Hawaiian-Style Smoked Pork

I have been waiting to tell you guys about this pork for nearly 2 months. I wanted to blog it the day after I made it back in July, but I suspected you might think I’d lost my mind if I did. And here’s why: this pork is super low maintenance, but it cooks for 4-5 hours – the first 2 outside on the grill and the next 2-3 in the oven. I’m crazy enough to do that on a 95 degree day in the middle of summer, but I figured most of you would prefer to wait for cooler temps. Now that September is here it seemed like the perfect time!

When we were in Hawaii for our honeymoon we had traditional Kalua pork, and it was amazing. There it was cooked in a pit in the ground with banana leaves and lava rocks, but since that obviously isn’t feasible at home, I was eager to try this recipe. I figured it was pretty much the next best thing to actually going back to Hawaii (though for the record I’m still trying to convince Shane we should do that too!).

Hawaiian-Style Smoked Pork

This pork really is super easy to make. The only hands-on portion of the recipe is prepping and coating the pork with a simple green tea spice mixture – it’ll take you all of about 5 minutes. To infuse the pork with that earthy flavor you’d get in the traditional preparation, it is first smoked on the grill for 2 hours. You don’t need any fancy equipment, just your grill and a few cups of wood chips. The cooking is finished inside in the oven, and the result is juicy, so tender it falls apart pork. I was surprised by how much flavor it had given the simplicity of the spice rub.

The recipe makes a lot of pork though we didn’t mind one bit having it for dinner three nights in a row. I wish I could tell you how it compares to the version we had in Hawaii, but that was over 5 years ago, and my memory isn’t anywhere near that good :)

Hawaiian-Style Smoked Pork (Kalua Pork)
from Cook’s Country, August/September 2011

3 tablespoons green tea (from about 10-15 tea bags)
4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 (4-5 lb) boneless pork butt
1 (13×9-inch) disposable aluminum roasting pan
6 cups mesquite wood chips, soaked in water for 15 minutes and drained

Stir the green tea, salt, brown sugar and pepper together in a small bowl. Pat the pork dry with paper towels, then rub it on all sides with the spice mixture. Tightly wrap the pork in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 (or up to 24) hours (I recommend putting it in a dish in the fridge in case any juices leak out).

Remove the pork from the fridge and unwrap. Add to the roasting pan and cover the pan loosely with aluminum foil. Use a wood skewer (or something similar in size) to poke about 20 holes in the foil. Divide the wood chips into 3 equal portions (each containing about 2 cups of chips). Wrap each portion in a sheet of foil to make a small packet. Cut several holes in the top of each packet to vent.

Place the wood chip packets over the primary burner of your gas grill. Light the grill, and turn all of the burners to high, then cover and heat until the grill is hot and the wood chips start smoking, about 15 minutes. Reduce the primary burner to medium-high and turn off all of the other burners. Position the pan containing the pork on the cool part of the grill (the section where you’ve turned the burners off). Cover the grill and cook for 2 hours (adjust the primary burner as necessary to maintain the grill temperature around 300 F as the pork cooks).

Preheat the oven to 325 F with a rack in the lower third during the last 20 minutes of grilling.

Remove the roasting pan with the pork from the grill and bring inside. Remove the old sheet of foil covering the pan and replace with a new one, covering the pan tightly. Bake the pork for 2-3 hours, or until it is fork tender. Remove from the oven and let rest, still covered, for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, and when the pork is cool enough to handle, shred into bite-size pieces. Strain the juices from the pan through a fine-mesh sieve into a fat separator. Add 1/4 cup of the defatted juices to the pork and toss to coat before serving.

The pork can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.