That first bite of my birthday celebration carnitas was glorious. We went out to a local Mexican restaurant that serves my favorites. I asked the owner what he did to make the meat the perfect combination of tender, juicy, and caramelized—every chew was full of umami and deeply satisfying. He said there were two secrets: pork cheeks from a local pig farm and confit. Of course. The combination of that cut and traditional treatment would definitely render such a delicious combination of flavor and texture.

While I was savoring each morsel and tucking into my next carnitas, I thought, ‘You know, I bet this would work with bear meat, a nice fat, fall bear. Confit would work great.’ The more I hunt, the more I try to add value to the game we butcher. Part of enhancing value is to consider what we can add to the pantry in the way of cured meats and special treatments that let us expand the celebration of game harvested while giving us some wild substitutes for either hard-to-get or expensive cuts.

Confit is one of those treatments that is perfect for bears. The simplified summary of how to make bear confit (or any confit for that matter) is to season the meat with 3% salt by weight and whatever seasonings suit the direction you want to take the meat in. Let that sit in the fridge for 24 hours, rinse with cold water, drain, and simmer covered in fat for about eight hours. I cheated and used the sous-vide––180 degrees F for seven hours. For more specific details, check out this article published last year in Bear Hunting Magazine:

The hard work for this recipe was done last fall when we butchered, cured, and cooked about half of the fall bear my son took. The easy part was thawing a package of bear confit and preparing the vegetables for the meal. The resulting confit was as good as the carnitas I had for my birthday.

It is worth noting that I took these photos and wrote this story while escaping -37 degrees F to the Pacific Islands––Vancouver Island to be exact. While not exactly a tropical paradise, it beats shoveling snow daily and is a great place to prepare and enjoy carnitas. Yes, I did take frozen bear confit with me in the cooler just for this purpose.


Here’s how to make black bear confit carnitas:




Frying pan


French knife

Cutting board






1 pound or 450 grams of bear confit

1 onion, peeled and sliced

1 red pepper, deseeded and sliced

1 green pepper, deseeded and julienned

1 tbsp orange zest

1 garlic clove, sliced finely

1 shallot, peeled and sliced finely

Salt and pepper to taste (I didn’t add any salt because the confit meat was well-salted)

Garnishes: guacamole, fresh salsa, and lime wedges

Tortillas (my preference is homemade corn tortillas, but I wrote this on vacation and all I could find were flour tortillas)




1.        Remove the confit from the freezer and thaw.

2.        Prep the vegetables, slice and deseed peppers, slice onions, and finely chop garlic.

3.        Zest the orange.

4.        Heat the confit gently until all the fat is melted, then turn up the heat to medium-high to caramelize the meat until it is crispy on the outside.

5.        Set up the garnishes and serving plates.

6.        When the bear is well-browned and crispy, add the onions and saute until they start to color. Then, add the peppers and garlic.

7.        Once the peppers wilt, add the orange zest and give the mixture a quick toss.

8.        Take the mixture off the heat while preparing the tortillas for service.

9.        Heat a frying pan to warm the tortillas and assemble carnitas with your choice of garnishes.


This is another example of value-added treatments to game meat. Every time I take a bear, I make confit with 15 pounds of its shoulder. It is a perfect way to make tough cuts tender and tasty. Carnitas is just one of the many ways to use bear confit. It was perfect for an Island Holiday lunch by the raging sea.