Are you tired of using the same old cuts of pork for your carnitas? Have you ever considered using pork cushion meat?
This versatile cut of pork is often overlooked, but it can be used in a variety of ways, including making delicious carnitas.
In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about pork cushion meat and how to turn it into mouth-watering carnitas.
So, grab your apron and let’s get cooking!
Can You Use Pork Cushion Meat For Carnitas?
The answer is yes, you can absolutely use pork cushion meat for carnitas. Pork cushion meat is a cut of pork that comes from the foreleg of the pig, just like pork butt or shoulder. It has a good amount of connective tissue, which makes it perfect for low and slow cooking methods like braising, stewing, roasting, or smoking.
To make carnitas from pork cushion meat, you’ll need to first turn it into pulled pork. Start by seasoning the meat with a mix of dried oregano, cumin, salt, chili powder, and black pepper. Rub the seasoning all over the meat and place it in a pot or slow cooker with sliced onions, minced garlic, and the juice from oranges and limes. Cook everything on medium heat for about 8 hours or on high heat for 4-5 hours until the meat is tender and falls apart easily.
Once the meat is cooked, take it out of the pot and shred it with two forks. Season with more salt and pepper if needed. To give the carnitas a crispy texture, lay out the shredded meat on a baking sheet and broil in the oven for 3-4 minutes until it’s golden brown and slightly crispy.
What Is Pork Cushion Meat?
Pork cushion meat is a lean and flavorful cut of pork that comes from the large muscle of a pig’s picnic shoulder. The meat is cut from the anterior side, which means it has a lot of connective tissue and intramuscular fat. Once removed from the bone, the pork cushion is usually triangular in shape and weighs around two to three pounds. This cut of meat gets a lot of exercise, which makes it lean and well-worked. The low-fat content makes it a healthy choice for those who want to watch their fat intake.
Pork cushion meat is perfect for slow cooking methods like braising, stewing, roasting or smoking. It has a good amount of connective tissue, which breaks down slowly during cooking and gives the meat a tender and juicy texture. This makes it an excellent choice for making pulled pork or carnitas, as the meat falls apart easily and is full of flavor.
Compared to pork butt or shoulder, pork cushion meat is always boneless, which makes it easier to work with. It also doesn’t contain a lot of fat, which means you can use it to make healthier versions of your favorite pork dishes. However, due to its toughness and connective tissues, it’s best to cook pork cushion meat low and slow in a roast or smoke.
Benefits Of Using Pork Cushion Meat For Carnitas
There are several benefits of using pork cushion meat for carnitas. Firstly, pork cushion meat is leaner than pork shoulder or butt, which makes it a healthier option for those who are watching their fat intake. Secondly, pork cushion meat has a different flavor profile than pork shoulder, which means that it can add a unique taste to your carnitas. This can be especially appealing to those who are looking for something new and exciting to try.
Another benefit of using pork cushion meat for carnitas is that it is a versatile cut of meat that can be cooked in a variety of ways. As mentioned earlier, it can be braised, stewed, roasted, or smoked. This means that you can experiment with different cooking methods to find the one that works best for you and your taste preferences.
Finally, using pork cushion meat for carnitas can be a cost-effective option. Pork cushion meat is generally less expensive than other cuts of pork, such as pork shoulder or butt. This means that you can make delicious carnitas without breaking the bank.
How To Prepare Pork Cushion Meat For Carnitas
Preparing pork cushion meat for carnitas requires a few simple steps. First, make sure to remove the skin from the meat but leave some of the fat cap on. The fat adds juiciness to the carnitas, and any excess fat can be skimmed off later.
Next, mix together a blend of dried oregano, cumin, salt, chili powder, and black pepper in a small bowl. Rub this seasoning mix thoroughly onto the meat, making sure that all sides are covered.
Depending on the size of your pork cushion meat, you may need to adjust the cooking time and method. For a 1.7-2.5kg or 3.5-5lb piece of pork, you can cook it in a pot or slow cooker on medium heat for about 8 hours or on high heat for 4-5 hours until it’s tender and falls apart easily. If you’re using a stove pressure cooker, use a rack or balls of scrunched up foil to elevate the meat from the base or add 3/4 cup of water and cook for 1 hour and 30 minutes. If you’re using an oven, put the pork in a roasting pan, add 2 cups of water around it, cover tightly with foil, and roast in a 325F/160C oven for 2 hours. Then roast for a further 1 to 1.5 hours uncovered.
Once cooked, take out the meat from the cooker or oven and pull at it with forks until it’s shredded into small pieces. If needed, season with more salt and pepper. Let it cool for about thirty minutes before laying it out on a baking sheet and broiling in the oven for about three to four minutes until it’s crisp and crusted.
Finally, serve your pork cushion meat carnitas with your favorite taco fixings like diced avocado, guacamole, pico de gallo, salsa, grated cheese, or sour cream. You can store any leftovers in the refrigerator for up to three days or freeze them for up to three months. To reheat, gently warm up the juices until they’re pourable and pan fry the pork while drizzling it with juice to keep it moist and crispy.
Tips For Cooking Perfect Carnitas With Pork Cushion Meat
If you’re using pork cushion meat for your carnitas, here are some tips to help you cook it perfectly:
1. Season the meat well: Pork cushion meat is a flavorful cut of meat, but it still needs seasoning to bring out its full potential. Use a mix of spices and herbs that complement the pork, such as cumin, oregano, garlic powder, and chili powder.
2. Cook it low and slow: Just like other cuts of pork used for carnitas, pork cushion meat needs to be cooked low and slow to become tender and juicy. You can use a slow cooker or a Dutch oven to cook the meat for several hours until it’s fully cooked.
3. Add citrus juice: The acidity in citrus juice helps to tenderize the meat and add flavor. Squeeze some fresh orange and lime juice over the pork cushion meat before cooking it to give it a tangy kick.
4. Use aromatics: Aromatics like onions, garlic, and peppers add depth of flavor to the carnitas. Saute them in a bit of oil before adding the pork cushion meat to the pot.
5. Don’t overcook it: Overcooking pork cushion meat can result in dry and tough carnitas. Cook it until it’s just tender enough to shred easily with a fork.
6. Broil for crispiness: To get that crispy texture on your carnitas, broil the shredded meat in the oven for a few minutes until it’s golden brown and slightly crispy.
By following these tips, you’ll be able to make delicious carnitas using pork cushion meat that’s tender, juicy, and full of flavor.
Serving Suggestions For Pork Cushion Meat Carnitas
Now that you have your delicious and tender pork cushion meat carnitas ready, it’s time to think about serving suggestions. There are many ways to enjoy this flavorful dish, and here are a few ideas to get you started:
1. Tacos: Warm up some soft tortillas and fill them with the carnitas, diced onions, chopped cilantro, and a squeeze of lime. Top with your favorite salsa or hot sauce for an extra kick.
2. Burritos: Wrap the carnitas in a large flour tortilla along with some rice, beans, cheese, and guacamole. Roll it up and enjoy a hearty and filling meal.
3. Nachos: Layer tortilla chips with the carnitas, shredded cheese, black beans, jalapeños, and sour cream. Bake in the oven until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
4. Quesadillas: Place the carnitas between two flour tortillas with some shredded cheese and cook on a griddle or in a pan until the cheese is melted and the tortillas are crispy.
5. Salad: Top a bed of greens with the carnitas, sliced avocado, cherry tomatoes, and a drizzle of lime vinaigrette for a healthier option.
No matter how you choose to serve your pork cushion meat carnitas, be sure to have some warm tortillas, guacamole, salsa, and lime wedges on hand for a complete and delicious meal.
Conclusion: Why Pork Cushion Meat Is A Great Choice For Carnitas
There are several reasons why pork cushion meat is a great choice for making carnitas. First, it is a leaner cut of pork, which means it has less fat than pork shoulder or butt. This can be a healthier option for those who are watching their fat intake. However, it still has enough connective tissue to make it tender and juicy when cooked low and slow.
Additionally, pork cushion meat has a slightly different flavor profile than pork shoulder or butt. It has a more subtle taste that allows the seasoning and spices to shine through. This can be a great option for those who want to experiment with different flavor combinations or who prefer a milder taste.
Another advantage of using pork cushion meat for carnitas is its versatility. Once the meat is cooked and shredded, it can be used in a variety of dishes, such as tacos, burritos, nachos, or even as a topping for salads. It can also be frozen and reheated later for quick and easy meals.