Hukilau is This Weekend: How to Roast a Hog Hawaiian-Style

Categories: How To

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Fort Lauderdale draws visitors from across the world for any number of reasons. Throughout the winter, tourists come in droves to enjoy to mild weather, sunshine, and great beaches.

Unfortunately, the nice weather and large supply of tourists dried up a few weeks back.

Luckily, this weekend the annual Hukilau, a three day tiki event is coming to town. And it's bringing in a massive tiki- and luau-loving crowd.

With that in mind, we decided to drum up some advice on a DIY luau themed party. We spoke to native Hawaiian and chef of the Sybarite Pig, Suzanne Cochard, about pig roasting Hawaiian-style.

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"The traditional Hawaiian roasted pig is known as 'Kalua' pork, meaning it has been cooked in an underground oven, an 'imu'," said Cochard. "Digging the pit and layering it with the proper vegetation and earth required a lot of hands. The oven was built to suit the amount of food to be cooked and was loaded with parcels of chicken and fish, as well as vegetables to have an entire meal for the community."

Hawaiians used tinder and wood, usually from the kiawe tree -- similar to Mesquite. The oven was comprised of smooth river stones, banana plants, leaves, coconut fronds and Hawaiian ti leaves. Once the food was placed in the dug out oven, green leaves were layered on top, which were then covered with woven mats and cloth. Dirt was placed over all of the layers.

Aside from the manual labor, the cooking process itself is fairly simple. The pit needs to be dug with sloping sides to prevent the hog from getting dirty. Steam from the vegetation creates a perfectly moist and somewhat earthy finished product.

So here's how you're going to do it...

Location Info



Sybarite Pig

20642 State Road 7, Boca Raton, FL

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Keith Wright
Keith Wright

1) Search YouTube for Kalua pig. See if you really want to dig up your yard. If not, and you are only having a small group of people, get 1 or 2, 8# Boston butts, get either some Hawaiian pink salt online or coarse Kosher or sea salt, a small bottle of liquid smoke, a pack of banana leaves from the frozen Latin foods section of the supermarket, two aluminum roasting pans for a 20# turkey and nest them, one box of 2 Reynolds Roasting Bags, and some kitchen twine. Preheat your oven to 250 if you are in the really low-and-slow group... the pig will take about 24 hours to get to 195-205 degrees. Preheat the oven to 350 if you want to let it cook for 9 hours... again to 195 - 205 degrees internal temp OR to the "shake test". This is where the shoulder blade of the pig will shake loose from the meat with a tiny bit of effort. I prefer the 24 hour method as I feel the connective tissues are broken down more and the fat is better rendered. Prepare the bag per package directions. Defrost the banana leaves by running them under water. Separate the leaves and divide into two separate stacks. Lay down the longest leaves from the first stack on your counter, left to right. Put the leftover, smaller leaves on top. (you can cook two, 8# Boston butt roasts side-by-side in this package) place the roast(s) on the banana leaves fat side down and sprinkle liberally with the liquid smoke, about 1-2 T per roast, then sprinkle the coarse salt on the pork... It should look like a sugar-coated pastry. This is a good amount of salt. Turn the pork over and repeat the sprinkling of the smoke and salt. Fold the leaves around the pork like a literal pig-in-a-blanket and secure your package with kitchen twine. Put this package on top of the second stack of spread leaves at a 90 degree angle, creating a complete encasement of banana leaves. Make sure the package is tied tight, place in the roasting bag and in the pans. There will be copious amounts of au jus, so make sure the holes you make for the steam are right at the center of the top of the bag so no juices spill. Bake to an internal temp of 195-205 degrees. You can poke test it with your thermometer. If there is no resistance to the probe when you insert and wiggle it around, you can make a small slit in the bag to insert a closed pair of tongs through the leaves and down into the meat, spreading the tongs to enable you to close them to grab a sample. The meat should be butter tender with a slightly smoky and salty taste. Let the pork rest for 1hour. I wrap mine in a beach towel and place in a beer cooler to rest. Remove after the rest and shred the pork. Serve it in the au jus, with more of the salt in a bowl for guests to pinch and sprinkle if they wish. 2) If you feel the need to dig up your yard, you will need more charcoal than you can imagine. There is a reason they do this in this manner in Hawaii. Plenty of river rocks. They are lava rocks. They won't explode. They are free. Kiawe wood. Real cheap, or free. Tons of banana trees to shred and get leaves from. Effective and cheap. 3) You will want to go to your local home improvement store and get a bale of chicken wire. Do not skip that step. Set your 100# hog on a doubled up length of it and make a cage. While you are at the store, get a 4' section of 2" metal pipe, and a blue tarp... Unless you have one from your roof. Put the chicken wire caged pig on the bottom layer of banana leaves, cover with more banana leaves THEN place the tarp over the banana leaves before you cover the mound (with the pipe stuck inside to allow steam to escape) with sand. The tarp will keep sand out of your pork. Get your friends together to help you lift the pig out of the pit in one piece by holding onto the corners of the chicken wire cage. Fight over the pork cheeks. Without using the chicken wire, it will be impossible to remove the pig from the pit as the connective tissues of the pig will have dissolved. Imagine a steamed piece of tilapia the size of a pig. Do you see the problem with NOT using the chicken wire? Mahalo and Aloha.

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