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Dec 20, 2004 09:13 AM

Cooking pernil (fresh ham) - Some questions

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I'll making a pernil (fresh ham) for Christmas dinner. I've made it before but am always looking for suggestions for better cooking. First off, should I let the meat come to room temperature before placing it in the oven? I've never done so and don't think the meat suffered as a result.

Second, what cooking temps, time, and methods has anyone used? I usually do 20 min/pound at 325-350. Again, works for me, but I want to hear what others do.

Thanks -


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  1. Hey ANCyM, check below at the pulled pork recipes, most are pretty pernil-like and some are for flat-out pernil.

    I don't know that I agree that pernil is fresh ham though, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't brining & curing that which makes pork into ham? Neither is done to pernil in my experience. Though again, I don't have a whole lot of experience with this.

    6 Replies
    1. re: joypirate

      Thanks for the tip. Re the name fresh ham, your guess is as good as mine. As far as I know, it's called fresh ham to distinguish it from traditional smoked ham, etc. I could be wrong and it would be worth investigating.


      1. re: ANCyM
        King of Northern Blvd

        I don't "think" a fresh ham is cured at all. It seems like it is a specific part of the pig as in the whole leg portion they make hams from as opposed to the shoulder which is used for pulled pork etc...I could be wrong though. There are earlier threads on Fresh Hams that sounded great. maple flavored, crispy skin

        1. re: King of Northern Blvd

          No, you're right. The way a fresh ham (pernil) was explained to me when I asked is that it's a ham that hasn't been treated: cured, brined, smoked, etc - nothing. It's just the fresh leg. When one buys it, it looks like a raw piece of meat; fresh meat, of course.

          Again, I might be wrong on what they're actually supposed to be called but since I always get mine at the local bodega in Arlington, VA, the butchers know what a pernil is.


          1. re: ANCyM

            Fresh Ham is just that...fresh's uncured, raw pork from either the leg or the shoulder. It gets its term from the part of the pig you obtain it from. Certain parts of the pig are referred to as "ham portions" while others are referred to as pork ie butts, ribs, loins, etc. You want a roast with a good layer of exterior fat on it.

            In Rome, they make fresh ham at their deli type stores. I cannot pronounce the name but it sounds sort of like Alamentaria. Chow Houndess Jenn Kalb, a real expert on Italy, knows all about this stuff.

            Anyway, we had it for lunch on one of their terrific softball sized crispy rolls found in Rome. Did you know that there is a difference in the breads between Florence and Rome albeit some of the brick oven stuff looks exactly the same. The big difference is the amount of salt used in the dough. In Florence they do not use salt.

            Anyway, getting back to the fresh ham in Rome. It was loaded with rosemary. I'd suggest lightly coating the entire roast with olive oil and then rubbing in coarse Kosher salt, black pepper, rosemary sprigs and lots of fresh minced garlic. Also, make sure you have lots of raw vegetables at the bottom of the pan to form a foundation for a stock/gravy.

            You could also place raw potatoes at the bottom to yield wonderful over roasted potatoes. Fresh ham is fantastic! You do not want to overpower the wonderful subtle taste of this meat though. Nor do you want to overcook it!!!!!

      2. re: joypirate

        While pulled pork is pernil-like because it is from the shoulder, pernil from the shoulder would not be like pernil from the leg. The leg has more massive musculature without all that intermuscular fat: most of the fat is on the exterior. It's more like a huge pork roast that comes well-larded.

        Cooks Illustrated recommends scoring the skin, brining (surprise surprise), then drying on a rack and let rest at room temp for 1 hour before cooking (for a half-leg, 6-8 lbs; a full leg would be longer). Preheat oven to 500F and roast for 20 minutes; then reduce temp to 350F, and baste an oil-based herb-spice rub every 45 minutes until the center of the meat is 145-150F (may take over 2.5 hours). Remove and tent with foil, and let it rest until center of meat is 155-160F -- this may take 30-40 minutes -- before carving.

        1. re: joypirate

          Fresh ham is just a leg pork. No curing. No smoking. No Brining. No anything.

          I cook it Cuban style. First, it's best to get a leg and not the shoulder, which is much more difficult to get tender. Second, I marinade it in Mojo overnight. Either make it yourself with garlic, olive oil, orange and lime juice, and cumin, or buy it made. I like the Lisy brand or Goya because they have no MSG, which I'm sensitive to because of sinus issues. (And no it's just in my head, oh wait, yes it is.) Finally cook the leg low at 275 degrees farenheit till it reaches 185-190 degrees internally. It is not overcooked. At that temp the meat is extremely tender and delicious, like a good BBQ. Don't do this to a loin, you'll have shoe leather.