How to Make Pernil (Spanish Pork)

Pernil is a pork shoulder roast. The dish is from Puerto Rico, but the marinade is adobo -- vinegar or citrus juices with herbs and spices -- that is more characteristic of the Philippines. The 8- to 10-pound roast is marinated overnight and then cooked eight hours in the marinade after being covered with garlic paste. The finished product is fall-off-the-bone tender and moist, with a tangy Spanish taste that is unforgettable. The dish is a favorite all over the Spanish-speaking world.

Things You'll Need

  • 8- to 10-lb. pork shoulder roast
  • 1 head, garlic
  • 1 cup vinegar (optional)
  • 3 oranges, juiced
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 1 tsp. ground paprika
  • 1 tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp. ground oregano
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • Olive oil
  • Water, beer or wine
  • Large oven roasting pan
  • Tinfoil
  • 1 lb. all-purpose flour
  • 1 stick, butter
  • 1 qt. saucepan


    • 1

      Mix the marinade with the olive oil, spices, chopped onion and something sour -- vinegar or a mixture of orange and lime juices. In Puerto Rico, and in Latino markets in places with large Puerto Rican populations, you can buy blends of adobo spices made especially for cooking pernil. The roast should be rubbed with the spice and then drenched in the marinade. It needs to set in the marinade overnight in the refrigerator, and turned several times. There should be about 2 cups of marinade when you start. Use water, wine or beer to extend the marinade to 2 cups if needed.

    • 2

      Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Put in the roast for one hour, with the fat side down. Peel the cloves of garlic and make a paste by blending with a teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of olive oil. Take the roast out of the oven and turn the temperature down to 275 F. Turn the roast fat side up and score the fat with a knife. Rub the paste all over the roast. Bring the marinade up to 2 cups by adding water, wine or beer. Make a tinfoil tent to go over the roast and put it back in the oven for 7 to 8 hours.

    • 3

      Prepare the traditional gravy while the cooked roast is resting on the counter beneath its tent. With your fingers, mix 2 or 3 tablespoons of flour and 2 or 3 tablespoons of soft butter into a small bowl. Strain the juices and marinade from the oven pan and remove all the fat. In a saucepan, add enough water, beer or wine to bring the mixture to 2 cups. Stirring constantly, add a little of the gravy mixture at a time and simmer until smooth.

Tips & Warnings

  • Take the tent off for the last hour, making sure that the fat side is up. This is to make the fat crisp up like fried pork rinds. The crunchy skin is the sign of a properly cooked pernil.
  • Every oven is different, and the ideal cooking time varies. Check the roast every three hours, and at the half hour mark during the final hour of cooking, making sure it is cooked throughout but not overdone. Baste the meat when you check it. When properly cooked, the roast should be charred on the outside and very tender and juicy on the inside. The inside temperature should be 165 F.
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  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/ Images

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