Puerto Rican Roast Pork Shoulder

Updated June 15, 2016
This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

If you were to ask me, “What does Christmas smell like?” I wouldn’t say “pine” or “fresh snow,” I would say, “Pernil.” By the time my kids finish their cereal on Christmas Eve morning, the house is filled with the wonderful aroma of roast pork. You want the shoulder, not the butt, for this, and you definitely want the skin on. If you have the opportunity to marinate the roast for three days, two days, or even overnight, you’ll be rewarded with a roast that has juicy, fragrant, tender meat and crispy, salty, mahogany-colored skin. It’s so good, I’m almost afraid I have to bring it up in confession!

 A good rule of thumb for roasting pork is to cook the roast half an hour for every pound.

Makes8 large servings plus leftovers

Cooking MethodRoasting



Total Timea day or more

OccasionBuffet, Casual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe CourseMain Course

Dietary ConsiderationEgg-free, Lactose-free, Low Carb


Taste and TextureGarlicky, Herby, Meaty, Savory



Up to 3 days before you serve the roast, set it in a bowl, skin side up. With a paring or boning knife, make several slits about ½ inches apart through the skin of the roast and into the meat. Make the slits as deep as you can. Wiggle a finger in the slits to open them up a bit and then fill each one with wet rub using a teaspoon. (A pair of latex gloves comes in handy when it comes time to rub the wet rub into the pork.) Do the same on all sides. If you have rub left over, smear it all over the outside of the roast. Refrigerate, covered, at least 1 day or up to 3 days.

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Set the roast, skin side up, on a rack in a roasting pan. Roast for 1 hour, turn the heat down to 400°F, and roast until the skin is a deep golden brown and crackly and with no trace of pink near the bone, about ½ hours or until an instant reading thermometer inserted near the bone registers 160°F. Let the roast rest at least 15 minutes before carving.

To serve, remove the crispy skin. It will pull right off in big pieces. Cut them into smaller pieces—kitchen shears work well for this—and pile them in the center of the platter. Carve the meat parallel to the bones all the way down to the bone. (It will get trickier to carve neat slices as you get near the bone; don’t let that bother you.)



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