Sunday, July 15, 2012

Kalua Pork...the crockpot edition

For anyone who has ever been to Hawaii, or knows anything about Hawaii, you know that they are known for a few foods:  Spam, Pineapple, and Kalua Pig.  
Yes, those are SPAM flavored macadamia nuts. 

Spam.  Side note...go see Spamalot.  We went and saw it this spring in San Francisco and it was magical.  I've seen several musicals, and this has to be my second favorite one I've ever seen.

You can buy spam at the grocery store, but you probably don't because it's terrible for you.
I hope you buy pineapple every chance you get, because it's delicious and really good for you.

Kalua pig.  If you are lucky enough to live near an authentic Hawaiian restaurant, you may be able to get it there.  I don't think any of us have the ability to roast a whole pig in an underground pit covered in banana leaves.

Dave and I at the Luau
My aunt and her family go to Hawaii about once a year.  She always talks about how good the food is there.  Like the pineapple shrimps (yes, shrimps) from the hole-in-the-wall place they like to visit.  We finally had the opportunity to go in November 2010, and I fell in love with the Island of Oahu.   Honolulu was decent, (it was like SF with warmer weather...I love SF, but I can go there anytime), but I really loved the other parts of the island that were less over-run with tourists.  I could definitely see myself visiting there many more times, maybe even take up temporary residency for a year or two and learn to slow down and live on Island Time.
The famous pineapple shrimps from
Fatty's Chinese Kitchen
International Marketplace - Honolulu
Luau Food - Yum yum yum!

One food that I have fallen in love with is kalua pig.  What is better than smoked pig? It's just so amazing, I started to try to find recipes to make it at home.  As I did some research, I found that people have been making an at home version of kalua pig by taking a pork shoulder/butt, covering it in the traditional Hawaiian Sea Salt, adding some liquid smoke for flavor, wrapping it in banana leaves and then foil, and slow roasting it in the oven for several hours.  

If you can slow roast something in the oven, that says to me that you can slow roast it in the crockpot.  I did a quick google search and found dozens, if not hundred of recipes for making pork in the crockpot!

I love my crockpot.  It doesn't heat up the house, and it uses way less energy than running an oven for hours.  Not to mention, it has dinner ready for me after work on the days where I'm too tired to ten get dinner from a drive-thru.  

The thing I love the most about this recipe, is that it helps me sleep later in the morning.  You actually start it the night before you want to eat it.  That appeals to this girl who hates waking up early, and would rather have 5 extra minutes of sleep than take 5 minutes to start the crockpot for dinner.  

 Around 9 or 10PM, gather your ingredients.

 1 Pork shoulder/butt, about 6-7lbs
Red Hawaiian Sea Salt
Liquid Smoke 

Place the pork in the crockpot fat side up.  

DO NOT TRIM OFF ANY OF THE FAT.  RESIST everything that Weight Watchers, South Beach Diet, Jenny Craig, and every other diet you have done for the past 20 years has told you. It will keep the pork moist as it cooks.  You will discard the fat AFTER it cooks, not before.  If you trim off the fat now, you will end up with very tough, shoe leather like pork, and that's not even appetizing to the dogs.

Add 2-3 tbl of liquid smoke.  Then sprinkle the roast with 
2-3 tbl of Red Hawaiian Sea Salt, covering the entire top of the pork. 

Now, set your crockpot for 20 hours.  

Yes, you read that correctly, 20 hours. 

Now for the hardest part of all.  

Put the lid on and walk away. 

Just like Christmas, there is no peeking!  Leave that lid on for all 20 hours.

Wake up the next morning to the smells of something akin to bacon wafting throughout your house.  

Resist the urge to cut off a chunk to eat on your way out the door, it's not ready yet.  It will be tough.  Go to work, and spend your day dreaming about a luau.  Because that's what your dinner is going to taste like tonight!

Then when your 20 hours is up, remove the pork from the crockpot to a large bowl or dish.  Reserve the juices.  Grab two forks and start to shed up that meat.  Remove any hunks of fat.  Add back some of the juices to keep the meat moist. 

Then you will have a nice, beautiful bowl full of mouthwatering "kalua" pig.  

I like to serve it plain, on a bed of shredded cabbage with a side of rice, just like at a luau.  Turn on some Iz, close your eyes, and pretend you are in Paradise.

Unless you are feeding 14 people, you will probably have a ton of leftovers.  That's awesome!  Because now it can be made into dozens of different recipes.  Oh and did I mention, it freezes great?  Just pop a couple cups into a freezer ziplock and pull out for your next amazing meal.  I wouldn't freeze it longer than 2-3 months or else it will get freezer burned.

Some of the things I have made with the leftovers:

Taco/Burrito Filling - crisp up in a frying pan with some diced ortega chilies and taco seasoning.  Serve with mango salsa. 

Enchilada Filling - Mix with Green Enchilada sauce, spoon not a tortilla, roll up, top with cheese and more sauce, bake until hot and melty. 

BBQ pulled pork - Mix with your favorite BBQ sauce.  Serve hot on it's own or on make it into sliders using King Hawaiian rolls with a small scoop of coleslaw on top. 

Omelet - Add pork with your favorite omelet fillings

Nachos - Top a pile of chips with your favorite kind of cheese, add pork, green onions, and pineapple salsa

Breakfast scramble - Fry up potatoes, veggies, and pork.  Add eggs and scramble.  Top with some cheese and your favorite hot sauce. 

Soup - I actually haven't made this, but my coworker did.  We had a pulled pork taco bar potluck one time.  She took leftover pork, mexican rice, refried beans, salsa, and a bunch of other things, threw it all in the crockpot and make it into a delicious soup.  (Note to self:  get that "recipe")

Words to the Wise: I have found out that if you use a smaller, leaner piece of pastured pork instead of say a giant fatty roast from Costco, the pork will dry out, it won't create any of those yummy juices that keep it moist, and it will burn.  While I always advocate to use organic meats that were raised locally and humanely, I can't say that this is the best option for the recipe.  I would work with your local farmer to make sure you get a large, fatty piece of meat, or buy one from a store you feel comfortable with. If you do use a leaner cut of meat, I would add water to the crockpot, or else it will dry out and burn.  

Shared at Full Plate Thursday's


  1. Hi Mellissa,
    What a great recipe with so many different ways to use it. Hope you are having a fabulous weekend and thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen
    A New Follower

  2. Mellissa,
    This looks scrumptious! I can’t wait to try the recipe. I love finding new crock pot recipes. Thanks so much for linking up last week to Creative Thursday. Can’t wait to see what you have for this week’s party! Have a great week.