Pernil (Puerto Rican Pork Shoulder)

This cut of meat is very inexpensive, but it is quite tough.  That is why it needs much preparation to convert it into the juicy, tender, and flavorful dish it can be.  One way to do it is Puerto Rican style.  The meat is marinated, then roasted.  I like to marinate it for about 3 days, then cook it in relatively high heat.  The long marination time allows the meat to be tenderized and the high heat sears the skin and makes it crispy.  What a delicious combination!  Once the pork is cooked it can be served with rice and beans, or whatever you like.  The meat is now ready to be used in a variety of ways, such as pulled pork, sandwiches, stews, etc.  Any of these look good?

This recipe was originally published by Carmen Aboy Valldejuli in 1954 (“Cocina Criolla”).  This is my translation.


  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano ( or 3 tablespoons fresh)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 7 lbs pork shoulder, skin on bone in


Use a mortar and pestle to pound the garlic, crush the peppercorns, and oregano, then smoosh everything together.  It will be similar to, but not quite a paste.  Next stir in the oil, vinegar and salt; combine thoroughly.

Rinse roast and pat dry with paper towels.  Use a small knife to cut slits in the meat.  Cut down as far as you can and use your fingers to stuff as much of the mixture as you can into the slits.  Do this on all sides of the roast, including through the skin.  Rub remaining marinade all over the roast.

Enclose tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 3 days, the longer the better; turn once each day.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Roast, skin side up, on a rack in a roasting pan for 1 hour; reduce heat to 400 degrees F and roast until the skin is deep golden and crackly (160 degrees on an internal meat thermometer), about 3 hours.

Let rest at least 15 minutes before carving.  Remove the crispy skin and cut into smaller pieces (you can use kitchen shears).  Carve the meat, parallel to the bone, all the way through to the bone.



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