Cowboy Carnitas with Smoked Pulled Pork

Today we are fixing y’all up with our Cowboy Carnitas using the Pit Barrel Smoker. Start with a good pork butt or pork shoulder, season it just right, cook it oh so tender, then top it off with come citrus for an authentic carnitas recipe.

Now, you can cook the pork in a Crock Pot for anywhere from 6 to 10 hours, but we’re going to smoke it today for even more flavor. 

Let’s talk about the meat we’re using for our carnitas.

Season and Let it Sit


Season the meat and leave it in the fridge for 12 hours.

First thing we need to season it well. We’re using a mix of cumin, oregano, onion salt, smoked paprika,  salt and black pepper. We’re also going to add the zest of an orange peel for a pop of flavor. Traditionally, when you cook carnitas, it’s always with a little lime, lemon or orange baste.

Let the seasoned pork sit in an ice box (or refrigerator) for about 12 hours. You need to let it sit at least 6 hours, but I prefer 12. Before you start cooking the meat, take it out of the ice box  about 45 minutes before cooking to let it warm a bit. Now, you’re ready to start smoking the pork. 

Let’s Work out that Pit Barrel Smoker

We’re using hardwood lump and letting it get smoking-white hot.


Hook the meat deep, so it’s doesn’t fall off.

Here’s a few tips on how we’ll be using the smoker:

  • Place hooks in the meat, deep enough so the pork doesn’t fall off the hook while it’s cooking.
  • Have the hooks facing different directions, so it will be more secure.
  • Make sure the vent at the bottom of the smoker is closed, so no oxygen can get in and feed the fire.
  • Add some hickory chips a few hours into the process to get a little more flavor.

Add some hickory chips to get more flavor.

The pork butt we’re using is about 5 1/2 to 6 pounds, so it’s going to need to cook for about 4 hours. After 2 hours, we’ll add some more hardwood lumps to keep it nice and hot. We’ll have to get the pork temperature to about 160 F degrees before we take it out of the smoker to wrap it. 

Time to Wrap our Pork

When we reach the 160 degree F mark, it’s time to give the meat a little TLC. In the meantime, we’ll add more charcoal to the smoker to keep it going while we’re doctoring up the pork, because you’ll want it very hot when you put the meat back in for the last 2 hours.


Add some orange and lime juice and wrap the meat in tin foil.

Let’s wrap it right

Remove the meat from the smoker, transfer to a tray lined with aluminum foil and remove the hooks. Careful, it will be very hot. You’ll want plenty of foil to wrap around the pork, so I recommend using a double layer, or triple layer, to keep the juices from leaking out. Curl the sides of the foil up around the meat so it looks a little like a boat. Then add the juice of 2 oranges and one lime and pour over the meat. 

Wrap the foil around the meat good and tight.

Make sure the seams are sealed really well. You don’t want any moisture or steam to escape. Return the meat to the smoker, this time on the the grill base and cook for another 2 hours, until it reaches a temperature of 190F.


Use double layer of tin foil. Fry it till you reach 190 F degrees.

What About That Pit Barrel Smoker?

You’ve may have seen our brisket recipe where we smoked it in our Pit Barrel. I’ve also cooked ribs, burgers on it. It’s pretty versatile, and you don’t have to do too much to it. Just put the fire in and let it go. But what I like about it the most is that it’s portable. I can pick it up and move it anywhere I want.

If you want one in your backyard, you might want to check these folks out. Get more info about the Pit Barrel HERE.

Time to Make Carnitas

As you reach that magic 190 degree temperature, it’s time to make the carnitas. Unwrap the meat, place it along with the broth in a pan and grab a couple forks to start shredding.


Tear your meat to smaller pieces with forks.

The meat will be really tender and easy to shred. Be sure you incorporate the broth into the meat. Now, you could put the pork into a tortilla just the way it is, but that’s not the carnitas way. So, we’re going add one more step and crisp up the pork just a bit.


Fry it until it gets a little crispy.

Add a little oil to a cast iron skillet and heat it up. You can use whatever oil you like, but today, I’m using avocado oil. Before adding the meat to the skillet, make sure to cut through some of the bigger pieces with your hash knife.

If you don’t have a hash knife, you can get a handmade one here.

As you fry the meat, add some more lime juice to it. When it gets to the crispy stage, turn the burner off.


Squeeze the juice from half a lime to the meat when it’s done.

Toast up some tortillas. You can use flour tortilla, corn tortillas, whatever you prefer. Or you can make them yourself using our recipe. Here’s how to make homemade tortillas.


Add avocados and cheese. You can also add bell pepper or onions to your liking.

Put the crispy pork on the tortilla, add a little avocado and some shredded cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese. Then, you  can top ‘em off with whatever you like–onions, bell peppers, any kind of spices.

The secret to traditional carnitas is crisping up the smoked meat.

Check out our video where you can watch the process step-by-step. Be sure to share folks and we’ll see you down the trail! 

Cowboy Carnitas - Cowboy Kent Rollins


  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground oregano
  • 1 tablespoon coarse ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons ground mustard
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons crushed dried ancho chili
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest
  • 6 to 7 pound pork butt or pork shoulder
  • The juice of 2 navel oranges
  • The juice of 1 lime
  • About 4 tablespoons cooking oil
  • Tortillas shredded cheese, sliced avocados for serving


  • In a small bowl, combine the seasonings and orange zest.
  • Pat the pork dry with a paper towel. Generously rub the seasoning mix all over the pork to coat. Cover and set in the fridge for 6 hours or overnight. Remove the pork from the fridge about 30 minutes before cooking.
  • If using hooks to smoke, place the hooks about halfway down the pork to ensure it doesn’t fall while smoking.
  • In the Pit Barrel Cooker, fill the tray with hardwood lump charcoal, and light. When the coals are white add about two handfulls of hickory chips. Hang the pork on the rebar and cook 4 hours, with the lid on, until the internal temperature is about 150 to 160 degrees F.
  • Remove the pork from the smoker and place on a double layer of heavy tin foil. Bend the ends of the foil up to create a boat around the pork.
  • In a small bowl, combine the juices of the lime and orange. Pour the juice over the pork and wrap to seal completely.
  • Add about 4 to 5 more pieces of hardwood lump charcoal and a handful of hickory chips to the tray. Place the wrapped pork on a grate and cook for about 1 ½ to 2 hours or until the internal temp is about 190 degrees Remove the pork from the smoker and let rest to cool slightly enough to handle.
  • Unwrap the pork, with the juice, and place on a large pan with sidewalls. With a set of forks, shred the pork, mixing it in with the juices.
  • Heat a large cast iron skillet with 2 tablespoons of the oil over medum-high heat. Place about half the shredded pork in the skillet and cook until the pieces have crisped up slightly, about 8 to 10 minutes. Repeat with the remaining oil and pork.
  • Serve the Let set until you can shred and then in a large cast iron skillet add 2 tablespoons of frying oil and cook the pork until crispy
  • Serve in tortillas topped with cheese and avocados, if desired.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!