Everyday Meals

What Is Pernil and What Does It Taste Like?

Cut Pernil Getty 6/29/20

Instead of roasted duck or turkey, serve a delicious and juicy pernil for your holiday dinner this year. Here’s everything you need to know about the Puerto Rican dish: 

What Is Pernil? 

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Pernil on Plate Getty 6/29/20

Pernil is a slow-cooked Puerto Rican pork roast that is traditionally eaten during the holidays. It’s commonly seasoned in a wet rub marinade called adobo mojado, which is made with garlic, peppercorns, salt, vinegar, olive oil, and oregano. Sofrito, a super flavorful Latin American sauce, is also frequently involved. 

So what should good pernil taste like? “When the dish is made well, the taste of garlic is apparent, the brightness of cilantro is seen, and the slight crunch of the skin is felt,” according Nicole Akoukou Thompson of The Latin Post. “And, while the marinades and seasoning take a bit of time and elbow grease, the roast itself is rather easy to make, because the oven does a great deal of the work.

Related: 50 Christmas Roasts Your Family Will Love

What Part of the Pig Is Pernil? 

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“Pernil” comes from the Spanish word “pierna,” which means leg in English and is the Catalan word for ham (what we call “ham” is the upper rear part of the pig’s leg).  

While pernil can certainly be made with ham, it’s actually more commonly made with pork shoulder. 

“Pork shoulder is more readily available and more affordable,” says Thompson. “The fattiness of the shoulder benefits the long slow roasting process, which takes about ten hours.”

How to Make Pernil

Whole Pernil Getty 6/29/20

You can find a detailed pernil recipe right here, but here are a few tips to get you started: 

  1. Marinate: The secret to the most fragrant, juiciest pernil is to start marinating the pork a few days before you start cooking. 
  2. Cook: Pernil is a sloooooow-roasted dish. You’ll need to cook the pork for about 30-35 minutes per pound, so make sure to plan accordingly. 
  3. Serve: Pernil is typically served with arroz con gandules, or rice with pigeon peas. Get the recipe here.

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