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Pernil: the delicious Puerto Rican recipe for slow-cooked pork shoulder

Total time: 6H40 + marinating time
Difficulty: Low
Serves: 15 people
By Cookist
bone-in or boneless pork shoulder
1 7-pound
Vegetable Oil
1/4 cup
Garlic, minced
12 cloves
fresh oregano leaves
1/4 cup
Dried oregano
1 tbsp
adobo seasoning
2 tbsp
1 tbsp
Kosher Salt
1 tsp
extra kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp
extra freshly ground black pepper to taste
juice of 2 lemons and 1 orange

If you've never made roasted pernil, you've been missing out. This classic Puerto Rican slow-cooked pork shoulder is a staple during holidays like Christmas and is often served on other special occasions.

Seasoned with delicious adobo seasoning and dried herbs, pernil has satisfyingly crispy skin and succulent, tender meat that makes it an exquisite dish to serve your friend and family.

You'll need to marinate the pork shoulder overnight for best results, but it is so worth it. If you're ready to make one of the most delicious Christmas dinners of all time, here's everything you need to know about making the best roasted pernil.

What is Pernil?

Pernil is a classic Puerto Rican dish that's served over the holidays, for parties, and other special occasions. It's made from a roasted slow-cooked pork shoulder marinated in seasonings and spices. The meat is slow-cooked, which gives it a melt-in-your-mouth texture. Instead of pork shoulder, you can also use pork butt or pork leg.

Although it's similar to pulled pork because it's slow-cooked, pernil is different because it's usually made from pork shoulder rather than pork butt. It can be pulled but doesn't tend to pull as easily as pork butt.

There are different versions of pernil found throughout Latin America. Cuban pernil is another popular variation.

Roasted Pernil Ingredients

To make the best-ever pernil, you'll need some high-quality pork shoulder.

To season the meat, you'll want garlic, salt, pepper, fresh and dried oregano, adobo seasoning, and paprika.

Lemon and orange juice – freshly squeeze only, please, will add a lovely zesty flavor to the dish and make it truly irresistible.

How to Season Pernil

Roast pernil is seasoned with dry adobo seasoning, oregano, salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic. Some people add Sazon seasoning for extra flavor. If you want to add Sazon, be sure to cut back on the amount of salt you use.


How Long to Cook Pernil

Exactly how long to pernil will depend on the size of your pork shoulder. A general rule of thumb is to cook it 20 to 30 minutes per pound or until the meat reads 160°F on an internal meat thermometer.

Of course, if you cook it at a lower temperature, it may take longer.

Tips for the Best Roasted Pernil

Don't cover the meat the entire time it's cooking. If you do, the skin won't crisp up.

Make sure to let the pernil rest for at least 15 minutes after taking it out of the oven. This will allow the juices to redistribute in the meat and ensure ultra-tender, succulent meat.

When scoring the skin, make sure not to cut too deeply down to the meat.

Don't wash the meat before preparing – you'll only spread around bacteria and increase your risk of food poisoning. However, you should pat the meat dry with a paper towel.

For crispier skin, turn the heat up to 375°F and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes.

What to Serve with Roasted Pernil

Keep the theme and serve other mouthwatering classic Puerto Rican dishes like arroz con gandules and fried plantains.

Otherwise, this delicious roasted pork shoulder will go well with roasted vegetables, casseroles, or a zesty salad.

How to Store Pernil

Once the pernil has cooled down slightly, wrap it in foil or transfer it to an airtight container and store it in the fridge for up 4 days.

How to Make Pernil

Using a sharp knife, score the pork to form a diamond pattern, making sure not to cut into the flesh. Put the meat in a large baking dish.

Whisk oil, garlic, fresh oregano, dried oregano, adobo, paprika, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.

Rub the marinade into the meat. Cover with foil or cling film and refrigerate overnight.

An hour before cooking, take the pork out and let it come up to room temperature. Preheat your oven to 300F.

Bake for 3 hours covered, then remove the foil and bake for 3 to 4 hours more.

Remove from oven and let the pernil sit for 20 minutes. Pull the meat apart, then pour the lemon and orange juice over the meat and serve.


Use a meat thermometer to help tell when the pork has finished cooking.

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