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Aug 17, 2007 09:26 AM

The perfect pernil

I'm making pernil this weekend for only the third time ever. Normally when making pork shoulder, I use a dry rub, cook low and finish high for a crispy skin. With pernil, I marinate in a spicy mojo (oregano, garlic, cilantro, onions, cumin, cayenne, salt, pepper, sour orange, oil) to great effect. Unfortunately whenever I cook the pernil, low heat, high heat, it doesn't matter, the skin comes out crispy black in some parts but mostly rubbery everywhere else.

Anyone have some experience making crispy skin on pernil with a wet rub? Tell me the secret!

Also I'd appreciate some feedback on sides to go with the pernil, especially vegetables. Right now I'm thinking Mexican rice and mofongo, but that might be too unbalanced.

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  1. Pernil is delicious, but I'm one of those people who doesn't care for that jaw-breakingly hard skin that results in cooking it. The meat itself tastes incredibly tender and that's all I care about. So, unfortunately, I don't know the secret to getting that tough skin you crave.

    As a side to your pernil, serve up some boiled yuca. Bring approximately 4 quarts of water to
    a boil. Then take a 24 ounce pack of Goya frozen yuca (yes, frozen), and cook that for 35-40 minutes. After that, cover it, and turn off the gas. Have a *thickly* SLICED red onion ready and drop that into the same pot with the yuca - cover it again. Ten minutes or so pass, voila, the onion will be cooked (make sure it's completely submerged in the hot water). Serve the yuca drizzled with your favorite EVOO, some salt, and a slice or two of the cooked whole red onion rings. If you really want to load up on carbs, serve rice along side as well.
    The yuca qualifies as your vegetable (and starch).

    Image --->

    7 Replies
    1. re: Cheese Boy

      I don't want "hard" skin either. Just the good, crispy crackling that I get whenever I cook shoulder any other way.

      1. re: JungMann

        Isn't there a garlic sauce that should be prepared for the meat when done? If so, can someone give a recipe?

        1. re: squirrelly_wrath

          The garlic dipping sauce in Daisy Cooks, mojito, uses
          10 cloves of galic pounded with 1 tsp salt
          a finely chopped onion, 3/4 c olive oil, 1/4 vinegar, plus lime, lemon, and orange juice.
          I've had something similar at a Cuban restaurant.


          1. re: squirrelly_wrath

            Alternatively, Cook's Illustrated suggests a garlic rub after a "brinade", and a mojo suace for topping, which is also excellent as a topping for the yucca (as in yucca con mojo):


            Pork and Brine
            1 bone-in, skin-on pork picnic shoulder (7 to 8 pounds)
            3 cups sugar
            2 cups table salt
            2 medium heads garlic , unpeeled cloves separated and crushed
            4 cups orange juice

            Garlic-Citrus Paste
            12 medium cloves garlic , peeled and coarsely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
            2 tablespoons ground cumin
            2 tablespoons dried oregano
            1 tablespoon table salt
            1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
            6 tablespoons orange juice
            2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
            2 tablespoons olive oil

            1. TO BRINE THE PORK: With sharp paring knife, cut 1-inch-deep slits (about 1 inch long) all over roast, spaced about 2 inches apart. Dissolve sugar and salt in 6 quarts cold water in stockpot or large bucket. Stir in garlic and orange juice. Submerge pork in brine and refrigerate 18 to 24 hours.
            2. TO APPLY THE GARLIC-CITRUS PASTE: Process garlic, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper in food processor until they reach consistency of coarse paste, about ten 1-second pulses. With machine running, add orange juice, vinegar, and oil through feed tube and process until mixture forms smooth, wet paste, about 20 seconds. Remove pork from brine and rinse under cool running water; pat dry with paper towels. Rub paste all over pork and into slits.

            The sauce can be made while the cooked pork (see related recipes) is resting or up to a day ahead of time and refrigerated in an airtight container. If chilled, let the sauce come to room temperature before serving.
            4 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 4 teaspoons)
            2 teaspoons kosher salt
            1/2 cup olive oil
            1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
            1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
            1/4 cup fresh orange juice from 1 to 2 oranges
            1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
            1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
            1. Place minced garlic on cutting board and sprinkle with kosher salt. Using flat side of chef's knife, drag garlic and salt back and forth across cutting board in small circular motions until garlic is ground into smooth paste.
            2. Heat olive oil in medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add garlic paste and cumin and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
            3. Remove pan from heat and whisk in remaining ingredients. Transfer to bowl and cool to room temperature. Whisk sauce to recombine before serving.

            1. re: ChefBoyAreMe

              my variation on the typical orange marinade is to use equal parts orange juice and orange soda; gets a nice sugary flavor and crust, marinate overnight along with the usual herbs, salts and spices, and then low and slow; I like to take the brine, strain and reduce for maybe 20-30 minutes, so they'll be a nice glaze (which can be cut with alcohol and fresh herbs or something since it's pretty sweet) which can be served w/ the pernil.

              1. re: ChefBoyAreMe

                I have a recipe that I've relied on for a few years but this one sounds fantastic! Definitely going to give this one a try. Thanks for posting this.

              2. re: squirrelly_wrath

                8 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
                ¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh oregano
                1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
                1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
                ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
                Salt and freshly ground black pepper

                Mix together garlic, oregano, vinegar, lime juice, and olive oil in a small bowl, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve as a condiment alongside pork.

          2. My usual is a paste of garlic, cilantro, pepper, an oil. Make piercings an inch or so deep all over and stuff full with paste. Salt and rub paste on the outside of the skin and let it marinate 4 hours to overnite blah blah the usual. Preheat the oven 450 degrees. Slide the roast into the oven and lower the temp to 325 degrees. Don't use a wet rub as this can "steam" the skin and prevent crispiness. Cook to 165 degrees or so and check the skin by rapping on it with a knife. This method results in nice cracklings over at least 75% of the skin. My ex gf's mom (native cuban) somehow managed to get it all crunchy, even the delectable part on the underside. I thought she was kidding the first time she offered me this piece with all the fat rendering underneath the skin. I din't want to be rude so I ate it...glad I did..wonderful stuff. Good luck. Oh and if you boil the yucca as Cheese Boy suggests (frozen really is as good and much easier) try lightly frying them after boiling by squeezing them into shapes about the size of two thumbs and drop into an inch of oil turning until browned. Mojo is not traditionally served with yucca frita, but I like to have them with that anyway. An avocado and tomato salad also as something lighter.

            1 Reply
            1. re: elgordoboy

              All the recipes sound great, variations on a theme - thanks so much!

            2. To get crispy skin "chicharrón" you need to remove the skin or hide. Marinated the ham as usual and later lightly coat the skin with the marinated. Upon preparation put the ham in a drape th skin over (fat facing down).

              1 Reply
              1. re: Elier

                I agree, but I take the skin off at the end. Roast at 250 for an hour per pound, skin side up, then cut off skin (it comes off easily at this point) and put both back in oven on broil for 15 minutes or until skin crisps. Just made a perfect one yesterday:)

              2. I cut a deep and wide pocket between the skin and the meat, being careful not to cut through the skin. I then rub a mixture of mashed garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper and oregano under the skin and on the underside (non-skin side) of the shoulder. Do not put any of the mixture on top of the skin, otherwise it will not crisp. Place in a large plastic bag and let it sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Then roast at 325 degrees for 5-6 hours. The meat is very tender and the skin nice and crisp without any burning. I serve it with boiled yucca with onion slices that have been sauteed in vegetable oil until soft.

                1 Reply
                1. re: RichardinJP

                  I agree with yamalam... when the pernil is done, remove the skin, place in a cast-iron skillet and return to the 250-degree oven and allow to render, brown and crisp (raise the heat if you want it faster) -- In any case, watch the skin because it goes from rubbery, to perfectly rendered and crisp to burned very quickly, especially at higher oven temperatures. Because some parts of the skin are thicker and have more fat than others, you may have to cut and remove done pieces of skin from the oven and leave the rubbery part in a bit longer. For more even cooking, you could scrape away the fat underneath the skin using the back of your knife before returning to the oven. That makes it cook more evenly and a bit faster. If you use this method, you can marinate the skin and all. It's a labor of love but it is so worth it if you really love that crispy flavorful skin.

                2. Great thread. Will be preparing a non-authentic take on pernil with some garlic, cilantro, cumin, oregano, Meyer lemons & tangelos tonight! Thanks for the inspiration, everyone!