Sous Vide Carnitas

As you may have seen from my Instagram stories, I continue to learn how to cook with the Anova Sous Vide cooker. I was excited to receive the cooker as a Christmas gift, because I’ve been wanting one for a while. Through precise maintenance of the exact cooking temperature, sous vide enables a cook to cook meats (and veggies) at a precisely exact temperature. So, instead of cooking a ribeye on a blazing hot 500 degree flat top or grill and overcooking the outside of the steak in order to get the center up to 135 degrees, with sous vide you just set the water temp at 135, submerge the meat, and the entire steak cooks to a perfect 135. After a few hours, take it out, quickly finish it in a hot skillet to brown the outside, and you’re all set. Perfectly cooked meat, every time.

Learning, like any cooking technique, takes a bit of trial and error. But with help from one of my favorite websites, Serious Eats, I’m finally getting the hang of it.

This weekend’s experiment: sous vide carnitas. There are few foods I enjoy more in life than a taco filled with deliciously crisp, yet tender pork carnitas. The crispy bits add a contrasting texture to the unctuous meat that inches these guys towards near perfection.

For the pork recipe, I used the Serious Eats Sous Vide carnitas recipe. For those that don’t have a sous vide, they also have an oven-roasted recipe as well. If you want any leftovers, you will want to get the full four pounds the recipe calls for. I thought that was too much, and only bought two pounds from local butcher Beltex Meats, and we ended up with hardly any leftovers for two of us. There’s a lot of fat that renders out, and the pork cooks down.

Some other tweaks I made to our version: I did a quick-pickle of some carrots, which added some nice bright contrast to the rich pork. We also topped ours with avocado and some peppadew peppers from Beltex (you can also find them at Harmon’s). Next time I’ll grab some cotija and maybe some crema to throw on top as well.

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Beltex Meats

Beltex Meats in Salt Lake City is a rarity along the Wasatch Front. In a world where the majority of consumers get their meats from grocery stores who focus more on their profit and loss statements than they do on the provenance of their products they sell, Beltex meats stands alone as a diamond in the rough.

Beltex is a whole animal butchery, which means they utilize every part of the animal in order to promote responsible consumption and minimize waste. The owners of Beltex saw that as residents in the area become more interested in purchasing humanely-raised, sustainable products, existing suppliers weren’t necessarily able to accommodate the demand. So Beltex stepped in to fill the gap, first at farmers’ markets, and now at their own shop. What does humanely raised mean? According to Beltex it means that their animals are pasture raised, with lots of room. Their products are never treated with antibiotics or hormones. They know each of their suppliers personally.

Beltex was founded by a chef, Philip Grubisa, which makes sense when you see that their cases not only feature meat, but also meat pies, charcuterie platters, sandwiches (Saturdays only), sauces, ready-to-cook meals, and other items not typically found in a butcher shop. Philip cut his butchery teeth while working at Spruce in the Waldorf Astoria in Park City, then moving on to open Talisker on Main with Briar Handly. Prior to opening Beltex, Philip trained at the Rocky Mountain Institute of Meat in Denver to certify in professional butchery.

I stopped by on a Saturday morning while the crew was preparing one of their surprising successes: sandwiches. Beltex offered a cuban sandwich one day, and it was so popular, they now offer a rotation of sandwiches on Saturday only. Despite their sandwich success, they limit their production to 50 sandwiches, and once they sell out, they’re out. “We’re not a sandwich shop. We’re a butcher shop that happens to sell a sandwich,” Grubisa says.

Philip has taken care to create a unique space to sell Beltex products. Their shop is located in a renovated house just across the street from Liberty Park on 9th South. Prior to the renovation, this house was a dilapidated mess, and Grubisa hired Brach Design Architecture to update the space to what you see now.

Beltex is open Monday through Saturday, 10am to 6pm.

511 East, 900 South, Salt Lake City. (801) 532-2641. beltexmeats.com

Click on the photos below to open the gallery.