Pernil in a roasting dish
What Cut Of Meat Is Pernil?
By Jess Jeziorowski
Pernil is a Puerto Rican dish typically served around the holidays. It's a large roast that takes a while to make, but the effort is worth it for the succulent meat and crispy skin.
Pernil is made with an on-the-bone, fat-capped pork shoulder or picnic roast marinated for three days in a citrusy, garlicky liquid and roasted or grilled slowly over high heat.
While pork belly has a large amount of fat, ideal for slow roasting, a pork shoulder is best for steeping in a marinade and creating the star of the dish: the crackling.
The shoulder is also cheaper than other cuts and full of connective tissue and fat that breaks down while cooking, so look for veins and marbling when picking out a pork shoulder.
The bonus is the fat cap on the pork shoulder, which renders down beautifully and gets crispy from the time spent in the heat or at the end of cooking under the broiler.
Pernil is deeply caramelized and dripping with juices from the slow cook. Toward the end of roasting, the heat is turned up so the skin becomes crispy, and the meat is tender.