A traditional Latin American dish, Pernil is marinated overnight and roasted until fall-apart tender. Juicy and delicious, it is an easy yet impressive centerpiece for your Christmas table!
A Christmas classic pork recipe!
You know it’s Christmas Eve when you smell pernil roasting in the oven.
Down in Brazil, my family’s holiday feast usually includes a big turkey, glazed ham, a fish dish and a beautiful piece of roasted pork shoulder! Plus sides, appetizers and desserts.
Yes, it is a lot of food, but it wouldn’t be Christmas without it! It is a celebration of abundance: a table overflowing with food and love, oh so much love!
And that’s what this pernil recipe invokes for me. Even though I am not home for Christmas, I can make this and be transported right back, surrounded by my loved ones and all that amazing food.
What is Pernil?
Pernil – pronounced perr-neel – is a slow roasted piece of pork, usually shoulder or leg, very popular in several Latin American countries.
Unlike the Puerto Rican version, which uses pork shoulder, Brazilian pernil is usually made with fresh ham, the fresh center or shank portions of the pig’s hind legs. It can also be made of lamb.
However, since fresh ham is not easily available in the U.S., I am taking the liberty of using the more available (and cheaper) pork shoulder – or pork picnic – and calling it Brazilian Pernil.
The main difference? Cooking temperature and time. Fresh ham is a much leaner cut and therefore should be roasted at a pretty high temperature until it’s just cooked through. Pork shoulder has to roast for several hours, at low or medium heat, until it is falling apart.
So if you happen to find fresh ham, you can still use this recipe, but be aware that your roast will be done much sooner than what my recipe states.
Ingredients for Roast Pork Shoulder
This is what you’ll need to make Pernil:
- Pork shoulder – bone-in, skin on.
- Herbs – I use fresh rosemary and thyme.
- White wine
How much roast pork per person?
If the pernil is the only meat being served, you should calculate around 6 ounces of cooked meat per person.
However, it is important to remember that the average yield of a pork shoulder is 62%. So if you’re feeding 8-10 people, I would buy a 6-pound piece.
How to make Pernil Asado
There is no secret to this recipe. All you gotta do is marinade the pernil and then roast for a long time, until very tender.
How tender, you ask? Well, slicing pernil without it falling apart should be difficult. At the slight touch of your knife, it should succumb into juicy chunks of flavorful awesomeness!
And, in contrast, the skin should be deliciously crispy. For that, I like to rub the pernil with butter and pop it under the broiler after it’s done cooking.
To make this pernil recipe:
- Combine the lime juice, wine, onion, garlic, salt and pepper in the jar of your blender or food processor. Blend until smooth.
- Place the pork shoulder on a cutting board and, using a sharp knife, score the meat’s skin making a cross-hatch pattern. I find that it’s easier to do this with a paring knife.
- Transfer the pork to a bowl (or large freezer bag) and pour the marinade over it. Add the herbs and massage the pork, getting it into every nook and cranny. Cover and refrigerate for 12 hours, turning the pernil every 4 hours or so.
- Roast the pork for several hours (it will depend on the size of the piece, but usually no less than 3 hours), adding more wine (or water) as necessary, until the meat is very tender and a thermometer reads 195-205 degrees F. Then, rub the pernil with the butter and place it under the broiler until crispy.
Do I have to wash pork before cooking?
You will find that several recipes that you find online will ask you to wash the pork shoulder before cooking.
It is understandable that people would think that, as washing is usually associated to cleanliness.
However, washing raw pork (or poultry, beef, lamb or veal) before cooking is not recommended. The bacteria are so tightly attached to the raw meat that you couldn’t remove them even if you washed it for hours.
And the bacteria that you do manage to wash off, can be splashed on your counter, utensils, other foods, cross-contaminating them and putting your family’s health at risk.
Thankfully, washing is not necessary, as cooking meat to the right temperature will kill the bacteria.
What temperature should pernil be cooked to?
The National Pork Board recommends cooking pork chops, roasts, loins and tenderloin to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees F, followed by a three-minute rest.
However, since we are after that melt-in-your-mouth tenderness, you will want your meat to cook to about 195-205°F.
Using a food thermometer is the only way of accurately knowing if your food has reached that safe temperature.
Can I make pernil ahead of time?
Pernil tastes the best right out of the oven.
However, you could roast it until done and then let it rest for 2 hours before popping it back in the oven to crisp the skin. In that case, instead of under the broiler, I would roast at 500 degrees F, rotating every 5 minutes, until the skin is crispy, about 20 minutes total.
How to serve Pernil
In Puerto Rican cuisine, pernil is often served with rice and beans or arroz con gandules.
In Brazil, it is accompanied by white rice and toasted manioc flour (farofa). I also like to serve it with roasted potatoes, drizzled with the pork juices!
What to make with Roast Pork Shoulder leftovers
Got leftovers? There are lot of things you can do with them!
Here are a few suggestions:
Can I freeze leftover pork?
You certainly can.
Make sure to wrap it tightly to avoid freezer burns. It will keep well for up to 3 months!
When ready to eat, thaw overnight in the fridge and reheat gently, preferably in the oven (tented with foil) at 300 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, to preserve moistness and flavor.
- 2 large onions, peeled and cut into chunks
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled
- Juice of 4 limes
- 1 1/2 cups white wine, plus more if needed
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 whole bone-in, skin-on pork shoulder, 4 to 8 pounds
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
- 1/4 cup butter, softened
- Combine the onions, garlic, lime juice, 1 cup white wine, salt and pepper in the jar of a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. If the mixture is too thick, add more wine. Reserve.
- Place the pork shoulder on a cutting board and score the skin with a sharp paring knife, making a cross-hatch pattern.
- Transfer the pork to a big bowl (or brining bag) and pour the marinade over it. Sprinkle with the herbs and rub the mixture into the pork, getting into every nook and cranny. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours, turning a few times so every inch gets to soak the marinade.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Place the pork on a roasting pan and pour the marinade along with the remaining white wine.
- Roast for several hours, 35 - 40 minutes for every pound, turning every hour or so and adding more wine to the pan as needed, until the meat is very tender and a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part reads 195-205 degrees F. Remove from oven.
- Turn the pernil skin side up, brush the skin with the butter and place it under the broiler until crisp.
- Let it rest, tented with foil, for at least 3 minutes (and up to 30 minutes) before serving with the pan juices.
Serving per person:
You should calculate around 6 ounces per person. Since pernil has an average yield of 62%, here's an estimate of servings per weight:
4 lbs - 6 servings
5 lbs - 8 servings
6 lbs - 10 servings
7 lbs - 12 servings
8 lbs - 14 servings
9 lbs - 16 servings
10 lbs - 18 servings
Cooking time will vary according to the pork shoulder's weight. A good rule of thumb is 35 to 40 minutes per pound.
4 lbs - 2.5 hours
5 lbs - 3 hours
6 lbs - 3.5 hours
7 lbs - 4 hours
8 lbs - 4.5 hours
9 lbs - 5 hours
10 lbs - 5.5 hours
Pernil should be roasted the day you plan on serving it. However, you can do the first roasting phase, until it is cooked through and tender, and let it rest for up to 2 hours.
Then, preheat the oven to 500 degrees F and roast again, rotating every 5 minutes, until the skin is crispy, about 20 minutes total.
Freezing and reheating:
You can freeze leftovers for up to 3 months, tightly wrapped to avoid freezer burns.
Thaw overnight in the fridge and reheat in the oven at 300 degrees F, tented with foil, for 20 minutes.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 14 Serving Size: 6 ounces
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 103Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 17mgSodium: 66mgCarbohydrates: 7gFiber: 1gSugar: 3gProtein: 3g