Photo by Warren Antiola

Photo by Warren Antiola

Looking to mix things up this Thanksgiving? Turkey is wonderful and always a hit, presuming it’s not overcooked. But there is no better time of the year than to try something new and different. This year consider cooking an entire pig in an imu. This is not only a fun process, but with a little planning it isn’t as difficult as you’d imagine.

And surely this doesn’t mean you have to skip on the turkey but your guests will likely pass it over in favor of the delicious pig as pig cooked in an imu is guaranteed to come out incredibly moist and delicious.

An imu is essentially an underground oven. When placed in the imu, the pig is steamed and smoked resulting in meat that is incredibly tender and easily falls apart and undoubtedly melts in your mouth.

First step when doing a full pig cook is sourcing the meat. Your food is only as good as it’s source so take time to find a good butcher. Nowadays, there is a plethora of boutique farmers that are sure to have excellent pigs that you can buy. It’s important to plan well in advance as your farmer of choice will need time to select a pig for you.

Let them know what you have planned and how many people on feeding and they’ll help you select the right size.

Don’t go for the cheapest pig you can find, quality and price are often related. Plan on spending a bit more but because you are buying an entire animal the per pound price should be reasonable.

The first step in preparing your imu cook is to dig a hole where your pig will e placed. Size of the hole will depend on the size of the pig.

Add your wood and rocks and then light the fire. It will take a few hours to get the rocks up to temperature, you want them very hot.

Once the rocks are close to the right temp, you will need to prep your pig. By putting the pig on chicken wire it will make it easier for alter removal from the pit so this step is highly recommended.

You can salt the pig and even add additional spices and seasonings if you’d like, but you’ll eat it with a sauce later so it isn’t as necessary. If you decide to season, add seasoning only to the inside of the carcass as anything added to the skin won’t penetrate the meat.

Spread out the heated rocks to create a flat space were you’ll be putting your pig. Add a few of the hot rocks to the inside of the carcass and tie it shut with wire.

Next you’ll be layering things to create your oven. First lay down banana stumps then some ti-leaves. Then place you pig on top of this and cover with more banana and ti-leaves.

Then you’ll place burlap sacks, make sure you have soaked them well before hand. Some people will also pour beer to add additional moisture and in theory flavor. This is up to you.

The pig at this point should be well covered doing your best to assure no steam is escaping. The final step is to place a tarp over everything. You can then bury it all with dirt which is the more traditional method. There are also ways of creating a tight seal using a water trench but burying is easier if you’ve never done this before.

Be sure that no steam is escaping as any heat loss will result in longer cooking times.

Now you wait. And wait and wait some more. Total cooking time should be about 6 to 8 hours and sometimes as longs as 10, depending on the size of the pig.

Once enough time has passed, layer by layer, you’ll take apart your oven ti get the meat. The pork should shred easily.

All in all, cooking a pig in an imu is not a simple task but like all things that take effort, the reward is great.

Below are some additional links and information on getting start with your first imu cook.

Aloha Friends has a great step by step list of how to have a successful imu cook. They also have some great options for substitutions for materials that you might not be able to find.

Pig Roast Vido Slideshow A great video slideshow that while help you visualize each step in the process.