How to Make Holiday Pernil: Crispy-Skinned Roasted Pork Shoulder by Cleo Coyle

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Easy to make yet impressive to serve, this slow-roasted, crispy-skinned pork shoulder is a beloved treat in many Latin American homes, especially during the Christmas season. 

Like a stunning holiday turkey, a roasted pork shoulder will wow your dinner guests. They’ll think you worked a lot harder than you did because there’s no basting, just pop it in the oven and turn it a few times.

Cleo Coyle has a partner in
crime-writing—her husband.
Learn about their books
by clicking here and here.

Years ago, my husband and I shared a smaller version of this recipe. This is a bigger and better version, perfect for large gatherings or more intimate ones--with plenty of tasty leftovers.

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and Feliz Navidad! 

~ Cleo Coyle, author of 
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Pork shoulder slow-roasted this way is amazing sliced right off the bone. The rich, crispy pork skin is truly a delicacy, and the succulent meat is wonderfully versatile.

Slapped on a fresh roll, it makes a delicious sandwich, including traditional Cubans. Or place the pork slices in a warmed flour or corn tortilla with guacamole and sour cream and you've got an outstanding taco... 

And now without further ado (or adobo!),
here is our version of the Puerto Rican clas


For a free downloadable PDF
of this recipe that you can print, save
or share, 


Cleo Coyle's Holiday Pernil

Slow-Roasted, Crispy-Skinned Pork Shoulder!

Cleo Coyle's
Holiday Pernil

Makes about 10 servings


10 garlic cloves, peeled

5 tablespoons kosher salt

6 tablespoons oregano

2 tablespoons Goya brand Adobo seasoning 

2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper

2 teaspoons cumin

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 tablespoons red, white, or cider vinegar (or red or white wine)

3 lemons or limes, juiced (or mix them to make a lemon-lime juice)

1 bone-in pork shoulder with skin (6 to 8 pounds)


Step 1 - Create the rub: If you have a food processor, then take the first 9 ingredients on a quick spin to make a paste. No food processor? Then simply place the first 6 ingredients on a flat dish. Smash the peeled garlic cloves with the prongs of a fork, crushing the flavor into the dry ingredients. (A mortar and pestle is the traditional method.) When the mix resembles a fine mash, drizzle in your olive oil, vinegar (or wine), and lemon or lime juice. Blend the whole thing into a paste. Set aside.

Step 2 - Score the pork shoulder: After rinsing and drying off the pork shoulder, make six to eight 2-inch long slices around the white skin with a sharp knife. You should slice far enough to penetrate the skin and fat and allow the knife to cut shallowly into the meat under the skin. (See my photos below.)

Step 3 - Apply  the rub: Before you begin, place the pork on a long sheet of plastic wrap. Now massage the swoon-worthy fragrant rub ("adobo" in Spanish) all over the surface of the pork, making sure to work the paste into the cuts you made in the skin. Massage the meat well, rubbing the herbs into the flesh on all sides.

Step 4 - Wrap and chill: Draw up the ends of that plastic wrap, on which you set the pork, and use additional plastic wrap to bind the meat tightly (see my photo below). Place the pork in the refrigerator and allow it to marinate for at least 6 hours, although overnight is better! Pork shoulder is a dense meat, so the longer you marinate it, the better the flavors will penetrate. Again, 6 hour minimum for good results, overnight for the best results.

Step 5 - Prep for cooking: Before roasting, the pork shoulder must come to room temperature, so allow the wrapped meat to sit outside the fridge for 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Unwrap the pork and discard the plastic wrap. DO NOT RINSE THE MEAT. Place it on a rack over a shallow pan, skin side up. Roast uncovered for about 45 to 50 minutes a pound, depending on your oven, so a 6 pound shoulder would need to slow roast for 4-1/2 to 5 hours, an 8 pound roast 6 to 7 hours, and so on.

Step 6 - Turn the Meat: Every hour during the cooking, flip the meat over. In other words, you will start roasting the pork shoulder with the skin side up. After an hour, flip the shoulder so the skin side is down for the second hour, and so on, every hour of cooking. You are turning it this way so the skin will cook evenly on all sides and the juices will be distributed properly. At the end of the cooking time, the meat should be at an internal temperature of 165 degrees. 

This is the pernil after the first hour of cooking
Flip the pernil once every hour for perfect
distribution of juices and browning of skin.

If the thermometer is under that temperature, then place the meat back in the oven for another 20 to 30 minutes and check again. By the end of the roasting process, the skin will be beautifully browned and delicious. (Yes, we eat the skin!) And may you eat with joy!

For a free downloadable PDF
of this recipe that you can print, save
or share, 

Click here for the free recipe PDF.

May your holidays 
be delicious!

☕ ☕ ☕

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Yes, this is me, Cleo (aka Alice). 
Friend me on facebook here.
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Visit my online coffeehouse here.

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