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Puerto Rican Roast Pork
Pernil de Cerdo Asado

Prep Time: 5 hours
Serves: 6

For a true Cuban or Puerto Rican Pork Roast (a pernil de cerdo asado) a fresh shoulder picnic is used... no big deal, it's a very economical cut of pork usually running anywhere between .59 and $1.09 per pound. The better, meatier cut is the back leg, but the more readily available cut is the front leg.

This roast should be seasoned at least 2 days before you cook it.


Per pound of meat:



Place all ingredients (except additional peppercorns) in a blender and whiz on high until smooth. In Puerto Rico and Cuba we use a "pilón" (morter and pestle) and start crushing the dry ingredients first (except the salt), set them aside in a small bowl and then crush the garlic with a bit of the salt added so it won't fly all over the place. After this is done, you put it in the bowl and add the rest of the ingredients (salt, oil, vinegar & additional peppercorns), mixing thoroughly. If you use garlic powder make sure it isn't garlic salt, and make sure you add just a bit more than called for. I usually make up a LOT of this seasoning mix and store it in the fridge for other cuts of meat because it's very versatile, especially with poultry.

Wash and pat the roast dry using the juice of a sour orange in about a quart of water if you want it Cuban style or just plain water for Puerto Rican style. This is the basic difference between a Cuban roast and a Puerto Rican one. In PR we use sour oranges for lots of things but rarely for a pernil asado.

Using a sharp knife, peel away the skin on the top of the roast until it reaches the smallest part and barely hangs from there. Score the underside of the skin in a crisscross type cut, deep enough to just touch the skin. This will allow the fat to moisten the roast as it cooks and will also create a crunchy treat for everyone. Score the meat also, but just under this flap of skin, not the sides or bottom. Place the roast in the pan you'll be cooking it in.

To season, use something like a steak knife to make deep slits in the meat from the top and sides. You need to make about a dozen or more slits in this meat, more on top than from the sides, and your finger should be able to get into it all the way. Do not cut until it reaches the other side!

Place some of the seasoning mix into each slit, pushing the whole peppercorns all the way in. Distribute it evenly over the meat, using about 3/4 of the mix and most of the whole peppercorns in the slits. The rest is for the sides, top, and bottom, making sure you season the fat under the skin and the outer part of the skin, too.

Cover tightly with foil and refrigerate for 2 days. Remove and set aside at least 2 hours before you cook it.

Cook uncovered at 225 - 250 degrees until skin is brownish all over. Raise temp to 400 for 10 - 15 minutes or until skin crisps completely. You have to watch it so it doesn't burn at this point, but even if it does, the roast is fine and most of the crispy skin will be also. You can also broil it when you get the knack of cooking this type of roast, but I would not suggest doing so the very first time.

Remove from oven and let stand for about 20 - 30 minutes. Serve with a traditional rice with pigeon peas and smoked ham, and a salad, or with rice and beans, PR style, with a salad and some fried plantains (tostones).

You need to cook this at a low temp so the meat is juicy. The smell will drive you crazy so go out shopping or for a looooooooooong walk. It usually takes 4 - 5 hours for a regular sized roast, 7-8 pounds. I always cook 2 at a time so I'll have leftovers to make Cubanos, a great sandwich that is served hot with strong café con leche.

¡Buen provecho!