Pernil (Puerto Rican Pork Shoulder Roast)

This recipe was originally published by Carmen Aboy Valldejuli in 1954 (“Cocina Criolla”).  This is my translation. It needs to marinate 1-3 days, the longer the better.

Pernil (Puerto Rican Pork Shoulder Roast)

  • Servings: 10+
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 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 pounds 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 individual slits in the meat every two inches or so.  Cut down as far as you can and use your fingers to stuff as much of the marinade mixture as you can into each slit.  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. It is now ready to be sliced or shredded depending on your preference.


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