Let me tell you about the time my husband almost stabbed a guest in our home over the skin you see in the photo above. It was traumatic. It was scary. Totally justifiable, but still scary. That right there sitting atop that mound of deliciousness is chicharrón. Pork rind. Crackling. Heaven. It is one of the many rewards for making this Roast Pork Shoulder, or pernil, as it’s called by its devotees.
This is holiday food. Pernil is the food that, when you smell it roasting in your home, you know something’s about to go down. I make it for any special occasion…even if that occasion is “it’s Wednesday night”. My family don’t need no formality. We’re a simple tribe.
So, what is pernil. Well, it is the shoulder picnic cut of the pig. To make a traditional pernil, it must be bone-in and skin on. Don’t go getting all froufrou talking about, “I want boneless, skinless.” You’ll be “chicharron-less” and flavorless and I’ll stop speaking to you. The joy of life is crunching down on a crispy piece of the skin and eyeballing anyone who dares trifle with your portion. Ask Hector’s buddy. He had a flesh wound, y’all.
In this picture, you have the essence of Puerto Rico. Goya is a household name by now. The other day I watched a YouTube video of a guy from Alabama making fried chicken using Adobo and Sazón. I was all, “Alright, now!”
I’m very simple in the way I season my pernil, but it’s my method that’s less traditional. But, in order to get to the untraditional, let’s start with the basics.
To season my pernil I create an spice paste. The base of the paste is granulated garlic. I’m using tons of garlic, because that’s the most prominent flavor in a traditional pernil. When I tell you you can smell a pernil being roasted from outside, I’m not exaggerating. It’s intensely seductive.
Although it looks like I’m adding even more garlic, I’m not. I still like kissing on the Soldier, after all. Onion powder is the next ingredient in my spice paste. Loads of it as well.
Now, the sazón, admittedly, is a slightly controversial ingredient in that it is MSG. Sazón is a flavoring and coloring ingredient which is widely popular in our cuisine. Although, I, personally, don’t believe that MSG has adverse affects, even after reading all of the hullabaloo behind it; if you have an aversion or hesitation about using it, feel free to omit it.
I also add freshly ground black pepper and the Adobo.
Adobo is basically Puerto Rican season salt. We use this stuff for ER’thang. That’s it for the dry ingredients.
I give it a quick mix to make sure everyone at the party is mingling.
And then I add my Green Gold, or recao. I go in depth about recao here , but suffice it to say, this stuff will change your life. Recao is an herb flavoring base which is made from a blend of culantro, onions, garlic, and sweet peppers. Spoon it into the spice rub and mix well.
Now, to add a deeper dimension of flavor, I add white wine vinegar to the paste. The vinegar’s acid does double-duty as a flavoring agent and a tenderizer. It breaks down the connective tissue in the, otherwise, tough shoulder.
Follow up the vinegar with plain old vegetable oil. This oil not only binds the paste together, it coats the pernil in a fat that will help that skin crisp up when we roast it. Just use your hands to mix everything up, because they’re about to get nasty anyway.
Once you have a smooth, cohesive paste, set it aside while you prep the pork.
Here’s where I begin going rogue. I don’t know when, or how, I decided to start separating the top fat layer from the meat of the pork shoulder, but I did and things have never been the same. When I did it for the first time, the skin on the pork was unreal; it was so crispy. I’ve done it that way ever since. You’ll need a very sharp, flexible knife- like this one. Grab a firm hold on the top layer of the skin and, carefully, run your knife’s blade along the line where the fat and skin meet. If you have a properly sharpened knife, it should go through like butter.
Pull the skin a bit further away and repeat the slicing motion. Do your best not to puncture the skin. You want it left in tact as much as possible.
Continue this process until you’re about 1-2″away from the leg of the pig (the narrow part).
Now, take a handful of the mixture and rub it into the cavity you’ve just created under the skin.
And on top of the skin.
Turn the pork over and pierce it with the tip of your knife. I’ll explain why we do this in a minute.
Now, rub the pork down with more spice paste. You’re probably a very astute reader, so I know you see the bowl of spice paste to the right of the picture. You’re probably wondering, “Why she still got all that paste?!?!?!”
Well, my friend, it’s because my family is greedy.
Yes, that’s right. I have to make not one, but TWO, pork shoulders at a time. No worries. Since you have a civilized bunch in your life, this recipe is written for normal people who only need one pernil.
Unconventional step numbers two and three: I marinate my pork for three days and I force flavor into it. By “forcing flavor into it”, I mean I trap the spices so that the only place they can go is into the meat. Remember those slice we cut into the underside? This is why.
To do this, I lay out a sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil, and then lay out three sheets of plastic film. YES! That is a food service box! So, what of it? I buy in bulk, okay?
I place my pork in the center of the wrapping film and I wrap it tightly in the plastic first. So tightly, in fact, that my muscular forearm is quite impressive when I do it, is it not? Stop rolling your eyes.
Swaddled like a little pork cherub. I’m convinced heaven will have pernil.
Now I seal it tightly in the foil and let it marinate in the fridge for three days. The least amount of time I’ve marinated a pernil was a day, though. It still had an amazing flavor because of the forced flavoring.
Once I’m ready to roast, I unwrap it and put it on a roasting rack inside of a roasting pan. I begin the cooking process by cooking at a low temperature and then raising the temperature to get that beautifully crispy skin. Typically, an eleven pound shoulder will take 4 hours to roast. You want an internal temperature of 180-200°F to get that succulent meat. If you find that your roast doesn’t have a crispy skin after cooking, take it out of the oven and crank the heat up to 500. Put the roast back into the hotter oven for 10-15 minutes or until the skin is crisp. Remove it from the oven and allow it to cool for at least 15 minutes in order to allow the internal juices to settle down.
Peel the the crisp skin off and stay clear of psycho, knife-wielding Soldiers.
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Check out the recipe and pin it for later!
Pernil (Puerto Rican style Roast Pork Shoulder)
A succulent, crisp-skinned pork shoulder is the perfect way to celebrate your happiest occasions.
- 3 tbsp granulated garlic
- 3 tbsp onion powder
- 1/4 cup Adobo seasoning
- 2 pkg Sazón con Culantro y Achiote seasoning
- 1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup recao flavor base
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 10-12 lbs bone-in skin-on pork shoulder, rinsed, dried and fat cap separated (see post)
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the garlic, onion, adobo, sazón, and black pepper. Mix well.
- Add the recao, white wine vinegar, and vegetable oil to form a thick paste.
- Pulling up the previously separated fat cap, rub the inner cavity with the spice paste. Rub the exterior of the pork shoulder, liberally, with the paste. Turn the shoulder and pierce the flesh with the tip of a very sharp knife. Rub the remaining paste onto this side as well.
- Wrap the pork shoulder tightly; first in plastic film, followed by heavy duty aluminum foil. Place the wrapped should in a pan, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, or up to 72 hours.
- When you are ready to roast your pernil, remove it from the fridge and its wrapping, and place it in a roasting pan with a raised rack set inside of it. Allow it to warm up a bit on the countertop. Put your oven's rack on to the second to lowest rack in the oven. Heat your oven to 300°F.
- Roast the pork shoulder for 1 hour at 300°F.
- Raise the temperature to 350°F and roast for an additional 3 hours, or until an internal thermometer reads 180°F.
- Remove the roast from the oven and allow it to rest for 15 minutes before cutting. Enjoy!
72 hours is marinating time which can be reduced to as little as 8 hours.
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