Pernil, a Puerto Rican roasted pork shoulder is a laborious, multi-day affair when made the traditional way. The pork is marinated with garlic and slowly roasted for hours in the oven until fork-tender. Because it takes so long to cook, it's usually reserved for holidays, celebrations, or weekends. Enter the Instant Pot and pernil becomes a weeknight meal.
I'm not one for violence, but the last piece of pernil at my house has been known to provoke a scuffle or two. The biggest hurdle to overcome when making a succulent pernil is waiting for it to cook. The entire house fills with its aroma. "Hangry" attitudes emerge as stomachs twist into knots of anticipation. This speaks to how delicious pernil is and how much we love it.
Instant Pot Pernil Is a Game Changer
Now, my mami and abuela would probably wag their fingers at me for not making pernil the way they taught me—cooked nice and slowly in the oven—but using an instant pot cuts the cooking time by a good three hours.
I broil the roast after it pressure cooks to crisp the skin—what pernil is famous for. Mami and abuela will just have to forgive me because I'm hooked.
The Best Size Pork for Your Instant Pot
Pernil is traditionally made with pork shoulder, but it'll be hard to find one that will fit into a standard Instant Pot. The size of your instant pot limits the size of your pernil—I recommend one that's about 5 pounds. However, you'll be able to find a smaller cut of Boston butt or pork butt, which comes from a lower part of the pig's front leg. The added bonus? Boston butt can be found boneless, so you don't have to remove the bone later. Plus, a smaller portion is great for smaller families who don't need what I call a brontosaurus pernil.
No Instant Pot? Here’s How to Cook It in the Oven
- Marinate the pernil as instructed in the recipe below.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Place the marinated pernil on a rack set inside a roasting pan. Lightly oil the skin with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and tightly cover the pan with foil.
- Roast the pernil for 2 hours and 15 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the oven and uncover the pernil. Turn the oven broiler on to low.
- Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon salt all over the skin and allow it to dissolve slightly. Return the pan to the oven and crisp up the skin under the broiler for 5 to 8 minutes.
Serve Your Pernil With Rice and Beans and Tostones
Pernil is unlike most roasts in that it's not served with gravy. Instead, it's served on its own. The juices rendered during cooking are usually used to make arroz con gandules, a rice dish traditionally serve with pernil.
Slice the pernil, arrange it in a roasting pan, then pour the pan juices over the meat. This keeps the meat moist and flavors it even more. Never ever toss the pan juices!
Serve your pernil sliced with rice and beans, tostones, and potato salad. Leftover pernil is fantastic in these Cubano sandwiches.
More Instant Pot Recipes for Gatherings
Instant Pot Pernil (Roast Pork)
4 1/2 to 5 pounds skin-on boneless Boston or pork butt
1 large lime, juiced (about 2 1/2 tablespoons)
1/4 cup recaito (sofrito) (homemade or store-bought)
10 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed into a paste (2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon adobo con pimienta, divided
1/2 tablespoon granulated onion powder
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon black pepper
For the Instant Pot
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from 2 limes)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
Prepare the pork:
Rinse the pork butt, dry the surface with paper towels, and place the pork butt on a platter or large bowl.
Use the tip of a sharp knife to poke 1-inch slits all over, but don't poke holes through the skin. Run your knife between the meat and the skin to create a small pocket—you'll rub marinade under the skin later.
Drizzle lime juice over the pork:
Drizzle 2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice all over the pork, making sure to rub it inside the pocket you just created. Allow the lime juice to penetrate the meat while you prepare the marinade.
Make the marinade:
In a small bowl, stir the recaito, garlic paste, 1 tablespoon of adobo, granulated onion powder, dried oregano, black pepper, and the sazón. The mixture will form a loose paste.
Rub the marinade on the pork:
Use your hands or the back of your spoon to rub the marinade on the pork, including inside the pocket under the skin.
Marinate the pernil:
Transfer the pernil into a lidded container or gallon-sized zip top bag. Marinate it in the refrigerator for 12 hours.
Sear the pernil:
Remove the pernil from the fridge 20 minutes before cooking to allow it to come to room temperature. Just before searing, sprinkle the pork with the remaining 1 teaspoon adobo.
Select the sauté setting on your instant pot. If yours has the option, set it to high. When the display reads "hot,” add the vegetable oil.
Place the pernil in the pot using tongs and sear the meat for 3 minutes on three of its four sides for a total of 9 minutes. Don't sear the side with the skin.
Transfer the seared pernil to a platter.
Deglaze the pot:
After removing the pernil from the pressure cooker, press the cancel button. Pour 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup lime juice, and 1/4 cup lemon juice into the pot. Use a flat-edged spoon to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom.
Return the pernil into the pot:
Use tongs to return the pernil to the pot with the skin facing up.
Pressure cook the pernil:
Cover the pot and secure the lid. Make sure the pressure regulator is sealed.
Set it to pressure cook on high pressure for 1 hour. It will take about 10 minutes to come up to pressure.
Release the pressure:
After the cooking time is over, allow the pressure to release naturally for 15 minutes.
Then, carefully press the release valve to completely de-pressurize the pot—I use a kitchen towel or mitts. Remove the lid and use tongs to transfer the pernil onto a sheet pan.
Crisp the skin:
Set the oven broiler to low. Place the pernil under the broiler and allow the skin to crisp for 5 to 8 minutes, until dark, crisp, and blistered.
The broiler may create a lot of smoke, so I recommend turning on the exhaust fan or opening all your windows.
Rest the pernil, then serve:
Allow the pernil to rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Then, use a sharp knife to cut it into 1/4- to 1/2-inch slices. Ladle some of the cooking juice from the pot over the sliced meat.
Store leftovers and reheat:
Refrigerate leftovers, including the cooking juices, in a lidded container for up to 3 days.
To reheat, portion out the desired amount of meat and heat it until warmed through in a microwave-safe container with some of the cooking juice drizzled on top.
You can also heat the pernil in a skillet. Bring some of the cooking juices to a simmer over medium heat, then add the sliced meat. Heat for about 5 minutes, until warmed through.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 6 to 8|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 27g||35%|
|Saturated Fat 9g||45%|
|Total Carbohydrate 4g||2%|
|Dietary Fiber 1g||2%|
|Total Sugars 1g|
|Vitamin C 9mg||46%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|