Big Island Smoked Pork - Part 1

  • Some of the links on this forum allow SMF, at no cost to you, to earn a small commission when you click through and make a purchase. Let me know if you have any questions about this.
SMF is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.


Fire Starter
Original poster
Mar 20, 2007
Honolulu, Hawaii

Big Island Smoked Pork, served with a bowl of Poi... Broke Da' Mout'!

Big Island Smoked Pork, also casually called "smoked meat" is a family tradition that goes back to generations of wild pig hunters and Paniolo ranchers on the island of Hawaii. It's probably done a similar way on most other Hawaiian islands, and everyone has their own secret flavoring or method to make it their own.
Presented here by yours truly is the basic way to make smoked pork "Big Island style".


Big Island Smoked Pork (smoked meat)
The meat:
  • Pork Butt, 5 lbs. or more, preferably boneless (easier to cut into steaks)
  • Hawaiian Salt (rock salt)
The marinade*:
  • Shoyu (use your favorite brand), 3 cups
  • Sugar, 1-2 cups
  • Fresh Ginger, 1 large finger
  • Fresh Garlic, 5 large cloves, chopped
  • Hawaiian Chili Pepper, 3 pieces
Combine all the marinade ingredients in a pot on the stove heated to medium. Add the sugar gradually and adjust to how sweet you want it. Make the shoyu/sugar ratio between 1:1 and 2:1 - the latter being less sweet. Up to you. You can also adjust the Chili Pepper heat to your own liking too. Again use your taste buds for best judgement! After the marinade ingredients are well incorporated and you're happy with the flavor, put it in the refrigerator to cool.

*In this demo I substituted the Shoyu and Sugar with a premixed bottle of Aloha Teriyaki Mango and Pineapple sauce, which has a nice shoyu-sugar balance right out of the bottle. All I added to it was the ginger, garlic and chili pepper. Never needed to heat it on the stove since the sugar was already incorporated.


Marinade base: Aloha Shoyu


Marinade flavor components (clockwise from bottom left): Hawaiian Salt, Ginger, Hawaiian Chili Pepper (very hot!), Sugar (Hawaiian Cane variety shown) and Garlic

Continued Part 2...
Continued from Part 1...


I found this bottle of Mango Pineapple Teriyaki Glaze on clearance at Costco for a song ($1.97/half-gallon)! So I substituted the marinade foundation using this. So easy!

Prepare the pork butt...


5 lbs. of boneless Pork Butt well marbelized with fat (for flavor of course!)

Safety first!
Remember to always wash your hands, cutting board and utensils thoroughly after handling pork. And don't cut yourself, just the pork!

Cut the pork butt into "steaks" approximately 3/4" to 1" thick. There's no rhyme or reason, but don't make them too thin, or the finished pieces could end up dry. Here's that same piece after the knife...


Boneless Pork Butt cut into steaks

While they're spread out on the cutting board, sprinkle each piece lightly with Hawaiian Salt and lomi (massage) the salt into the all sides of the meat. This will add a burst of flavor to the finished product and also help the brining process. Be careful not to overdo it.

Continued to part 3...

Continued from part 2...

Place the cut up and salted pork butt into a pan deep enough to marinade them in (or you can put them in Ziploc bags if you prefer)...

The shoyu/sugar/ginger/garlic/chili pepper marinade begins to impart their ono flavor!

Take the cooled marinade out of the refrigerator and add it into the pan (or Zip Loc) with the pork and toss to coat thoroughly. You can also lomi (remember that means to massage!) the marinade into the pork. Cover the pan with foil or plastic wrap (or zip up the bag) and place the marinaded pork butt into the refrigerator and and let it soak overnight or up to 24 hours. Perhaps you can let it marinade longer, but this is the longest I've done it.

Let's get smokin'!

Traditionally, many big island folks have a "smoke house" that's built specifically for this duty. Others have consumer brand smokers such as the Weber Smokey Mountain "WSM" model. Well, I'm just a casual smokin' hobbiest, so what I have here is my method using an off the shelf Weber 22-1/2" model Kettle Barbecue grill. Who woulda' thought?!

The tools and fuel of this trade:
  • Large, charcoal burning barbecue grill with a cover (in this case the Weber Classic 22" kettle model)
  • Smoking wood: Kiawe branches/logs and/or; Mesquite and/or: Guava branches/logs
  • Charcoal briquettes (at least 5 lbs. worth to be safe)
  • Lighter fluid or a chimney starter and newspaper (firestarter equipment
  • A lighter or matches
  • Small disposable foil pan for water
  • 9"x13" disposable foil service pan used to make modifications (see following instructions)
  • Water
Because this is a low temperature smoking process of around 200 degrees F., you need to create a heat shield in the grill to protect the meat from burning or overcooking. Here's how!

First you take an aluminum disposable pan and cut the corner walls so you can shape it into a "shield"...


Then you set up the grill for smoking like this...


In the photo above, about 10 briquettes of charcoal are placed on one side of the grill. Then "heat shield" pan is bent into a position over the coals at an angle to shield the charcoal flame-up area as shown. It's held in place by the weight of the water-filled pan placed on one of the "shield pan's" flap at the center. This looks strange, but's it's very effective at keeping the heat away from the meat and maximizing the smoking space in the grill. If this looks like too much extra set-up work for you, just go buy a smoker, but this does indeed work!

Continued to Part 4...
Continued from Part 3...

Now you'll start the briquettes using the lighter fluid. Once they're ashed over, place the cooking grate on the grill, and begin layout out the marinaded pork on the grate like this...

Notice how the aluminum heat shield below the opening of the grate comes right to up to that point, maximizing the effective smoking capacity inside the grill

Make sure to positions the cooking grate where the opening is over the charcoal, so you can add smoking wood without having to remove the grate every time. This will make life much easier here!

Once you have all your raw, marinaded (brined) pork spread out on the grill surface, you can add your smoking wood to the charcoal pyre through the opening as shown above. The initial wood I'm using here is Mesquite wood chips that have been pre-soaked in water.

As soon as the wet mesquite are added, it begins to smoke...

What else to do? COVER IT!...


Yes, cover it and set the vents underneath the fire and on the lid to full open position. You want as much air circulation as possible.

Continued to Part 5...
Continued from Part 4...

What do you do now? Go grab a cold beverage and let's talk a little about smoking woods!

In Hawaii, three types of smoking woods are typically mentioned: Kiawe (same family as Mesquite, and the most popular), Guava (yes from the fruit tree's namesake) and Lychee.

Here I have three varieties I've used for this particular smoking session...


Top to bottom: Kiawe, Guava and Mesquite (chips, pre-soaked in water)

The Kiawe shown above are smaller pieces that I prefer using for this duty, as they're easier to add through that small opening in the grill grate. All these woods are very dense and fairly difficult to cut in comparison to other woods, whether you're using an axe, handsaw or chainsaw. They'll give you and your saw blade a workout!

The Kiawe - especially the large pieces - have the longest burn time of the three here. Because the Mesquite is store-bought, they're already very dry and need the water soak in order to give off smoke. The Guava and Kiawe, found right in our backyard and/or given to us by relatives, still had residual moisture and therefore smoked naturally without the need for a water soak. But you could do that if necessary.

Part of the fun (yes it's fun!) of smoking meat is the gathering of family and friends while the process goes on, and everyone anticipating the finished result. Also, something primal about tending to a smoking fire with meat on it is just, well, so satisfying and relaxing!

Back to business now! This process takes a total of 4 hours at a temperature of approximately 200 - 220 degrees F. Here I've used a regular old meat thermometer to read the temperature of the "smoking" chamber inside the grill...


Whenever you add more "fuel" (the smoking wood and/or charcoal), the reading will jump over 220, but then it will drop down to around there. That's fine. Keep a watch on the smoke coming out the top vent(s). When there is absolutely no smoke escaping, it's time to add more smoking wood. Uncover it and simply place more of either variety shown previously through the opening in the cooking grate. If the fire seems to be weak (burning embers are dying), add a few charcoal briquettes, along with the smoking wood. This will help maintain the pyre. As soon as you see it smoking again, cover it!

After 2 hours of smoking time, it will look like this...

Brush with reserve marinade

Although not necessary, at this point you may brush them with some of the reserve marinade for additional moisture and flavor. What the heck, I did.

Continued to Part 6....
Continued from Part 5...

Keep it covered and maintain a lighter smoke towards the last 2 hours of the smoking time. When it's done, they'll look like this!...

All pau (finished)!

Notice how the pieces closer to the fire formed a darker crust, but that's O.K., as these pieces are thicker than the pieces surrounding it. It's ALL GOOD!

A close-up of finished pieces...


Remove and place in a pan...


Notice (above) the grill marks from the underside of the pork, and a golden-brown caramelized finish from the sugar and shoyu marinade.
Let it cool, then you're ready for service, and/or you can store it away in Zip Loc bags (or even better in Seal-a-Meal bags) and store in the refrigerator or freezer for a future dining event...


Be sure to mark the name and date. This stuff is considered "gold" in the freezer!

Continued to Part 7...

Continued from Part 6...

These are actually not fully cooked yet. Similar to bacon, you need to pan fry it before you serve it. In the case of Big Island Smoked Pork, the best way to to it is to fry them until the edges are "papa'a", or slightly burnt at the edges. That's the best!

Slice into bite size pieces like this...

Notice the pink color inside and glazed edges. Perfect! All they need now is a quick pan fry!

Place a frying pan on the stove on medium-high heat. No is oil necessary, since the fat from the pork will melt and create its own. Add the sliced smoked pork...


All that oil came from the natural fat in the pork... so bad, yet so good!

Keep a close eye, as the sugar will caramelize and burn quickly, flip them as soon as they begin to crisp on the edges like this...


When they look like this on both sides, remove them immediately onto a paper towel to drain the excess oil. If you're doing batches (most likely), keep draining the excess oil fat from the pan into a heat-safe container and discard properly.

Continued to Part 8 (final)...
Continued from Part 7...

My favorite accompaniment with Big Island style Smoked Pork is POI! The salty rich flavor and heat of the meat, followed by a chaser of the smooth texture, cool temperature and mild flavor of the poi is as perfect as it gets. But you can just as well serve them as a pupu (appetizer) just by itself. Another good accompaniment are sliced raw Maui Onions. Stir fry perhaps? Or you could get creative and use it as a substitute for bacon in recipes that call for that.

The wafting smell of smoked pork while they're being fried in the kitchen will have everyone running in asking, "what is that? I want some!". Before you know it, all your Big Island Style Smoked Pork will be wiped out, so make plenty! Trust me.. this stuff goes fast!

Awesome looking!! I've never heard of mango pineapple teriyaki, but that sounds awesome!!! I'll bet that would be good on salmon. Giving you a well deserved point on your presentation and instructions...
Well done! ... that is some of the best food porn I have seen here!

Bravo! Can't even imagine where I could get some of those ingredients here in Ontario, Canada ....

Yes ... I'm drooling!

that presentation made me throw away my cheerios and heat up some pulled pork i had in the freezer, sure looked tasty
Tonto, I only used that product as a marinade because it was convenient and CHEAP! (only $1.97/half-gallon on clearance at Costco). Its main flavor components are the soy sauce and sugar, which you can buy anywhere. The mango and pineapple flavors (which I didn't check whether they were articial or naturally added) mostly get masked out/burnt off during the smoking process. Unless you're interested in using it for other cooking purposes.

Thanks everyone for the kind comments. Friendly board here!

Since you folks like the term "food p@rn", this is truly how to serve this Big Island style Smoked Meat and (smoked) Kalua Pig I posted in the other thread. We celebrated a birthday Luau last night, and here's the plate that was served (this is my dish)....


Hawaiian Luau Plate (starting from top left corner, then bottom left): Squid Luau (the green mushy lookin' stuff), Lomi Salmon (The tomato salsa lookin' stuff), Poi, Kalua Pig (the pulled pork), 2 pieces of BI Smoked Meat, Lau Lau (that mushy green stuff with pork mixed in it), Chicken Long Rice (that noodle stuff), Okinawan Sweet Potato (the purple slice), steamed Kalo (taro) and a Pineapple wedge.

Eating everything on that plate together, along with the smoked meat, is really what makes it especially delicious, or as we say here in Hawaii, "ono"!

So next time you visit the islands, if you have a chance to go to a Luau, chances are you'll find some of these items on the spread, EXCEPT the smoked meat. Many commercial luaus either don't know how, or won't go through the "hassle" (time constraints) of making it. They might have Pipikaula, which is a cured beef brisket, but I doubt that as well.

Try ask your server, "where's the smoked pork"? Chances are they'll point at the Kalua Pig, which is fine, but the Big Island Smoked Pork here is even better! is reader supported and as an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.