I’m excited to share my easy recipe for slow cooker pernil, or “roasted” pork shoulder. I won’t over-hype it, like I see a lot of bloggers do, by claiming it is the “best” recipe for pernil. (That honor surely goes to an elderly Cuban or Puerto Rican lady somewhere.) But, it is yumlicious and also much simpler than the other recipes I came across online, so here it is!
This post contains affiliate links. I may receive compensation (at no added cost to you) if you make a purchase using these links. Supplies for this project were generously provided by Daylight and Fiskars.
I started working on this pernil recipe last summer. (For some reason, I always crave my childhood Cuban favorites in the warm weather and my childhood Italian favorites in the cold weather.) MC does not always love my forays into experimental roasting in the blazing heat, so naturally, the slow cooker becomes our dearest friend once the weather warms up.
Since I never did get a chance to talk with my paternal grandmother about a recipe for lechón or pernil while she was alive (and the lechón recipe in the Estefan Kitchen was definitely geared at someone with a much larger oven), I turned to the internet for help. I found some recipes that told me to take off the skin before slow cooking (which is much harder than it sounds). Since I have yet to insure my hands from accidentally self-inflicted knife wounds, I decided that keeping the skin on until after cooking would be best. (Although I did once spend an hour wrestling over a pork shoulder, knife in hand.)
Other recipes wanted me to marinate the pork shoulder overnight. While that did have some impact on flavor, for me, it wasn’t enough to make it worth trying to squeeze the crockery from the slow cooker into our apartment-sized refrigerator over night. (You can read more tips for living with a small kitchen here.)
I was able to perfect the recipe but couldn’t share it with you until recently because…
… on the left is how my kitchen is lit in real life. Not exactly conducive to photographing slow cooker recipes-in-progress. (But wait, you’re saying. What about this recipe and this recipe? Hahaha, fooled you. Those are prepared in my mother’s well-lit kitchen. However, she is not a huge pernil fan and I thought she would’nt want to come home from work to the smells of 8 hours of slow cooking pork in her apartment. Yum.)
Back in January, I met the folks from Daylight at the Creativation show, and they sent me the Slimline LED Table Lamp to try. You can see from the picture on the right how much of an impact it has in terms of light, as well as how small it is. To give you a better idea of how it works, I didn’t edit any of the photos in this recipe for white balance or exposure. (I did crop and straighten them, though.)
The Daylight Slimline LED Table Lamp is designed with crafters in mind, so its main purpose in my household is for crocheting at night without overwhelming MC (or the cats) with light. It just so happens that it also makes a great lamp for photography because the lighting mimics natural light for color matching (and to reduce eye strain). Even though the shipping company had tossed around the box quite a bit before it got to my doorstep, the lamp was packaged very well so it was not in any way harmed. I was able to snap the pieces together easily (without even reading the manual!) and clamp it on our new baker’s rack. It is surprisingly lightweight and disconnects quickly after an 8-hour slow cooking session so I can attach it elsewhere for my next project. (You can also buy the base separately to convert it into a floor lamp if you’d like.) The best part about using the Slimline LED Table Lamp for cooking is that just a very gentle tap on the power button turns the lamp on and off. When working with raw meat, this was a huge help because I didn’t want to get any contaminants onto my beautiful lamp! I could just tap the lamp with the side of my arm if I needed more light.
And, now, onto the recipe!
Slow Cooker Pernil (Roasted Pork Shoulder)
Recipe by Underground Crafter
- 8 servings. (We usually eat 2 servings for dinner when we prepare the pernil and then freeze the rest in portioned containers. These can be thawed by transferring to the refrigerator in the morning when you plan to prepare the pernil for dinner.)
- One 5- to 6-pound bone-in (skin-on) pork shoulder.
- 7-8 cloves of garlic.
- 1 Tablespoon coarse salt (such as sea salt or Kosher salt).
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander.
- 1/2 Tablespoon ground cumin.
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.
- 1 cup citrus juice. (I’ve used all orange juice, or combinations of orange, lime, and lemon juice. If you’re squeezing your own, about 2 oranges will be plenty and you can keep it pulpy.)
- Slow cooker (5-quart, or large enough to fit your pork shoulder).
- Sharp knife.
- Cutting board.
- Optional: juice squeezer (for fresh citrus juice).
- Small bowl.
- Kitchen tongs.
- Large bowl.
- Fiskars All-Purpose Kitchen Shears.
- Cheesecloth or strainer.
- Optional: Storage containers for freezing.
- Combine salt, coriander, cumin, and black pepper. Mix well.
- Crush the garlic cloves. Set half aside. Mince the remaining cloves.
- Combine juice, spice mixture, and minced garlic to form a marinade.
- Place pork shoulder in slow cooker. Pat dry with paper towel.
- With a sharp knife, pierce into the meat. It will be difficult to pierce the skin, so make your cuts on the other parts of the meat. Insert pieces of crushed garlic into these small cuts.
- Pour the the marinade over the pork shoulder, rubbing it into both sides. The rest of the marinade will drip to the bottom of the slow cooker.
- Position the pork shoulder with the skin side up.
- Cover the slow cooker. Cook on low for approximately 8 hours. (Since you haven’t marinated the shoulder, cooking it quickly on high for 4 hours will result in a less flavorful pernil.)
- Using tongs, turn the pork shoulder over so the skin side is down after the halfway point.
- When the meat is darker and you can see it separating from the bone, insert a meat thermometer to check for doneness.
- Be sure not to hit the bone with the thermometer for an accurate reading. For food safety, the internal temperature should measure at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
- When the pernil is cooked, use the kitchen tongs to remove it to a large bowl to cool slightly. (For the moment, leave the drippings and marinade in the slow cooker.)
- Using the Fiskars All-Purpose Kitchen Shears, cut off the skin and any excess fat. Peel away from the pernil. The meat should be tender now so it will be easy to remove it from the bone with the help of a fork.
- As I mentioned, MC and I usually freeze most of our pernil, so we separate it into portioned containers. Be sure to cover with some of the drippings before freezing so the meat will be moist when you defrost it.
- Once you’ve removed the pernil from the bone, you can separate the drippings.
- Cheesecloth method: Cover a large bowl with cheesecloth and then pour the drippings into the bowl. Gently lift the cheesecloth and squeeze it slightly. Most of the pulp and large garlic bits will stay in the cheesecloth, which you can discard.
- Strainer method: Position a strainer over a large bowl and then pour in the drippings. Most of the pulp and large garlic bits will stay in the strainer, which you can empty into the trash.
- If you are concerned about fat (since we cooked the pernil with the skin on and without removing fat), refrigerate the drippings. The fat will form a skim on the top. Use a spoon to remove the fat.
- The drippings can be used to reheat your pernil, or as a broth, or as base for a gravy.
- Of course, you can eat the pernil “as is” once you have removed the fat and skin. I recommend a side of black beans with white rice. The drippings over the rice are particularly tasty.
- You can also make pork tacos. Cut the pernil into bite sized pieces and fold into warm corn or flour torillas. Top with your favorite salsas and condiments.
- Another option is to heat the pernil with barbecue sauce and serve with corn on the cob and veggies.