Story by Polynesian Cultural Blogger, Bobby Akoi, Jr
I grew up in a Hawaiian homestead community of Keaukaha on the the Big Island of Hawai’i. One tradition that I loved participating in as a kid was putting a pig underground. Kalua is a traditional Hawaiian cooking method that utilizes an imu, or an underground oven. Our other Polynesian neighbors use the same method with different variations.
With the leadership of Uncles Luka Kanakaole, George Kahoilua, & John Manuia, as young boys we were ready to help. The size of the imu was round about 6-8 feet in diameter. Large stones were heated up the pit of fire with kiawe wood. As soon as the stones got red hot, we would place the red hot stones into pig’s body including the legs. The pig had been salted with Hawaiian salt. We would line up the banana leaves to cover the imu. The whole pig was then laid on top of a bed of greenery and covered with more banana leaves. To maintain even heating and to retain the meat’s natural moisture, the meat was covered with wet burlap bags. The whole pit was covered with dirt. We’d go out and play until 8 hours later we were back to unearth the pig. I look back at these experiences with much fond memories.
Can you imagine going through this kalua process every time you wanted to indulge in kalua pig?
Well, today you don’t have to dig hole in your back yard. You can actually do it in your kitchen. Here’s an amazing, simple, and easy kalua pork recipe that you can do at home.
1 (6 pound) pork butt roast
1 1/2 tablespoons Hawaiian sea salt
1 tablespoon liquid smoke flavoring (Kiawe is the best)
Pierce pork all over with a carving fork. Rub salt then liquid smoke over meat.
Place roast in a crock pot. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 hours.
Remove meat from slow cooker, and shred, adding drippings as needed to moisten.
Place pork in a crock pot. First you want to get anywhere from a 6 lb pork shoulder roast or “Boston” butt. You can get them at Costco and butcher them into 3-4 sections depending on the weight of the roast and freeze the rest until you want to cook it again. Place one of the sections rinsed and patted dry with paper towels into the crock pot.
Pierce it all over with a fork. This is good to get some aggressions out if need be.
Cover it liberally with the Hawaiian salt and the liquid smoke.
8 hours later…VOILA! Your kalua pig is ready.
It’s so tender you can shred it with the back of a spoon. So ‘ONO as the Hawaiians say, meaning so GOOD!!!
Now doesn’t that sound better than digging a hole and firing up wood and stones? Many have complimented how ‘ONO their kalua pig turned out. If you close your eyes and listen you’d swear you could hear the waves on the beach, smell the lightly scented breeze in the palms, and feel the sand between your toes. Good luck!
I am in Iowa on the mainland and I have been craving the meat. Lol.
Thank you for sharing this recipe with us.
The cultural center is one of my favorite places on the island. I’ve seen HA 6 times and it gets better every time.
Soon I will return home and visit again. Well as long as I don’t get corona virus. I think I’m good.
Mahalo for your aloha and support. This is one of our favorite recipes also. We look forward to welcoming you to the Center again soon!
I used my new Weber smoker to make Kalua pork for the first time (first time on the smoker) on Sunday, my wife (a Pierce) who grew up in Laie right next door to PCC has been making it in a roaster over for years. It was the best Kalua pork we have had outside of Hawaii and the real Imu.
Day prior to roasting:
Scar fat side of pork butt
Rub with Hawaiian Sea Salt
Tie up tight with cooking string/twine
Wrap with butcher paper, place in foil pan (use two pans) in fridge overnight.
remove pork from butcher paper, place back in foil pans with 1/2″ water.
Smoke pork butt in smoker using Mesquite pellets at 225 – 250 degrees for 6 hours.
Remove from smoker, flip pork over, remove bottom foil pan, cover pork and pan with foil and seal tightly as possible. smooth out foil against pan. Please put pan with pork into 2nd foil pan (helps keep the moisture in).
Place back on smoker for 3 more hours at 250 – 300 degrees, pork should be at least 190 degrees when done.
Turn off smoker, let pork rest for 15 minutes.
Scrap off surface and excess fat before shredding up the pork in the drippings to moisten all the meat. We then drained off the drippings in a colander and saved the drippings. Placed the shredded pork back in the foil pan an served.
Again, it was the best Kalua pork outside of Hawaii.
That sounds AMAZING. So glad it worked well for you! Any pictures? We’d love to post it! Thanks for the added details, by-the-way.