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Thread: Kalua Pork Smoker Style

  1. #1
    TVWBB Super Fan Eric Aarseth's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Kalua Pork Smoker Style

    Tomorrow morning I'm going to make kalua pork for the first time. If you Google "kalua" pork (as opposed to Kahlua, that tasty coffee liqueur) you will get many recipes that call for cooking a whole pig in an "imu" (earthen pit - Hawaiian style) or in a slow-cooker or oven. That VAST majority of the recipes call for the use of liquid smoke (mesquite to equate to the koa wood used in the Great State of Hawaii). There are some threads within TVWBB that date back to 2007 - 2010 that discuss briefly the use of the WSM. Even within those threads the majority of the discussion is a cooking method using an earthen pit or slow-cooker. No criticism of either of those cooking methods, but in God's Country (aka Alaska i.e. Texas's big brother) cooking via an earthen pit requires a jackhammer - ain't going to happen; I'd like to avoid at all costs liquid smoke, so slow-cookers and other non-smoke producing cooking methods are out. So here is my plan:

    Ingredients:

    Hawaiian Red and Black salt
    Onion (raw, sliced)
    Garlic (raw, crushed-knife blade not a press)
    Ginger Root (peeled, sliced coins)
    Banana tree leaves (purchased frozen, thawed and washed)
    10 lb pork butt, bone-in, trimmed fat (less than 1/4 inch on exterior
    Smoke Wood - Mix of mesquite and pecan pellets


    Smoker:

    Traeger Texas XL (Note 1: I couldn't afford the AK version because it was 3x the size of the TX); (Note 2: I'm using my Traeger vs WSM because of time); (Note 3: My experience thus far is that you get much better BBQ results with the WSM than with the Traeger).

    Process:

    1. Salt butt with red and black Hawaiian salt. Will salt liberally.

    2. Place on smoker, smoke at 185 degrees or below for 2 hours.

    3. Take off smoker. Bundle butt as follows: banana tree leaves, aromatics (onion, garlic, ginger), butt, aromatics, banana leaves. Tie bundle into an intact but loose bundle. I don't want it too tight, so no smoke can penetrate the leaves, but I also don't want it too loose because as the meat shrinks and the leaves become drier, gaps will open. Assuming I'm on my game I'll take pics.

    4. Back on the smoker in a half-sheet aluminum foil pan. Will set temp at 225 and let it go. Temp will likely vary between 210 - 250. I anticipate the cook time to be about 8 hours (ambient temp will be about 25 degrees so could take longer). If I remember, I'll likely monitor meat temp with my Maverick probe. Target meat temp is the standard 190+.

    My point of this post, is to give some point of reference of making kalua pork in a smoker, without liquid smoke and approximating the cooking method of an imu. I would use my WSM, but I don't have the time to tend the "fire", etc and so I'll use my Traeger instead. My experience thus far is that my results on the Traeger correlate nicely to what I can expect on the WSM, but with better BBQ flavor from the WSM .

    Questions - post them and I'll do my best to answer.
    Tight lines, sharp hooks.

    WSM, 26" Gold, 22 1/2" OTIS (OTS upgraded to an OTG plus), Genesis 1, Go Anywhere Gas, Little Joe smoker and Mosquito Magnet (survival tool for backyard AK)

  2. #2
    TVWBB Super Fan Eric Aarseth's Avatar
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    All is starting well. I have photos, but it looks like I need to have a Flickr account or some sort to load photos. Chris probably has instructions and hopefully I'll figure them out. Photos to come?

    Success. Go to the FAQ menu at the top of the page. There is a section on how to upload photos.
    Wrapped butt is on the smoker as we speak. The following are a few of the prep photos.

    [IMG] 10 Lb Pork Butt untrimmed by alaskahacker, on Flickr[/IMG]
    Untrimmed 10 Lb butt

    [IMG] Salted Butt with Red and Black Hawaiian Salt by alaskahacker, on Flickr[/IMG]
    Trimmed, deep scoring, red and black Hawaiian salt.

    [IMG] An Alaskan Imu by alaskahacker, on Flickr[/IMG]
    Alaskan Imu. WSM to the side today.

    [IMG] Banana purchased frozen by alaskahacker, on Flickr[/IMG]
    Frozen banana leaves were easy to find. DIRTY! Rinse thoroughly.

    [IMG] 2 hour naked smoke by alaskahacker, on Flickr[/IMG]
    The haze is the mesquite/pecan wood smoke. 2 hours at 125-135 F. The smoky smell was phenomenal when I brought it into the house to wrap in the banana leaves.

    [IMG] Layers ready to wrap by alaskahacker, on Flickr[/IMG]
    Base layer (leaves, onion, crushed garlic cloves, ginger root coins). This step made life easier. Scored butt needed gentle hands. Banana leaves tore easily. Criss-cross allowed me to keep the aromatic layers intact until I could tie the bunch.

    [IMG] Ginger and Garlic studded love by alaskahacker, on Flickr[/IMG]
    Butt studded with ginger and garlic love!


    [IMG] Wrapped and ready to cook by alaskahacker, on Flickr[/IMG]
    Handmade rimmed pan from doubled sheets of HD foil. Tied bundle. Two layers of leaves. Started with the idea of only one layer, but leaves tore too easily. The leaves stayed fairly intact when I tightened the string, but low confidence the leaves will stayed intact enough by the end of the cook. Tidy bundle - no drips or leaking during transfer from kitchen counter to smoker. Temp control set at 250 F. Outside temp is about 25 degrees with some wind. I will watch for the smoker to hold a temp between 230 - 270 F.
    Last edited by Eric Aarseth; 03-24-2013 at 02:46 PM. Reason: Uploaded photos with comments. Using Flickr, when you select "Share" you need to copy and paste the BB code.
    Tight lines, sharp hooks.

    WSM, 26" Gold, 22 1/2" OTIS (OTS upgraded to an OTG plus), Genesis 1, Go Anywhere Gas, Little Joe smoker and Mosquito Magnet (survival tool for backyard AK)

  3. #3
    TVWBB Diamond Member Bob Sample's Avatar
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    Photobucket is easy to use for pics. Looking forward to the completed cook.
    Life isn't like a bowl of cherries.....
    It's more like a jar of jalapenos. What you do today is likely to come back and burn you in the butt tomorrow.

  4. #4
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    not a bad process you got going. will probably come out better than you think.
    i had many a kalua pork done in the oven w/liquid smoke that tasted great.
    even most hawaiian/local families can't or don't have the time to do it in a pit
    so the oven method is the most popular. nothing wrong with liquid smoke except to
    find the right proportion to use. i did it that way but used banana leave then wrapped
    that in ti leaves. foil can take the place of the ti leaves.
    even pork done in the imu has very little smoke flavor.
    George
    Can't live without spam

  5. #5
    TVWBB Super Fan Eric Aarseth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Sample View Post
    Photobucket is easy to use for pics. Looking forward to the completed cook.
    Ended up using Flickr because apparently I had started an account with my yahoo email. Seems to work ok. Mac is a pain in the butt to toggle between screens. No right-click stinks.
    Tight lines, sharp hooks.

    WSM, 26" Gold, 22 1/2" OTIS (OTS upgraded to an OTG plus), Genesis 1, Go Anywhere Gas, Little Joe smoker and Mosquito Magnet (survival tool for backyard AK)

  6. #6
    TVWBB Super Fan Eric Aarseth's Avatar
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    Except for a luau in HI, I think the only way I've ever had kalua pork has come from an oven or slow-cooker and used liquid smoke. Over the years though I've just fallen in love with the wood smoke flavor you get by cooking over wood smoke.

    No ti leaves at the market I got the banana leaves. I opted to not wrapped in foil. My hope is that gaps will form in the banana leaves and allow more smoke in. I think part of the charm of kalua pork, however, is also the moist meat which I'm assuming comes from the steaming process. So I might lose that steaming effect without the foil. I suppose to best way to figure it out will be to use foil next time to measure the difference.
    Tight lines, sharp hooks.

    WSM, 26" Gold, 22 1/2" OTIS (OTS upgraded to an OTG plus), Genesis 1, Go Anywhere Gas, Little Joe smoker and Mosquito Magnet (survival tool for backyard AK)

  7. #7
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    I'm very interested to hear/see the finished product - I made a poor attempt at a "Hawaiian" themed cook a couple weeks back. Did some Huli Huli chicken (came out good) and some ribs. This, however, looks like it could be a killer meal.

  8. #8
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    yea, like anything else, you have tobtry differant things one change at a time till you arrive at what you like. even in hawaii the pork tasted differant family to famly.
    course mt favorite is kalua pork with cabbage, chopped and mixed together. whats intersting is that if you eat poi with it it actually inhances the taste.
    George
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  9. #9
    TVWBB Hall of Fame Bob H.'s Avatar
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    Eric that looks great so far. Fresh pineapple to go with the pork?
    Just out of curiosity why would the WSM take longer if you worked at the same cooking temps?

  10. #10
    TVWBB Super Fan Eric Aarseth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob H. View Post
    Eric that looks great so far. Fresh pineapple to go with the pork?
    Just out of curiosity why would the WSM take longer if you worked at the same cooking temps?
    No fresh pineapple tonight - kids aren't fans, wife can't it so didn't fuss with it.

    WSM - the cook doesn't take longer. I was referring to the time to set up and clean up. The Traeger is wood pellet fired (electric burner). It is sort of like a gas grill, just turn it on and go. It doesn't replace my WSM, but there are times when I don't have the time to fuss with tending the fire. I'm cooking this same meal in about a month for some other folks, if I have time I'll definitely use the WSM. Todays weather at times causes problems for my WSM as I don't have all the gaps sealed. Windy, snowy, temps dropping.

    *** Edit: so after I typed this, I went out to check on the smoker. Guess what - I think my WSM would have been more reliable. That "reliable" Traeger fire has gone out and by the feel of things, probably for at least an hour or so. So I have to pull the damn thing apart, get it started and put it all together. The whole time I'm thinking, thank god I have my WSM to back me up - and why didn't I just use that to start with. Smoke is billowing again, I've bumped the temps to try and regain some time.
    Last edited by Eric Aarseth; 03-24-2013 at 05:47 PM.

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