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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Puerto Rican Pernil (Roasted Pork Shoulder) Updated Cooking Techniques



I'm updating this recipe for Puerto Rican Pernil to include a few things we've incorporated after making it for several years.  Plus we tried two different ways of "roasting" it this year that worked really well.

We previously cooked the perniles covered with foil at 325 for 30 minutes per pound, then removed the foil and increased the temperature to 375 to crisp the skin.  Here's that method.  It's really, really good.

After some research, we decided to try cooking one pernil lower and slower and finish it off in a very hot oven to crisp the skin.  The results were really good, more tender than the higher heat method.  If you have the time, I highly recommend this technique.  It's pretty foolproof.

We also experimented cooking a pernil with my favorite kitchen gadget, the Sansaire sous vide immersion circulator.  If you have a sous vide machine, this is a really easy way to cook the pernil, then you transfer it to a very hot oven to crisp the skin.  It requires some planning as the cooking time is very long, but there's not much hands-on time.  Once the pork is in the water bath, you don't do anything more than checking the water level and adding water as necessary.


Recipe For Pernil (Roasted Pork Shoulder) Low and Slow Method

8-10 lb. bone-in skin-on pork picnic shoulder

For the marinade:
15 black peppercorns
18 cloves garlic, peeled
1 1/2 tablespoon dry oregano
4-5 tablespoons olive oil
4-5 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt for each pound of meat
Optional:  Some juice from naranjas agrias (sour oranges) is a nice addition if it's available.

Crush and mix the marinade ingredients in a pilon (mortar and pestle) or in a blender.  Allow the flavors to marry while you prepare the pork.

Lightly score the surface of the pork skin in a criss-cross pattern, as you would an Easter ham.  This will help  make it easier to break up the cuerito, the crispy pork skin, after it's roasted.  If you forget this step (like I did this year) you can chop the cuerito into chunks with a sharp knife after roasting.


Using a very sharp knife, carefully separate the skin from the top of the pork shoulder, starting at the large end, peeling it back toward the small bony end of the shoulder, stopping before you completely separate the skin from the bony end.


Use your sharp knife to jab deep holes into the meat all over, top, bottom, sides, everywhere, turning the knife to make the holes larger.

Reserve a bit of marinade for the surface of the skin.  Rub the remainder of the marinade all over the pork, using your fingers to work it deep into the knife holes.  Carefully re-position the skin back into place and use butcher's twine to tie it securely.  Rub reserved marinade into the skin.

Place in a ziptop bag.  Either double-bag or put a tray underneath in case of drips.  Refrigerate at least 24 hours.  We've increased the marinating time over the years and now marinate 3 full days before roasting.


Perniles resting in the fridge, marinating.

One hour before cooking, remove the pork from the refrigerator, remove it from the bags and place it on a rack in a roasting pan, skin side up.  While pork is coming to room temperature, preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Place pork shoulder in oven and bake for about 8 hours.  Yes, 8 hours.  You'll see that the meat has pulled away from the bone, exposing the end of the bone, and a fork inserted in the side should have little resistance when twisted.

Increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees.  Remove the foil and carefully cut and remove the butcher's twine.  Roast until the skin is brown and crispy.  When done, the skin will literally sound crunchy if you tap it.  It can take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, so keep a very close eye on it at this stage to avoid burning the skin.

Remove the pernil from the oven and let it rest for 15 to 30 minutes, tented with foil.  Separate the skin from the meat.  Carve and shred the meat.  Cut/break the crunchy skin into bite-sized pieces.  Serve the meat on a platter with the crunchy skin on the side.


Recipe For Pernil (Roasted Pork Shoulder) Sous Vide Method

8-10 lb. bone-in skin-on pork picnic shoulder

For the marinade:
15 black peppercorns
18 cloves garlic, peeled
1 1/2 tablespoon dry oregano
4-5 tablespoons olive oil
4-5 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt for each pound of meat
Optional:  Some juice from naranjas agrias (sour oranges) is a nice addition if it's available.

Crush and mix the marinade ingredients in a pilon (mortar and pestle) or in a blender.  Allow the flavors to marry while you prepare the pork.

Lightly score the surface of the pork skin in a criss-cross pattern, as you would an Easter ham.  This will help make it easier to break up the cuerito, the crispy pork skin, after it's roasted.  If you forget this step (like I did this year) you can chop the cuerito into chunks with a sharp knife after roasting.


Using a very sharp knife, carefully separate the skin from the top of the pork shoulder, starting at the large end, peeling it back toward the small bony end of the shoulder, stopping before you completely separate the skin from the bony end.


Use your sharp knife to jab deep holes into the meat all over, top, bottom, sides, everywhere, turning the knife to make the holes larger.

Reserve a bit of marinade for the surface of the skin.  Rub the remainder of the marinade all over the pork, using your fingers to work it deep into the knife holes.  Carefully re-position the skin back into place and use butcher's twine to tie it securely.  Tying securely with butcher's twine is essential for this preparation because the meat will be so tender after sous vide cooking that it won't hold its shape for roasting to crisp the skin otherwise.  Rub reserved marinade into the skin.

Vacuum seal the pernil in a sous vide bag.  We refrigerated the marinated pernil for 24 hours before sous vide cooking it; however, the marinating time may be unnecessary as the vacuum sealing and sous viding forces the marinade deep into the meat.

When ready to sous vide, set up your sous vide circulator and set the temperature to 150 degrees.  When the water comes to temperature, add the vac-packed pernil.  Loosely cover the top with aluminum foil to reduce evaporation.  Cook the pork sous vide for 36 hours, checking the water level a couple of times per day and adding more as necessary.

Remove the cooked pernil from the sous vide bath.  Remove it from the bag and put it on a roasting rack in a roasting pan.  Be careful.  There will be lots of hot liquid in that bag.  It helps to have a partner to do this.

Cook the pernil uncovered in a 250 degree oven for an hour or two to start drying out the skin.  Then increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees.  Carefully cut and remove the butcher's twine.  Roast until the skin is brown and crispy.  When done, the skin will literally sound crunchy if you tap it.  It can take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, so keep a very close eye on it at this stage to avoid burning the skin.

Remove the pernil from the oven and let it rest for 15 to 30 minutes, tented with foil.  Separate the skin from the meat.  Carve and shred the meat.  Cut/break the crunchy skin into bite-sized pieces.  Serve the meat on a platter with the crunchy skin on the side.

1 comment:

  1. Do you prefer the low and slow to the sous vide? I have heard that if you roast before the sous vide, the begin the maillard reaction and the flavor continues to develop as it cooks. but putting the pork in uncookd, I wonder if you loose some of that toasty flavor.

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