Hawaiian-Style Smoked Pork (Kalua Pork)

From Cook's Country | August/September 2011
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Why this recipe works:

This Hawaiian-style barbecued pork is typically made by slow cooking a suckling pig in a pit made out of hot rocks, banana leaves, and kiawe wood, the Hawaiian version of mesquite. The resulting pork has a silky, tender texture and an intense, earthy smokiness. To make this delicious pork… read more

This Hawaiian-style barbecued pork is typically made by slow cooking a suckling pig in a pit made out of hot rocks, banana leaves, and kiawe wood, the Hawaiian version of mesquite. The resulting pork has a silky, tender texture and an intense, earthy smokiness. To make this delicious pork without the Hawaiian rig, we rubbed a boneless pork butt roast, our barbecue cut of choice, with a green tea salt mixture. We then loosely enclosed the pork in perforated aluminum foil and smoked it over an indirect fire before finishing it in a low oven. The green tea seasoned the meat with a vegetal quality similar to that of banana leaves, and our unique grill method emulated the gentle heat of the Hawaiian pit.

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Serves 8

You’ll need 10 to 15 tea bags. If your pork butt comes with an elastic netting, remove it before you rub the pork with the tea. To eat Kalua Pork as the Hawaiians do, serve it with steamed rice, macaroni salad, and cabbage salad.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons green tea
  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pepper
  • 1 (4- to 5-pound) boneless pork butt, trimmed
  • 1 (13 by 9-inch) disposable aluminum roasting pan
  • 6 cups mesquite wood chips, soaked in water for 15 minutes and drained

Instructions

  1. 1. Combine tea, salt, sugar, and pepper in bowl. Pat pork dry with paper towels and rub with tea mixture. Wrap meat tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6 to 24 hours. Place pork in pan and cover pan loosely with aluminum foil. Poke about twenty 1/4-inch holes in foil. Using large sheet of heavy-duty foil, wrap 2 cups soaked chips into foil packet and cut several vent holes in top. Make 2 more packets with additional foil and remaining 4 cups chips.

    2A. For a charcoal grill: Open bottom vent halfway. Light large chimney starter three-quarters full with charcoal briquettes (4 1/2 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour into steeply banked pile against side of grill. Place wood chip packets on coals. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent halfway. Heat grill until hot and wood chips are smoking, about 5 minutes.

    2B. For a gas grill: Place wood chip packets over primary burner. Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot and wood chips are smoking, about 15 minutes. Turn primary burner to medium-high and turn off other burner(s). (Adjust primary burner as needed to maintain grill temperature at 300 degrees.)

    3. Place pan on cool part of grill. Cover (positioning lid vent over meat if using charcoal) and cook for 2 hours. During last 20 minutes of grilling, adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees.

    4. Remove pan from grill. Cover pan tightly with new sheet of foil, transfer to oven, and bake until tender and fork inserted into meat meets no resistance, 2 to 3 hours. Let pork rest, covered, for 30 minutes. Unwrap and, when meat is cool enough to handle, shred into bite-size pieces, discarding fat. Strain contents of pan through fine-mesh strainer into fat separator. Let liquid settle, then return ¼ cup defatted pan juices to pork. Serve. (Pork can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.)

Bringing the Luau Stateside

Traditional kalua pork is wrapped in banana leaves and smoked for hours in a pit. Here’s how we’ve re-created its distinctive flavor and texture:

1. Rub pork with green tea mixture.

2. Place meat in aluminum pan on cool side of grill.

3. Cover meat with perforated foil.

Grill Set-Up
Pile coals on one side of the grill and top with vented foil packets of soaked mesquite chips to create smoke. The covered meat cooks on the cool side of the grill for 2 hours, then finishes in the oven so you don’t have to rebuild the fire.

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