Pernil Style Turkey – Delicious!

So, I love Puerto Rican style cooking, and started with a recipe and have modified it over time and figured out a few things that make it a little better…


Start with your turkey. Fresh, of course, is better, but a thawed frozen turkey will also work fine if you leave yourself enough time to thaw it.

For the turkey rub, the original recipe calls for 2 parts mashed fresh garlic, 1 part course sea salt, 1 part course black pepper, and 1 part dried oregano and 1 packet of Sazon with achioto. It says that 1 part means one teaspoon per pound; so if you had a 10 pound turkey, that would be 20 teaspoons of mashed garlic and 10 teaspoons of the other ingredients.

So discard the turkey neck and other things inside the turkey. Rinse it and pat it dry. For my rub, I use a little under what the recipe calls for. For any turkey under 18 pounds, this should be enough. If it is larger, just add a teaspoon or so to each ingredient. Mashed garlic and pepper in a mortar and pestle would be best, but if you don’t have that kind of time, I usually use pre-minced garlic and ground pepper.

  • 15 tsp. of minced garlic in olive oil
  • 5 tsp. of course sea salt
  • 4 tsp. of Adobo
  • 5 tsp. of black pepper
  • 3 tsp. of white pepper
  • 9 tsp. of dried oregano
  • 1 packet of Sazon with Achioto
  • 1 tsp. of cumin
  • 2 tsp. of apple cider vinegar

Sprinkle or rub straight Adobo all over the inside cavity of your turkey. Drizzle some olive oil over your dry turkey and massage it into the skin. With a small sharp knife, make some holes to inject some garlic and rub into the meat itself. Do about two holes on each breast, one in each thigh, and one in each drumstick. Push the knife in all the way to the bone four times in the shape of an ‘x’. You can stick your finger in the hole to make sure it is big enough. Also use your finger to separate the skin from the meat and create several small pockets, but still keeping some of the skin in tact so the skin still still be in tact when your are slicing the breast to serve.

Start by stuffing the rub into the holes you created. Then slice up a few garlic cloves longways and put one in each hole. Then massage your rub in the pockets you made under the skin of the turkey and leave some excess rub under the skin. Clumping the rub under the skin is ok. Now massage your rub all over the rest of the outside of your turkey. You should still have extra rub left over, which you can put into an airtight container for use the day you bake your turkey.

I simply use two extra plastic grocery bags and place my turkey in one bag, then place another back over it the opposite way and tie it up. Refrigerate it at least overnight or up to 3 days. I would say one or two nights is best and leaves your turkey very juicy.

The day you cook your turkey, take it out of the refrigerator early to let it become room temperature before baking. Once it is room temperature, take it out of the bags and rub the rest of your rub all over the turkey and just pat the rest of it on if you have a lot extra. I even take a few pads of cold butter and slice the pads into julienne like pieces of butter and stuff them into the holes that we carved and in the pockets under the skin. You can even put a few pads on top of the turkey.

Cut an onion in half and cut the top off of a whole clove of garlic and place inside the cavity of the turkey and then re-secure the legs to make sure they cook evenly. I also use toothpicks to attach the neck skin with the breasts and close up that cavity and attach the turkey wings to the breasts because I can never get them to sit under the turkey before I bake it.

I line my pan with tin foil for easier clean up. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and bake according to the attached schedule. I also tint my turkey with tin foil. It is also usually done on the earlier side of the time schedule, or a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees. ( I love when my turkey comes with a pop up timer!) Remove tent for the last 30 minutes or so. I usually don’t check my turkey for at least two hours because it will make it take longer to cook the more times I open the oven. Hopefully you are getting some good drippings by the first time you check on the turkey. If not, you can baste some chicken broth over it and drizzle some olive oil over the top.

4 to 8 pounds (breast) 1½ to 3¼ hours
8 to 12 pounds 2¾ to 3 hours
12 to 14 pounds 3 to 3¾ hours
14 to 18 pounds 3¾ to 4¼ hours
18 to 20 pounds 4¼ to 4½ hours
20 to 24 pounds 4½ to 5 hours

Once your turkey is done, let it sit out for a least a half an hour before you begin to carve it and discard the stuffing…and enjoy!!!

Original Recipe