Pernil – Roast Pork

Pernil Roast Pork

This picture might look strange – even unappetizing – but do not be afraid.

We lucked out when we moved into our house four years ago.  Most of our neighbors are around our age, and some of them even went to high school and college with my husband or we know them from our professional settings.  Every other month we meet with two other families of the college/accounting group, cook and eat a great meal, and play with their adorable little girls.  On previous gatherings, we made French and Mexican inspired feasts. This time we planned a “Christmas in July” menu around one of PR’s best known culinary traditions: roast pork shoulder (pernil).

Pernil Roast Pork
The weekend before our gathering, our hostess called me to ask if I wanted to see how she prepped and seasoned the pernil.  Armed with an electric knife, Rebeca separated the skin from the meat and trimmed off the excess fat to (1) make room for the garlicky marinade and (2) allow the skin to turn into succulent pork rinds.  The skin would crisp otherwise, but not into the crunchy bubbly top you see here.  The marinade recipe came from a photocopy tacked to the back of her copy of Cocina Criolla. I believe every household in PR not only has a battered copy of Cocina Criolla, but it is probably overstuffed with recipes cut-out from newspapers or product labels and copied from friends.

Puerto Rican Pernil Roast Pork Marinade
(For a 6-7 pound pernil – adjust accordingly)

  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 6 medium to large cloves of garlic
  • 10 black peppercorns or 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 ground oregano
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor until a thick paste is formed.  With an electric knife (or a boatload of patience), trim the pork fat from one end of the pernil, allowing it to remain attached from one side.  You should be able to lift the skin and place it back on top of the shoulder roast.  Cover the meat and the skin with the marinade.  The pork should be marinated at least one full day before roasting in the oven to ensure the flavors infuse the meat.

Preheat the oven at 275°F.  In order to maintain the meat moist, place a baking dish filled with water in a lower grate of the oven and refill as the liquid evaporates.  When the oven is ready, roast the pernil for two hours.  The skin should just be beginning to crisp at this time.  After the two hours have ellapsed, bump up the temperature to 350°F and continue roasting for one more hour, until the skin is completely crispy and the internal temperature reaches 170°F to 180°F.

Our hostess expertly slices the pork rinds into smaller pieces

We paired the pork with traditional guineitos en escabeche (pickled green bananas), a not so traditional cava-infused risotto, and salad with a homemade mango dressing.  I got to take it easy this time and brought a batch of Dorie Greenspan’s Cheese-It-Ish Crackers (made with smoked gouda), and a batch of cinnamon ice cream to go with mini apple turnovers prepared by our hostess.  As it usually happens, we left stuffed, a bit tipsy, and with our next date scheduled.  It will be our turn to host and we’re taking out the paella pan!

** Fear not, sweet Doristas! My post on the Coconut Lemongrass Braised Pork is coming up soon.  Last weekend was a very porky one! **

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Adriana is a financial analyst by day, avid home cook in the evenings, and food blogger and runner in the strange hours between those two. When not in the kitchen concocting meals and stories to pass around, she is out looking for the next great bite (or the ingredients to make it at home), checking what's new at the market, or planning a trip around great food and wine.

18 Responses to “Pernil – Roast Pork”

  1. July 21, 2011 at 9:37 pm #

    believe it or not I feel like I can smell this.. Pernil is one of my favorite things

  2. July 22, 2011 at 2:48 am #

    This looks amazing and I seriously want some pork rind.

  3. July 22, 2011 at 7:30 am #

    This reminds me so much of the pork my Tia Martha (my best friend’s mother – not really my aunt) used to make when my BFF & I were kids 🙂 Meals were alwaysa gathering at their house.
    Thanks for the smile!

  4. July 22, 2011 at 9:05 am #

    Looks pretty amazing to me!

    • July 22, 2011 at 10:06 am #

      I bet it would be even better if the first two hours were cooked in your smoker!

      • July 22, 2011 at 12:21 pm #

        Don’t think that a Pork Butt won’t be the first proper meat I put in there! This certainly looks like a delicious way to go with it…Any thoughts on good wood to use?

  5. July 22, 2011 at 2:34 pm #

    This looks amazing! Great recipe!! 🙂

  6. July 22, 2011 at 7:42 pm #

    This looks delicious!

  7. July 22, 2011 at 10:23 pm #

    This looks wonderful, Adriana. My husband’s family roast whole pig and lamb at family celebrations. It’s such a big event and a huge whole is dug in the yard and the pig and/or lamb roasts all night and day. Nothing tastes better!

  8. Teresa
    July 22, 2011 at 10:32 pm #

    Wow – that’s a great recipe. I love the idea of celebratory meals every few months with friends. It’s a lovely tradition you’ve created.

  9. July 22, 2011 at 11:13 pm #

    Oh my – this looks SO amazing. What at fun time. My mouth is watering at that menu- how amazing. I have got to show this one to Nana…maybe I can convince her to cook it for us 🙂

  10. July 25, 2011 at 9:22 am #

    Pernil! One of the reasons my boys think we are Puerto Rican! We spent some time in San Juan and Ponce as kids and have loved la cocina criolla all our lives–but never, ever, did I realize that I should remove that fatty layer before the slow roast. Que Gracias!

    • July 25, 2011 at 9:57 am #

      Nancy, removing the excess fat underneath the skin will make it crackle into chicharrón. That said, fat acts as an ‘auto baster’ for the meat, and the more you remove, higher risk of a dry pernil. My friend tried to make up for that by roasting it with the water bath underneath. I hope this helps!

  11. August 1, 2011 at 4:49 am #

    Oooh, I love roast pork – and that crackling looks super.

  12. August 13, 2011 at 10:13 am #

    I want some of that “cuero”. Now that is what I call a pernil.


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