and coriander. Serve with Rajas de Chile Poblano, a lime wedge, Mexican cheese and sour cream. Enjoy!



For the Rub:
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground Mexican oregano leaf
1 tbs. smoked Spanish Paprika
3 tbs. whole cumin seed, toasted and ground by hand in a mortar
2 tbs. mild ground Ancho chili powder
1 tsp. hot NM Chimayo chili powder, to taste
2 tsp. table salt
2 tsp. ground whole black pepper
1 tbs. Mexican achiote paste

For the Marinade:
1/2 cup XV olive oil
Juice from 2 squeezed limes
5 large cloves garlic, peeled and mashed

— — —

2 pounds lean cubed pork stew meat
2 large poblano peppers, blistered and sliced
1 large red onion, sliced in 1/4″ strips
1 cored and seeded red bell pepper – cut into 1/4″ strips
1/2 cup pork or chicken stock
Kosher salt, to taste

8-10 tortilla shells for serving
Lime wedges
Mexican cotija cheese, grated (you can use Monterey Jack in a pinch)
Fresh cilantro leaves as garnish – 1 cup
Sour cream
Salsa fresca
Halved garden cherry tomatoes



Preheat oven to 300°-F. Cut and reserve the red onion and bell pepper. Measure the dry rub ingredients and mix well in a medium-sized shaker jar. Place the cubed pork in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle generously with the rub. Stir to coat and add more to ensure all the cubed pork is evenly covered.  Add the XV olive oil, lime juice and mashed garlic to a small mixing bowl. Whisk aggressively for two minutes.

Add the liquid marinade to the cubed pork and stir gently to incorporate. Cover and chill for at least three hours.

Prepare a lump charcoal fire in an outdoor kettle grill. When the coals are white-hot, level and place a baking cooling rack over the outdoor grilling grate to ensure the pork doesn’t fall through the slats.  Brush the rack with cooking spray prior, so the pork doesn’t stick.  Add the pork, (cooking in two batches) to the rack and spread out evenly. Cook uncovered 2-4 minutes per side and then transfer to a 5-quart heavy cast-iron dutch oven. Add 1/2 cup chicken or pork stock. Cover.

Place the dutch oven with the pork in the preheated oven and let sit. Next, place the two poblano peppers on the outdoor grill and char, about 4-6 minutes, until the tough outer skin blisters. Rotate occasionally. Remove, run under cold water to remove the skin. Core and slice into 1/4″ strips. Reserve, covered. Add the sliced red onion and bell pepper to the grilling basket. Place over direct heat on the grill and brush lightly with olive oil. Season with Kosher salt to taste. Stir occasionally and let char – about 6-10 minutes. Remove and set aside covered in the dish with the poblanos.

Cook the pork covered in the oven for 1.5 to 2 hours, until tender. Remove and shred with two forks. Add the reserved sliced grilled poblano, red onion and bell pepper and stir to incorporate. Set aside, covered in the hot dutch oven on the stove top until ready to serve.

Serve on tortilla shells with sour cream, grated cotija cheese, cilantro, salsa, cherry tomatoes and a lime wedge.

Serves 6-8

Taos Carnitas-Style Grilled Pork Tacos | Culinary Compost

Taos Carnitas-Style Grilled Pork Tacos | Culinary Compost

Blackberry-Bourbon Smoked Pork Loin

Blackberry-Bourbon Smoked Pork Loin over Apple Wood

Apple-smoked blackberry-bourbon pork loin — sliced and super-juicy.

This is a recipe loosely based on a New York Times article given to me by a friend.  I have heavily modified it to complement ingredients readily available in most kitchens.

You can also smoke this on a standard charcoal grill – ensure that you control the heat so it maintains an even smoke — any higher than 225°F and you risk overcooking the loin. The glaze is stunning — a combination of sweetness, slight heat and acidity brought out by the blackberries, bourbon, chipotle, lemon juice and balsamic vinegar.


1 pork loin roast – about 2.5 – 3 pounds with fat cap
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3 tbs. honey
6 level tbs. brown sugar
1 tsp. ground hot Chipotle powder
2 tsp. roasted garlic granules
1 tbs. smoked paprika
1 tbs. fresh-ground black pepper
2 tsp. coarse Kosher salt
5 tbs. premium Bourbon (a splash more than 1/4 cup)
12 oz. frozen packaged blackberries (fresh market preferred)
1/3 cup chile sauce
2 tbs. balsamic vinegar

2 cups Apple wood chips for smoking


Place the pork loin in an oblong shallow baking tray and set aside in the fridge.  Place the glaze ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth. Remove and place in a heavy, non-reactive sauce pan over medium heat. Stir and simmer until sugars are dissolved and the liquid reduced – about 45 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Pour the glaze over the pork loin and cover with plastic wrap. Place back in the fridge for at least three hours.

Preheat a smoker at 225° F. Line the drip pan with foil and oil the smoker grate with a bit of non-stick cooking spray. The loin will take roughly 1 hour per pound at the temperature shown. Place the loin on the smoking grate with the fat side up. Close and lock the door and add one cup of apple wood chips the first and second hour.
Place the probe in the thickest part of the loin after hour 1. When the internal temperature reads 140°F, remove the loin and let sit in a covered roaster pan for 1/2 hour.

Slice and serve.
Serves 4-6

Blackberry-Bourbon Smoked Pork Loin over Apple Wood

The pork loin after 2 hours. Internal temperature is 140°F. Remove and let stand for 1/2 hour, covered, before slicing.

Blackberry-Bourbon Smoked Pork Loin over Apple Wood

Of humble beginnings. The glaze ingredients in a blender.

Blackberry-Bourbon Smoked Pork Loin over Apple Wood

The loin glazed with a blackberry-bourbon brown sugar sauce.

BBQ Pulled Pork – using an electric smoker

You’ll need a lot of patience when preparing this recipe – smoking a pork butt is an all-day event. Before I got a dedicated outdoor electric smoker, I thought my “BBQ” was fairly good, when made in the oven or slow-cooker. This takes it to an entirely new level. It’s how true BBQ should be and you’ll immediately be impressed by the difference.

I’m quite pleased with the reliability of my smoker. It’s a Masterbuilt 30″ Sportsman Elite, purchased at Cabelas. It has an electric temperature control and internal meat probe which can be measured by simply pushing a button on a control panel at the top of the unit. If purchasing an electric smoker, ensure that you cross-check both the internal temperature and the probe reading for accuracy. Use an accurate thermometer for each so you won’t have any surprises. Both the internal thermostat and probe are within one degree on my unit.

So, with that out of the way, let’s get down to preparing this amazing recipe. I’ll also provide a few valuable tips I’ve learned so you can achieve success, the very first time.


1 bone-in pork shoulder (butt); about 1/4 – 1/2 pound per person – with leftovers.
Your choice of BBQ rub (you can try my version by clicking here.)


Determine a target time for when you want the pork to be finished. The night before, generously apply your choice of BBQ rub over the butt, ensuring that all sides are well coated. It’s easiest to do this in a wide, shallow glass baking dish.  Some people coat the pork butt with a thin layer of plain yellow French’s mustard prior to applying the rub. The theory is that it helps the rub to adhere to the meat better. The meat I got from my butcher was plenty moist on the outside so I felt it wasn’t necessary.

Once the rub is applied, wrap the butt and the glass baking tray with plastic wrap and let chill in your fridge overnight. This step is CRITICAL as it allows the salt and some of the spice to penetrate the meat.

The next morning, depending on the size of the pork butt, set up your smoker and preheat it to 225-degrees F.  Place the drip pan on the rack without water. You can line it with foil for easy clean-up.

Pork Shoulder Cooking Time (estimated):
• 2 hours per pound @ 225-degrees F.
• 1 hour rest
• 1/2 hour, pulling and serving prep

Let’s use this demonstration as an example:
Photos shown indicate a 4.25 pound bone-in pork butt with very little fat.
Using the numbers indicated above, the smoked pork should be ready to pull out of the smoker in roughly 8 to 8.5 hours if cooked at 225-degrees F. My target time was 6pm – so I knew I had to get the pork in the smoker by 8am – allowing eight solid hours to smoke; and an hour’s rest – plus some wiggle room just to be safe.

Time by temperature, not by time. What? You say you need your meal ready by 6:30pm because you have six inlaws ready to sit down then?  Your hard-won creation may not be ready at that time.  BBQ is all about patience — and lots of cold beer as a backup to pacify hungry guests.

With the smoker preheated, and your target serving time established, pull the pork butt out of the fridge and let stand at room temperature for an hour.

Place the pork in the smoker on an oiled rack about 5 inches above the drip pan. Ensure the coal tray is empty and that the floor overflow pan is properly aligned with the spout at the back of the unit. Close the smoker door and lock it.

The Smoke:
Add one cup of wood chips to the chip loader every hour for the first 5 hours. After that, the pork will not take on any more smoke so it’s not necessary. I suggest Hickory or Apple, or a combination of the two.

Safety First:
Ensure you don’t get food poisoning by following these directions.
• Do not insert the temperature probe into raw meat until the exterior is partially cooked. Probe the meat AFTER hour 4. You risk pushing bacteria from the exterior to the inside of the meat where it will be undercooked for several hours – thereby spreading contamination.
• Remember the 40-140-degrees in 4 hours rule. Meat left to sit in the 40-140-degree F. danger zone for MORE than four hours risks bacterial poisoning.
• Wash your hands and utensils after handling raw meat.

The Probe:
After hour four, carefully insert the temperature probe into the thickest part of the meat, taking care to keep it at least 2 inches away from the blade bone. The bone generates a lot of reflective heat and will throw the probe reading off. Check the probe reading once every half-hour to ensure you’re on track.
At hour four, the probe shown in the photo below read 162-degrees F, well out of the danger zone.  Remove the meat from the smoker when the internal probe temperature reads 190-degrees F.

The Stall, or Plateau:
At around 160-170-degrees, pork, as it’s cooking, will stall in temperature. The temperature will hang in this zone for up to a few hours, depending on the size of the meat. The phenomenon is due in part to the meat breaking down as it cooks, and evaporation of moisture, creating a cooling effect in the smoker box.  This is why the time-per-pound indicated allows you some wiggle room to compensate for this lost time. In the example shown, the pork butt stalled at 164-degrees for about 50 minutes before rising again. At that point it rose one degree every ten minutes. During hour eight, the temperature increased faster as the meat cooked through.

Resist the urge to jack up the heat during this stall. Slow and low is the way to go. Allow more time for larger butts!

Take notes and adjust accordingly.

Piggy in a Blanket:
At the last hour, watch the internal meat temperature VERY carefully as it can climb unexpectedly. As indicated, pull the meat out of the smoker when the internal temperature of the meat hits 190-degrees F. Then wrap the butt in two layers of aluminum foil and then a heavy clean towel or blanket. Place the bundle in a large empty beer cooler and let sit sealed for one hour.

Pull and Serve:
After the pork has rested one hour, remove and place in a serving pan and quickly shred with two forks – discarding the bone and fat. Keep covered and warm. You may choose to add back some of the pan juices that rendered out, but ensure the fat is skimmed off before adding it back.

Serve with buns, Mike’s Carolina Vinegar Sauce or BBQ sauce, coleslaw and thinly-sliced red onion.

Serves 6-10


Pork Butt with BBQ Rub

Applying the BBQ rub the night before.

The pork butt, shown in the smoker at hour 8. Look at that amazing crust, or bark!

The pork butt, shown in the smoker at hour 8. Look at that amazing crust, or bark!

Pulled BBQ Pork

Pulled pork kept warm in a cast-iron pan.

BBQ Pulled Pork served with Coleslaw and Carolina Sauce

BBQ pulled pork served with coleslaw and Carolina sauce.

Mike’s Smoked BBQ Baby-Back Ribs

Smoked babyback ribs

This is a recipe based on the 3-2-1 smoker preparation method. I cannot take credit for it, and have spent many hours perfecting it based on time-tested techniques posted by others.
A dry rub is applied to choice baby back ribs which are smoked for three hours, then basted and braised for two hours, then basted and heated for an additional hour at a constant temperature.  An electric smoker takes the guesswork and hassle out of the preparation.

The result is amazing. Serve with grilled corn, baked beans and coleslaw on the side.



2 full racks Swift-Premium® Baby Back Ribs
BBQ spice rub (may I suggest my own handcrafted blend)
Apple juice
BBQ sauce
Hickory chips for smoking



Cut each full rack of ribs in half and then remove the membrane from the concave side. Use a paper towel to help grip the membrane – slowly pull it off like a decal.
It is important to do this so the rub will penetrate the meat.

Generously shake your choice of BBQ rub on both sides of the ribs. Gently press so the rub sticks to the meat.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 12-24 hours.

The next day, prepare an electric smoker by adding two cups of apple juice to the drip tray. Seal the door and preheat to 225°F. Wipe a small amount of peanut oil or nonstick cooking spray on the smoker grates so the ribs don’t stick. When the smoker is preheated, place the ribs on the smoker grates and seal the door. Add one tray full of hickory wood chips to the chip loader each hour for the first three hours of smoking. No peeking! You lose heat every time the door is opened. Apple wood chips are also excellent for smoking, or a combination of the two.

Rotate the smoking grates so the ribs closest to the top of the smoker box are placed near the bottom and the bottom grate is placed at the top after the first hour.

Remove the ribs from the rack and baste generously with your choice of BBQ sauce. Two of my personal favorites are Stubb’s and Famous Dave’s. Place in a covered enameled baking pan with two cups of apple juice.
Cover tightly and cook in the smoker (NO SMOKE) for two additional hours. Rotate the ribs in the pan after the fourth hour.

Remove the ribs from the covered baking pan and baste again with BBQ sauce. Bake directly on the smoker grates for one additional hour, until tender, with NO SMOKE.
The meat should easily pull apart when the rib bones are bent at an angle. You’ll also want to ensure the meat has receded slightly (1/2″) from the ends of the rib bones. The bones should have a nice char on the ends. Cover and keep warm until ready in a serving dish.

The smoker should be set at 225°F for the duration of the cooking process. Total cooking time: 6 hours.

Serves 4-6

Mike's babyback rib rub

BBQ hickory wood chips

BBQ hickory smoke

Apple-Smoked Stuffed Pork Chops

Stuffed pork loin chops smoked over apple wood at 225° F.

Stuffed pork loin chops smoked over apple wood at 225° F.

Here’s a great way to add a new dimension to an old favorite – stuffed pork chops that are smoked over apple wood chips and then finished off with a rich, decadent gravy.  Incredible!


4 stuffed pork chops
2 cups apple juice
1 cup apple wood chips for smoking
1 peeled, cored and sliced apple
Meat tenderizer

For the Gravy:
1 can Campbell’s Cream of Chicken soup
10.5 oz. beef broth (enough to fill the soup can)
1 strip bacon, minced
1/2 small onion, fine chopped
Dash of Worchestershire sauce
Dash of Kitchen Bouquet seasoning
Dash of paprika; about 1/2 tsp.
Salt and Pepper to taste


Pierce the pork chops on each side (1/4″ spacing) with a pronged tenderizer or sharp knife. Work in the meat tenderizer and let stand in the fridge for two hours.

Prepare an outdoor smoker by placing 2 cups of apple juice in the water pan and preheat to 225° F.
Warm the chops to room temperature before smoking. Rub peanut oil on the grilling grate and place the four chops directly on the grate (uncovered) in the center of the smoker.

Smoke for 1 hour with one cup of apple chips. Keep the top vent almost shut.

While the meat is smoking, prepare your gravy.  Combine 1 can of Campbell’s Cream of Chicken soup and 1 can of beef broth in a saucepan. Whisk to incorporate.
Heat on low and stir occasionally. In a heavy fry pan, add the minced bacon and saute until slightly browned. Add the fine-chopped onion and heat until just lightly carmelized.
Add the sauteed onion and bacon to the saucepan with the drippings from the bacon. Add the worchestershire sauce, Kitchen Bouquet, salt, pepper and paprika to taste. Stir to ensure it doesn’t burn and keep the heat at an absolute minimum. Cover partially to keep warm.

After one hour, remove the chops from the smoker and place in a shallow baking dish (ensuring that the dish fits the maximum width of your smoker box, when closed.)
Pour the heated gravy over the top of the chops and wrap the baking dish tightly in aluminum foil. Braise in smoker for 1.5 hours covered with NO SMOKE. (Smoke will not penetrate the meat at this point, so it’s not needed.)
After 1.5 hours, turn the chops over and add the sliced apple to the top. Cover again with foil and heat for an additional 1.5 hours with no smoke.  Remove and serve. The chops should be fall-off-the-bone tender.
Keep the heat in your smoker at 225 °F for the duration of the cooking process.

Serve with your choice of potatoes or wide buttered egg noodles.

Serves 4
Total Cooking Time: 4 hours + prep

Note: The preparation method shown is for a 30″ Masterbuilt Smoker with internal probe. Every smoker is different, so make sure you experiment to find the method that works best for you. For this recipe I didn’t use the probe due to the long braise time. In my opinion, one hour of smoke is all that’s needed. You’ll quickly overpower your food if you add more.

Smoked pork chops eady for a slow braise with homemade gravy.

Ready for a slow braise with homemade gravy.

Mike’s Pork Carnitas

Grilled Pork Carnitas

The Spanish definition of Carnitas is “little meats”. This is legendary, ubiquitous street food served from vendor carts all over Mexico and the American Southwest. I may be wrong, but I suspect that this cultural mainstay had a direct influence on the evolution of fajitas and possibly, in part, American pulled pork. It is very similar to the Mayan cochinita pibil, from which it was undoubtedly inspired.

In this recipe the meat is braised in a pot, and the reduction process keeps it very moist. Traditionally, in central Mexico, it was prepared in lard. Yes lard. Here, lard is not needed because the meat renders in its own fat. Achieving a good char, or carmelization in the last step is essential. This is why I use cast-iron on a very hot outdoor charcoal grill.

The best tortillas are made from scratch, and any Mexican vendor worth his street cred always makes them from scratch. Your tomatillo salsa should be fairly spicy — a great contrast to the perfectly-seasoned pork.
This recipe is even better the second day. Reheats well if not overcooked.

Here is my version. Enjoy—


One 3.5-4lb. bone-in pork shoulder roast with some fat
3 dry bay leaves
1 tbs. pure NM Chimayo chili powder
1 tbs. ancho chili powder
1.5 tbs. ground cumin, toasted from seed
2 tsp. dry Mexican oregano leaf
1 tsp. ground coriander
6 cloves garlic – crushed
12 dry chiltepin peppers, crushed in a mortar, to taste
2 tsp. sea salt, to taste
Fresh-ground black pepper, to taste
cold water
1 large orange, juiced
1 large Spanish onion, sliced* or serve with Rajas de Chili Poblano

8″ flour or corn tortillas
Lime slices (optional)
Fresh cilantro
Tomatillo Salsa Verde

Charcoal for grilling

Cut the roast into fist-sized pieces, then place in a heavy 5-quart cast-iron Dutch oven and coat with the dry spice ingredients, ensuring that all sides are evenly coated. Leave the bone in the roast. It will add incredible flavor.

Add the crushed garlic and sliced onion* ensuring it is evenly distributed. Juice the orange and add the juice to the pot. Add enough cold water to cover the roast pieces, but do not submerge – the liquid and fat will render out and you don’t want too much water. Generally, the roast should be 3/4 covered. Add the bay leaves.

Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered for about 2.25 to 2.5 hours, until the liquid has reduced and very little remains. Turn twice during this time. When tender, remove the pieces and pull apart into 2″ bite sized chunks. Trim away any excess fat and discard the bone and bay leaves.

At this point you should have an outdoor charcoal grill preheated with enough coal for a medium-hot fire.
Preheat a 12″ heavy cast-iron skillet, (coated with some non-stick cooking spray) on the grilling grate until very hot (a drop of water should vaporize on contact in the skillet.)

Add the chunked pork to the skillet and spread out evenly. DO NOT TOUCH for two minutes, until a nice carmelized char has formed on one side. Using a wide spatula, carefully flip the pork over and repeat. Remove from the fire and immediately transfer to a warmed covered serving dish.

Serve in tortillas with Rajas de Chili Poblano, lime slices and hot Tomatillo Salsa Verde. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

Serves 8-12

pork carnitas simmering in a cast-iron pot

Grilled Pork Carnitas

Grilled Pork Carnitas

Pork Loin Roast with Red Wine Sauce

I threw this together over the weekend and was impressed by how rich and decadent the wine sauce gravy turned out. Out of all of the pork loin recipes I’ve tried, this is one of my favorites. In order to achieve a proper roux, you need to be patient. The result is perfection.

If you prefer fresh mushrooms, by all means, use them. Enjoy!


One 2-pound pork loin roast
3 tbs. olive oil
4 tbs. butter
4 tbs. flour
1 small onion, diced
1 tbs. chicken base
1 cup dry red wine
2 tsp. Kitchen Bouquet®
1 cup hot water
1 small can mushrooms (stems and pieces), 4 oz., with liquid reserved
Fresh-ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp granulated garlic, to taste
1 tbs. dry parsley
1 tbs. dry chives
1/2 tsp. ground dry thyme
2 dry bay leaves
1 rib celery, with leafy greens, diced
4 whole carrots, peeled and sliced into 2″ planks

Serve with mashed potatoes


Preheat oven to 275-degrees F.

Heat a large, heavy 5-qt cast-iron dutch oven over medium heat with the olive oil. Brown the roast on all sides and then set aside. Reduce the heat slightly, and deglaze the bottom of the pot with the red wine. Reduce heat to medium-low, then add the butter and the flour with the diced onion and stir constantly to form a dark roux; time varies but it may take over a half hour. Do not scorch the roux or it will taste bitter.

Add the water, Kitchen Bouquet, chicken base, fresh celery and canned mushrooms with their juices. Stir to incorporate, then add the dry spices. Bring to a boil, stir and shut off the heat. Add the pork roast back to the pan with juices.

Cover and bake in the oven for at least three hours; add the carrots during the last hour of cooking so they don’t get too soft.

Serve with your choice of potato or wide egg noodles.

Serves 4-6