Pork Pernil

The menu for my big Mexican dinner party (which happened last night) has been planned for a few weeks. Then, two days before the party, I was watching Cook’s Country and heard Chris Kimball declare his latest recipe to be “the best pork recipe he’s ever eaten.” Sure, I hear that every few episodes, but the final pork looked amazing. So I switched my theme from Mexican to Latin. I added ceviche, but left the Mexican Chicken Flautas on the menu. I also made a homemade tomatillo sauce. The pork was absolutely delicious; flavorful, tender. Yet without a doubt, the crispy pig skin was the best part of the entire meal. The recipe softens the skin by soaking it in water while baking at pretty high temperature for 4 hours. It’s as if the entire recipe is crafted towards perfecting the skin; the piece de resistance on an entirely delicious meal. The only flaw in the recipe is that the wonderful flavors of the sofrito do not permeate into the meat; even after 24-hours marinating. Instead of the complexity of the sofrito, the final presentation of the dish relies on a much simpler lime/cilantro jus. 4-1/2 stars. Definitely worth the 6-1/2 hours.

Tender pork topped with crispy pig skin

Tender pork topped with crispy pig skin

To overcome the recipes main flaw, a Latin friend says her sister pokes holes all over the roast with a big knife. Allowing the Sofrito, or Recao as she called it, to flavor the entire roast rather than just the exterior.

Other Comments:

  1. About 4 hours into the recipe I had a near disaster, so I offer this warning. Do not treat the 4 hours of cooking in steps 3 and 4 as virtually unattended cooking time. After you remove the foil, starting with step 4, plan to add 1 to 2 cups per hour. In my case I caught it just in time to save the drippings. Another 15 minutes and I could not have made the Jus.
  2. The 1 hour of cooking in Step 6 only brought my port up to 180-degrees. It took an extra 35-to-40 minutes to attain 195-degrees.
  3. While not described in the original recipe, the step of crisping the skin (step 8) had an added secret, which was very subtly shown on the Cook’s Country episode. You can use balled up aluminum foil to hold your roast in perfect position so that the skin crisps evenly.
  4. I had to buy two bunches of cilantro to yield the requisite 1-1/2 cups. One bunch will give you enough for the night before dinner, but I had to make another trip to the supermarket the next day.
  5. Chris Kimball recommends serving this with plain, white rice.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $15.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time: 11:30 AM. Ready at: 6:00 PM. (Begin marinating the day prior)

The Cook’s Country original recipe is here.  The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:

1-1/2 cups chopped fresh cilantro leaves and stems (used in Step 1 and Step 10)
1 onion, chopped coarse
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil
10 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin
7-pound bone-in pork picnic shoulder
3 to 4 limes (1 tablespoon grated lime zest plus 1/3 cup juice)

  1. The day before you cook the meal, add 1 cup cilantro, onion, salt, oil, garlic, pepper, oregano, and cumin to food processor. Pulse 15 times until finely ground. You may need to scrape down sides of the bowl.
  2. Pat pork dry with paper towels and rub sofrito all over. Wrap pork in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours.
  3. Start cooking 6 hours before dinner. Set a rack to lower-middle of your oven and pre-heat to 450-degrees. Pour 8 cups water into a large roasting pan. Unwrap pork, place in pan with the skin-side down in the water. Cover pan tightly with aluminum foil and roast at 450-degrees for 90 minutes.
  4. Remove foil, and turn down oven to 375-degrees. Continue roasting uncovered for 2-1/2 more hours.
  5. Prepare a V-rack by spraying it with non-stick vegetable oil spray.
  6. Remove entire pan from oven. Gently slide metal spatula under pork to release skin from pan. Using two clean, folded dish towels (or wads of paper towels) to grasp both ends of pork and put on V-rack with the skin-side up. Use paper towels to wipe the skin dry. Place V-rack with pork in roasting pan. If the pan looks dry, add 1-cup water (I recommend adding it no matter what). Return to oven and bake for another 1 hour (mine took 1-1/2 hours) until the pork registers 195-degrees. (If needed, to add water several times to prevent the pan from drying out.)
  7. Prepare a rimmed baking sheet by lining it with foil (for easy cleanup).
  8. Remove pan from oven, and set V-rack with pork in prepared baking sheet. I saw on the Cook’s Country episode that they make the roast level by creating a ball of foil to support the flatter end. Return to oven, and turn up the oven temperature to 500-degrees. Cook for 15 to 30 minutes; rotating sheet halfway through cooking. It will be done when the skin becomes well browned and crispy., and you can tap it lightly using tongs and it should sound hollow.
  9. Allow pork to rest for 30 minutes on a carving board.
  10. Meanwhile, pour juices from pan into fat separator. Allow to settle for 5 minutes, then pour off 1 cup of the de-fatted juices into large bowl. If you don’t have 1 cup, then make up the shortfall using water. Whisk 1/2-cup cilantro, lime zest, and lime juice into bowl with the de-fatted juices.
  11. Remove crispy skin from pork in large pieces. Chop skin coarsely into bite-size pieces and put in serving bowl.
  12. Trim and discard any excess fat from pork. Remove the pork from the bone and chop it coarsely. Transfer pork to bowl with cilantro-lime sauce and toss to combine. Serve pork, with crispy skin on the side.

18 Responses to Pork Pernil

  1. Sonya says:

    Just wanted to second that this is a very good recipe! I think I had problems with the skin, myself, but it was awhile ago so I don’t remember why. However, it was still definitely a repeat recipe for us! We also really enjoyed the Philadelphia Roast Pork Sandwiches with the leftovers.

    • Hi Sonya, the recipe takes great care to soften the skin during the first 4 hours in the oven (prior to crisping it up). Definitely worth the effort.

      Actually, it may be the first time I ate pig skin. lol

      • Sonya says:

        I will try again and be more careful! P.s. Unsubscribing my old email and have already resubscribed with the new one… Love your blog!!

  2. Jen says:

    Hi, do you think this recipe for pork would yield pork that would work well in home made tamales?

    • Are you making Christmas Tamales? Yes, I think it will

      But I have another recipe specifically for tamales, but I think you could easily use this one.


      • Jen says:

        I knew you had a post for tamales!! Okay, I think I am going to use this pork recipe for the filling, but follow everything else from your Christmas tamale recipe. I probably won’t make them till the end of January and I will let you know how they turn out. Thank you, Jen

        P.S. Feel free to mail me some of your Valentine truffles this year….LOL

        • Unfortunately, it’s not looking like Valentines day truffles will be a necessity this year 😦 But I’ll let you know if that changes. lol

        • Hi Jen,

          BTW – I took your idea and tried to adapt this to making my Tamales. I am not sure about the timing, because I am recommending that you keep the pork covered during the fist 4 hours of cooking. It will help to keep the broth contained that you will need to make the masa.

          Are you make them for a particular holiday? My son’s Mexican god parents say that there is something about tamales on February 2nd.

          Let me know if you end up making them.


          • Jen says:

            Okay, I sat down and really compared the two recipes and it is much clearer to me what you mean. I see that you use the cooking liquid to make the masa and there is very little liquid with the pork pernil. So, I think I will just follow the entire recipe for Christmas Tamales. I plan on making them soon, but cannot commit to a date, although I have noted Feb 2nd, which is Groundhog day, maybe the groundhogs have a thing for tamales, something I am unaware of…..

            Also, last weekend I made the potstickers, a double batch of course, Palmers never make a single batch of anything, and they were great. Come to find out that my sister had made these in the past. I tried to include a picture in this post, but cannot make it work. There is no doubt mine were prettier!!!

            I will let you know when I make the tamales, hopefully I will have a computer by then and be able to include a picture. Thank you

          • Hi Jen,

            This year I bought two shoulder roasts, and was experimenting with them. So the recipe as I posted it is the recipe that I will make next time. Halfway between my two roasts. So pay extra attention because the cooking times are not exact (so take the temperature).

            If the website doesn’t let you upload a picture, let me know so I can send you my email address to send it that way.


  3. Anonymous says:

    You should update the meat cooking temperature. 180-195 leaves the meat way too dry, especially the extra cook time to crisp the skin.

    I wish I had looked at the standard 160deg for well done, would have taken it out sooner. Mine was at 187deg and I took it out, already too late.

    • Anonymous says:

      You didn’t cook yours long enough. A cut like the pork shoulder needs to cook slowly until the connective tissues “melts”. I cook pork shoulders until they reach 195-205deg. The higher temperature results in a more tender and fall apart texture. 160deg is more appropriate for lean cuts like the pork loin.

    • The first response is correct. If your meat seemed dry when you ate it, maybe the environment was not moist enough? Dry heat will also dry out the meat and leave it tough. You need moist, high heat to melt the connective tissue. The “melted” connective tissue keeps it “moist” tasting when it shreds. Lean cuts that have no connective tissue to melt will be very dry at this temperature. Did you use the correct cut of pork?

  4. Anonymous says:

    I just started watching ATK and I find your blog so helpful in giving this a home cooked view. Thank you so much!

  5. tinababe says:


    Was planning on making this tomorrow, but store didn’t have the skin on pork. Should I omit the water portion and go right to cooking it on a rack? Bummed about the skin!! 😦

  6. ed donnelly says:

    i live in a Latino community and this recipe stops the show. It’s been on the super bowl menu the last couple of years. My problem with this recipe is the juice at the end of the cooking time is way too salty to include in the meal. I used some sugar at the end to cut it, but it cannot be hidden. so here is my plan, what do you think?
    after it is taken from the marinade, i can wash it and than let it sit in a a new marinade batch that has much less salt and let it sit for awhile.
    im not happy washing the pork, but hopefully the salt has done its job and the flavor from the lime and cilantro can be reintroduced

    • Interesting idea 🙂 I’m curious why yours has come out so salty? Maybe it get too condensed and adding some water to the jus at the end before using it would help that?

    • Hi ed, also wondering if you used kosher salt? Regular table salt is so much finer than kosher and much more table salt will fit into a quarter cup than kosher salt. IF you used regular table salt, that could be why it was overly salty. Curious if your method turned out.


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