Kalua Pork Sandwiches

by Karin Calloway
Kalua pork is ever present at the Hawaiian luau, but the smoky shredded pork is simple enough to prepare at home. While the luau version is usually cooked in an underground steam oven, called an imu, you can easily replicate the dish with a Viking outdoor grill, C4 Cooker, outdoor electric smoker, range or wall oven.

The smoky flavor of Kalua pork doesn’t come from soaked wood chips, like Southern pulled pork, but from liquid smoke. The pork, usually a Boston Butt or shoulder, is seasoned with Hawaiian salt or coarse sea salt, then is enclosed in foil with some of the liquid smoke and water.

Cooking the pork “low and slow” ensures that the pork will be succulent and fall-apart tender. Since the cut of pork used is usually surrounded by a layer of fat and includes an internal bone, tenderness and flavor are givens. I’m including instructions for cooking the pork using the above-mentioned Viking appliances, so whether you wish to cook the dish inside or out, there will be no guesswork involved.

Here, I’m suggesting you turn the pork into tasty Hawaiian-inspired sandwiches, on my Easy Hawaiian Rolls with a drizzling of Pineapple Barbecue Sauce. The recipe for the sauce is included below, and the recipe for the rolls is posted on this site. If you are short on time, look for packages of sweet Hawaiian sandwich rolls at your supermarket, usually found in the deli section.

You also can opt to enjoy the dish as they serve it up in many Hawaiian loco mocos (take-out restaurants) by shredding the meat and cooking it again with cabbage. While the pork cooks, simply steam a head of cabbage that you’ve cut into two-inch pieces. When the pork is done, let it cool slightly and then shred the meat and place it in a baking dish or roasting pan. Drain the cabbage well and stir it into the pork. Cover with foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 to 45 minutes, to heat the pork and further wilt the cabbage.

  • Heavy-duty wide aluminum foil
  • 1 5 to 6-pound bone-in pork Boston butt, or 1 3 to 4-pound boneless pork Boston butt, washed and patted dry with paper towels
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon liquid smoke, or more to taste
  • 1/4 cup Hawaiian Salt (or kosher salt)
Spread a large piece of foil in a roasting pan or on a flat work surface (if using Viking Outdoor Gas Grill or C4 cooker), leaving plenty of foil hanging over the sides. Place the pork butt on top of the foil. Combine the water and liquid smoke and pour over the pork butt. Sprinkle with the coarse salt and seal completely.

Viking Ranges, Wall Ovens and Outdoor Electric Smoker Oven
Preheat oven our outdoor smoker oven to 325 degrees. Place roasting pan with pork in oven and cook for 3 to 4 hours, or until internal temperature of the meat reaches 200 degrees when checked with an instant-read thermometer. Remove pork from the oven and cool at room temperature for 15 minutes, until meat is cool enough to shred with your fingers.

Viking Outdoor Gas Grills
Preheat all grill zones on high for 5 minutes. Reduce one zone to medium-high and turn off other zones. Foil-wrapped pork on the zone that is turned off. Close lid and cook for 3 1/2-4 hours, until pork until internal temperature of the meat reaches 200 degrees when checked with an instant-read thermometer. Adjust grill setting on zone that is “on” to maintain temperature of 300 degrees, and avoid opening grill often as this decreases the grill temperature and increases cooking time. Remove pork from the grill and cool at room temperature for 15 minutes, until meat is cool enough to shred with your fingers.

Viking C4 Cooker
Remove grate from C4 and set aside. Crumple two pieces of newspaper and place in the bottom of your ceramic fire grate and place 2 to 3 handfuls of lump natural hardwood charcoal over the top. Open the bottom draft door completely, and light the newspaper in several places. When the newspaper is lit, close the dome by pulling the dome handle and slide the metal top completely open. Keep C4 unit closed until the canopy thermometer reaches desired temperature 325 degrees.

Open C4, place foil-wrapped pork in unit. Close canopy, close top damper three-fourths closed and bottom damper halfway. Cook, keeping C4 temperature between 300 and 325 degrees, for 3 to 4 hours, or until internal temperature of the meat reaches 160 degrees when checked with an instant-read thermometer.

Remove pork from the unit and cool at room temperature for 15 minutes, until meat is cool enough to shred with your fingers.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Pineapple Barbecue Sauce

  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup barbecue sauce
  • 1 cup pineapple preserves
  • 1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple in juice
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh gingerroot
Combine all ingredients in medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes, until slightly thickened. Pour into a bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Can be prepared up to 1 week ahead.

Makes 4 cups of sauce.
Kalua Pork Sandwiches

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Vacationing on the Hawaiian island of Oahu is paradise to be sure. The perfect weather, beautiful scenery and sunny beaches are beyond imagination. This food writer was in heaven while vacationing there years ago.