Pernil (or roasted pork shoulder) is a staple in the Latino household, especially for holidays or special occasions. Like the many different hispanic cultures that exist, there are just as many ways to make Pernil. There is no “right” way, as long as it’s flavorful, the meat is tender and the skin is crispy.
I am Cuban and Puerto Rican but all of my latino cuisine was taught to me by my mom who was Cuban. My love for delicious food and the warm feeling you get when you feed someone a great meal, came from my mother. Cooking was one of the many ways that mom showed loved. She taught me many things, but one thing she taught me, was how to cook. Losing my mom has been hard, but when I cook, it makes me feel closer to her. This is how my mom made Pernil.
The first step is picking a beautiful piece of meat. Anytime that I want to make Pernil I take the trip to the latin supermarket or a meat market. Mainstream supermarkets don’t always carry pork shoulder, which is the cut of pork that you use to make Pernil. And even if they do carry it, it’s not always fresh. There’s even a funny story about one Thanksgiving I was hosting in my home.
My mom and I always shared the responsibility of cooking on holidays. It was the first major holiday in my new home in New Jersey, and this particular year, she was bringing the pork. She bought it, seasoned it at home and brought it ready to be put into the oven. When I took the foil off to put it in the oven, I noticed that were some oddly colored pieces. They almost looked blue. It was hard to tell if the meat was spoiled or if was just the ink from the stamp on the pork. There was a slight off smell to it. But again, it was hard to tell if it was bad or if that was just the raw meat smell. We decided to put in the oven anyway and sure enough, the house filled with the smell of rancid meat. IT WAS ROTTEN!!!
Because I was new to area, I didn’t know where we could get meat at 12pm on Thanksgiving. Most places were closed. She googled it, and found a market open in Hackensack, NJ. It was a race to get the meat, bring it home, season it and cook it in time to be ready for dinner. It all worked out, but needless to say, we NEVER bought pork shoulder from Stop & Shop again.
The point is, go somewhere you can feel confident that your meat is fresh. Another important thing about purchasing pork shoulder is the skin. The skin cannot have any cuts in it. This will prevent it from getting crispy when you cook it. Make sure the butcher turns the meat over and shows you how the skin looks before you purchase it.
Now the fun part starts, the seasoning! This is very unique to each person, but believe it or not, we do it very simply and it comes out delicious. The trick is A LOT of garlic, a A LOT of lemon/lime juice and A LOT of salt.
Once it’s seasoned, flip it over, dry the skin with a paper towel and you’re all set!
The best thing about Pernil is just how easy it is. You can literally put it in the oven, leave it there and go do other things. You don’t have to hover over it and stir anything. Even if you never checked it, it would bet that it would still come out great.
Once your Pernil is cooked and fork tended (when you puncture the meat with a fork, you don’t feel any resistance) and the skin is nice and crispy, your meat is done. Take it out but make sure not to cover it with foil right away because the heat will cause steam which will soften the skin and make it chewy. If you need to cover the meat, make sure to take off the skin first and then cover the meat. The skin can be reheated in the broiler later. Server with your choice of sides. We love the traditional white rice, black beans and mojo. ENJOY!!Print