Perníl al horno (Puerto Rican oven-roasted pork)

6 Jan

There is no better time to be at the top of the food chain than during Christmas in Puerto Rico.

Perníl made with pork loin (I think; the dad threw away the label before I could get the info!) proves that the recipe can enhance any pork roast

I know many of my readers (and friends) are vegetarian, vegan even, and I respect your choices — except of course my dad’s crazy ass diet because it is so crazy. I prefer a mostly plant-based diet myself, and will go as far as to make accommodations at my table for you, but at Navidades, this girl embraces her carnivorous side and all protests to the contrary will be regarded with impatience and disdain, if regarded at all.

The imposter was actually pretty good!

The imposter was actually pretty good!

Perníl is in my D.N.A., and that, mi amor, is that.

What the real thing looks like before roasting

What the real thing looks like before roasting

Perníl, or oven-roasted pork shoulder, is a cornerstone of any festive or holiday meal for Puerto Ricans on or off the island. It is not complicated or hard to do (except for the part about running a hot oven for three or four hours in 80 degree heat) and looks and tastes fantastically juicy.

Look at that pig.

Look at that pig.

The crisp crackling skin is a highlight so never cover it during cooking, resting or serving. If you can’t find pork shoulder then try thick loins and add more scoring and more oil. You really need the skin for it to be perníl.

Meltingly juicy perníl

Meltingly juicy perníl

I would say more, but my keyboard has gone mad and I am struggling to get this out, so Feliz Año Nuevo to all and let me know how your roast turns out!

Molar-cracking cuerito

Molar-cracking cuerito

Perníl al horno (Oven-roasted pork)

2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped

10 black peppercorn

2 tsp dry oregano

1 tsp salt (Pedro goes very light on the salt. You can go up to a tablespoon, if you like salt)

1 Tbs olive oil

4-5 lb. Perníl delantero (pork shoulder Picnic cut), skin on

(You can season the perníl a couple of days ahead and refrigerate, uncooked. Some folks season and freeze it until they need it.)

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Place garlic, peppercorns, oregano, and salt in a mortar and pestle and grind to a paste. Add oil and mix well. Smear paste all over the pork, on the skin and as much under as you call get without taking it completely off. You can score the meat with 1/2″ cuts and imbed paste in the scores as well.

Place in a roasting pan and roast at 450°F for 30 minutes. Lower heat to 325°F and roast for 35 minutes per pound (an additional 2.5 hours, approximately or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 185°). Remove from oven and let rest for a half hour, uncovered. (NEVER cover as you will steam the cuerito to softness, widely regarded as a mortal sin in Puerto Rican homes. It ain’t perníl unless someone breaks a tooth on the cuerito).

Alternate rub

Take 1-1.5 Tbs of Goya Adobo, mix with a tablespoon of oil and follow same procedure for rubbing and cooking.


18 Responses to “Perníl al horno (Puerto Rican oven-roasted pork)”

  1. Amarilys June 21, 2015 at 7:10 am #

    I cooked 2 perniles following your instructions for my brother’s birthday and everybody was licking their fingers and praising me for the choking. Today is father’s day and it was an allamong 3 siblings, among my parents, asked me to make pernil for our lunch today. Seems we have a new tradition to add in or family gatherings.

    • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy June 21, 2015 at 8:50 am #

      Thank you for the kind words!!!! Pernil is a wonderful tradition, I think! ¡Buen provecho!

      • Carlos E. Garcia-Feliciano December 2, 2016 at 7:08 pm #

        Are you Puerto Rican? As a island born Puerto Rican who has cooked not only Perniles but whole porks – the only thing I have to say about perniles is that we typically cooked the back whole legs of the Pork. Natalia de Cuba Romero? Is that actually your name? Very interesting and unusual. My dad was Romero de Caguas.

      • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy December 10, 2016 at 11:16 am #

        Hi Carlos! The name is real; the de Cuba part is actually from Aruba, go figure. And the Romero part is from Puerto Rico, yes. On the perníl, you are correct that the original cut comes from the hind leg, but here on the mainland the shoulder works well, especially because you get the fatty skin for the cuerito….

  2. Monte Temple November 21, 2013 at 10:30 am #

    Natalia: I had no idea you were “hot, cheap and easy”. Your recipies are ethnic but also international. As a southerner, I make the pernil more or less like you do but I slather on a tomato based hot sauce as well, basting as I cook. Your recipies are wonderful. Ever think about a cooking show on TV? Monte

    • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy November 21, 2013 at 3:47 pm #

      Absolutely delighted to hear from you again Monte!!!! Perhaps in my next iteration I will be a TV star? For now I am just building my skills and feeding my little man!

    • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy November 21, 2013 at 3:48 pm #

      P.S. As far as I am concerned southern food is ethnic too!!!!

  3. OLGA August 11, 2013 at 11:54 am #

    UNBELIEVABLY DELICIOUS!!! Tried your recipe and, for sure, I’m taking it with me when I go to Honduras…
    By the way, do you have instructions on how to build a pit in the yard to roast a whole pig??

    • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy August 11, 2013 at 5:19 pm #

      Olga, so glad it came out well…we’ve never done a pit; we’ve tied a pig to a spit though. Same marinade, but long slow hours of cooking!

  4. Carlos February 3, 2013 at 2:49 am #

    Love you website!

    • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy February 3, 2013 at 7:47 am #

      Thank you so much! It sounds like you are as interested in good Puerto Rican food as I am…love your thoughtful comments!

  5. Adam J. Holland January 7, 2013 at 5:18 pm #

    Delicious! Regretfully, I was in Puerto Rico for about six hours (cruise ship stop) and ate at …. Hard Rock Cafe. It was stupid and I know it now. But, at least I have something else to blog about. 😉

    • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy January 7, 2013 at 5:24 pm #

      And now you need to start planning your next trip to the island! A proper trip….

      • Carlos February 3, 2013 at 2:48 am #

        Natalia – I have been cooking & eating perniles all of my life. Never the shoulder but the leg…. I was surprised to see the recipe using the shoulder…..

        Here in California I cook a whole pig every Christmas using pretty much the same recipe – very similar to Valdejully-Segarra’s (RIP)… It is so good…..

      • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy February 3, 2013 at 7:50 am #

        Agreed! Pernil is, of course, meant to be the leg…but when a loin or a shoulder is what you’ve got, the pernil flavors make them great! Carmen Valldejuli’s Cocina Criolla is a Bible around here. Have you seen Cocine a Gusto by Cabanillas, Ginorio and Mercado. Published by La Editorial de UPR, it is another great resource for classic recipes that you might not find in Valldejuli.

  6. Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide January 7, 2013 at 7:38 am #

    I always embrace my carnivorous side. This looks amazing!

  7. Mad Dog January 6, 2013 at 8:24 pm #

    That sounds excellent – I like the idea of rubbing garlic into the skin and scores – I’ve never done that because I thought I might not crackle so well. Now I know better!
    You are far to kind to those vegetarians 😉

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