Let me start by saying that I would probably not cook Pernil for any of my Latino friends, the same way they would probably not make Sunday sauce for me. That said, it came out delicious and was a rightful payment to my friend Dana who helped with a house project. I think the smell of it cooking in the oven kept her motivated and helped us get through it quickly!
Pernil is a a large, usually inexpensive, piece of pork labeled at the supermarket as “picnic shoulder”. It’s got a large layer of skin that crisps up as it cooks and keeps the meat tender and juicy.
To start I make a marinade of orange juice (3 cups), apple cider vinegar (1/4 cup) and olive oil (1/4 cup) and a ton of minced garlic, oregano, salt, pepper and fresh minced parsley. You want to make enough marinade so that at least half of the pork is covered (you’ll need to flip the pork over after a few hours so all sides get some loving). I usually marinate this over night turning a few times during the process. I’ve tried marinating it for just a few hours and it just wasn’t as good, it really needs to go overnight.
Now for the magic, using a sharp paring knife I stab several deep holes (while channeling a dark, serial killer persona) in the meat-not on the skin side-where I will place cloves of garlic deep inside to infuse the pork with flavor. Next, using a super sharp knife, I carefully cut long lines about 1 inch apart from each other across and through most of the fat layer (to the point where the skin meets the meat) and do the same on the bias to create a hatch pattern. (See pic below.)
I put this bad boy on a v-rack in my oven skin side down for two hours at 150 degrees. After two hours I flip it so the skin side is now facing up and cook for another two hours at 150 degrees. This piece of meat was about 5 pounds so you may need to adjust your cooking time depending on the size of pork you have. If you have a meat thermometer your inside temperature (which you take after the pork has rested outside of the oven for about 3-5 minutes) should be 145 degrees. (A useful meat temperature guide can be found here.) After resting I turn it over to hubby, who harnesses his inner caveman and carves this beauty up.
Nice side dishes are rice, salad, yucca, you name it!