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Pretty much every movie or TV sitcom that finds the characters in Hawaii will feature a luau. And, one of the staples of any luau is Kalua pig. The word Kalua actually means “to cook in an underground oven.” So, as the name implies, Kalua pig refers to pig that is cooked in an imu (a type of underground oven).
Being a South Floridian, I eat my fair share of pork. However, our choices are usually either a Cuban-style pork, or a traditional BBQ pulled pork. While I most certainly take no issue with either one, the prospect of Kalua pork intrigued me. Of course, replicating the wonder of Kalua pig would have been next to impossible. Thankfully, the Internet provided many recipe alternatives to digging a hole in the ground, of which used either an oven or a slow cooker. I decided to go with an oven roasted rendition, but try it out in my electric roaster. I figured that, when lined with banana leaves, it would simulate the effect of an imu better than the other two methods. And, because I can rarely leave a recipe well enough alone, I added some garlic, ginger, and soy sauce to my pork. I was made to understand that, in certain regions of Hawaii, these ingredients are perfectly acceptable.
First, I washed and cleaned the banana leaves (I didn’t bother looking for the ti leaves, since I had banana leaves in the freezer), then placed a layer of them down in the electric roaster to cover the entire interior.
Then, I made the marinade. I mixed equal parts liquid smoke and soy sauce, then added garlic and ginger that I pulsed through my mini food processor. I let this mixture sit for 15-20 minutes.
Rinse your pork shoulder with cold water, then dry with paper towels. Make diagonal cuts across the surface of the pork, about 1 inch deep. My cuts may have been deeper than that. Who knows?
Pour the marinade mixture over the top of the pork. Make sure the garlic and ginger pieces get into the grooves that you made. Sprinkle it with pink Hawaiian sea salt, and massage it into the pork and grooves. After this, I put mine in the refrigerator for about 2 hours. I am not sure if this step is really necessary, but I just wanted the pork to start roasting at a specific time, so I put it away until the time came.
Place your marinated pork shoulder in the leaf-lined roaster.
Then, cover it with more leaves. Tuck the leaves in so that they are snug around the pork shoulder.
Now, fold read of the leaves over to create a nice little porky package, place the lid on your electric roaster, turn it to 250 degrees, and roast for about 8 hours. I set it up before bedtime, in order to awaken to a cooked pork shoulder.
When the time is up, you will be rewarded with tender, juicy meat that literally falls off the bone. I didn’t even need to shred with a fork or my hands. It just fell apart when I grabbed it with my tongs.
Once shredded, serve it however you wish! I ate it just like that! I’d also like to point out that I did not discard all of the pan drippings. I poured most of it back over the shredded pork to keep it moist.
Overall, I was pleased with my results. My friend, who went to college in Hawaii for some years, even told me that it tastes very close to how it tastes on the island. So, I’d say that is a SUCCESS! Definitely an awesome change of pace from the usual Cuban mojo pork.
Kalua Pork (adapted from Oven Kalua Pork)
- 8-9lb pork shoulder (or boston butt roast, if you prefer)
- 1-2 tbsp liquid smoke
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 3 tbsp minced garlic
- 3 tbsp minced ginger
- 1 1/2 tbsp Hawaiian pink salt
- Ti leaves or banana leaves
Line the inside of an electric roaster with leaves until the entire interior is covered. In a small bowl, combine liquid smoke, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger. Allow to sit for 15-20 minutes.
Wash and dry your pork shoulder. Make diagonal cuts across the surface, and then pour the marinade over the pork. Make sure that marinade gets in all of the grooves.
Place your pork shoulder in the roasting pan, then cover tightly with leaves. Fold the remaining leaves over the pork to form a tight seal.
Cover the roaster, then roast at 250 degrees for approximately 8 hours. You can test with a meat thermometer to make sure that the kalua pork is done.