Pernil: The juicy kind with the crispy 'Cuero'


Pernil is a straight up Puerto Rican treasure. It's a seasoned-down, long marinated and slow roasted pork shoulder with crunchy skin (AKA 'cuero') worth fighting your family over. It's expected around the holidays, but I cook it all year round. The beautiful thing about pernil is how it goes with just about anything and how the leftovers can be turned into tacos, Cuban sandwiches, pulled BBQ pork- the options are endless. Allow yourself some time to put some love in this roast and you will impress the hell out of everyone. 



7lb pork picnic shoulder

4Tbsp olive oil

3 Tbsp sofrito (optional, but not necessary)

15 garlic cloves

7 tsp salt 

3 tsp cumin

2 tsp oregano

2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper



Thoroughly clean and pat dry the pork shoulder.

Using an immersion blender or food processor, blend the olive oil, garlic cloves, salt, cumin, oregano and black pepper to make a smooth mix. 

Using a sharp knife, cut away and separate the fat cap (but leave a piece of the fat attached to the meat)  from the top of the roast so that you can fully season underneath the fat. Begin to make deep incisions around the entire pernil and fill the incisions with the marinade. 

Be sure that you are rubbing the marinade not only on the top of the pernil, but also on the sides, bottom, and on all of the skin. (optional: if you are a big fan of garlic, feel free to also push extra minced garlic into the incisions...there's no such thing as too much garlic in this case!). 

Optional, but TOTALLY WORTH IT: Rub the sofrito all over the pernil and underneath the fat cap, and the marinating is done. Ideally, you want your pernil to marinate 24hrs before roasting to really develop that flavor, but you can skip this 24hr period if you are pressed for time. 

Allow the pernil to sit at room temperature for an hour before roasting. Adjust oven rack to middle position and pre-heat oven to 300F.

Transfer the pernil to a large roasting pan and Add a little water to the roasting pan so that it comes up about 1/2 inch up the sides. Cover and tent the pan loosely with aluminum foil (the trick here is to create enough space between the aluminum and the pernil so that the aluminum does not stick the the pernil while roasting). 

Roast the pernil for about 3-4hrs. Every oven is different, but I recommend you roast the pernil for about 30-45 minutes per pound, or until the roast is fork tender.  

Once the roast is tender and juicy, remove it from the oven and allow it to rest at room temperature for at least 15 minutes and up to 2 hours. Crank the oven back up to 500°F and allow to preheat. Put the pork back into the oven *UNCOVERED* and roast until the skin (or 'cuero')  is blistered and puffy, rotating every 5 minutes, about 20 minutes total. Remove from oven, tent with foil and allow to rest an additional 15 minutes before digging into greatness. 

Buen Provecho. 

Santana Caress Benitez