Instructions for Creating an

Authentic Hawaiian Imu Underground Oven

 

PLEASE NOTE: OUR COMPANY IS NOT PERSONALLY EXPERIENCED IN CREATING AND COOKING WITH  IMU PITS. THE INFORMATION PROVIDED IS BASED ON INFORMATION GIVEN TO US BY SOMEONE WHO HAS EXPERIENCE IN CREATING AND COOKING WITH AN IMU PIT. WE DO NOT PROVIDE ANY ADDITIONAL INFORMATION OR ADVICE ON BUILDING OR COOKING WITH AN IMU PIT OTHER THAN WHAT IS FEATURED ON THIS PAGE. WE ASSUME NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR RESULTS USING THE INFORMATION PROVIDED ON THIS PAGE. IT IS PROVIDED FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY.

The Hawaiian tradition of roasting a whole pig in an underground oven called an imu creates the juiciest, tender, most delicious pork you will ever taste! Other meats as well as vegetables also come out tender and taste amazing roasted in an imu. Kālua is the traditional Hawaiian cooking method that means "to cook in underground oven". Food cooked in an imu are described using this term like kālua pork or kālua turkey.

The instructions for creating a traditional Hawaiian imu oven are simple but it is a labor intensive task to create the pit and prepare the imu.

Dig a hole, but not too deep or it will make it difficult to remove the cooked pig. For a 200lb pig the hole should be approximately 3 feet wide by 5 feet long by 1 foot deep.

Place newspaper and kindling on the bottom of the imu pit then stack mesquite wood on top of that extending at least 1 foot above the top of the pit. Mesquite briquettes can also be used. Arrange the lava rocks on top of the wood pile. The rocks should be of sufficient quantity to cover the bottom of the imu pit after the fire has burned down and also have enough to fill the stomach cavity of the pig.

Set the fire and let it burn to coals. Use volcanic rocks otherwise the rocks could explode once heated.

The fire should burn 1-1/2 to 2 hours. The rocks should be HOT, preferably white hot!

Set some hot rocks aside to put inside the pig.
Rake any remaining coals to one side, leaving the hot rocks bare.

Fill the inside of the cleaned and gutted pig's stomach cavity with hot rocks. Some people like to line the inside of the pig with banana or ti leaves prior to inserting the hot rocks. Slits can be cut into the skin to release steam.

Smaller food items going into the imu like fish, shellfish, and vegetables should be wrapped in ti or banana leaves to make bundles, like shown to the left. The food will steam cook inside the bundles.

On top of the hot lava rocks lay down about a 6 inch layer of leaves/stalks. You can use banana leaves, ti leaves, corn husks, corn stalks, banana stalks, Chinese cabbage or any combination. Place on top of the leaves a clean piece of chicken wire large enough to hold the pig and any other items you will be putting in the imu. Top the chicken wire with more leaves/stalks then place the pig with the rocks in it's stomach cavity on top. Put any other items you want to roast. Fresh leaves and stalks will release moisture when heated and create steam to cook the food. The chicken wire will make removing the tender cooked food a lot easier.

Have a minimum of 100 loose banana or ti leaves cleaned and ready to use.

Put a single layer of ti leaves or taro leaves over the food then cover everything in a thick layer of banana and/or ti leaves.

Burlap bags (50 minimum) well soaked in water can also be layered on top of the leaves to reduce the number of leaves needed for the imu.

Cover the entire imu mound with several layers of tarp or thick plastic sheeting.

Cover edges of the plastic with a generous amount of dirt to prevent air from getting in and steam from escaping. Shovel dirt over tarp and cook for 8-10 hours.

Check for steam leaks while the food cooks and fix if there are any. If you loose heat then the food will take longer to cook.
Once cooked, dig up and enjoy!

The imu takes 3-4 hours  or more to create and is hard work. It then takes 8-10 hours for the food to cook. Be sure to allow enough preparation time and recruit people to help. The imu can be created days in advance. The pig can be put in the night before your celebration then dug up in the early afternoon of your celebration.

Pork typically takes about 30 minutes per pound to roast in a 350 degree oven. The internal temperature should reach between 160 degrees for medium and 170 degrees for well done.

PHOTOS OF IMUS some people who build an Imp pit document their experience from start to finish and share them on their web sites so others can have a better understanding of what goes into the imu pit prep work and cooking processes.

IMU PIT EXAMPLE: http://www.primitiveways.com/Imu1.html

 

TIP: Banana leaves are usually available or can be special ordered from Asian markets on the Mainland USA. Some folks use watercress, large leafy cabbage, corn stalks, or ginger leaves in addition to the ti or banana leaves or when they are not available.

 

IMU PIT FEEDBACK

Below is feedback from people who have built an imu pit and how it worked out for them. If you would like to share your imu pit experience email us at aloha@alohafriends.com

 

IMU FEEDBACK - Our pit was 2x4x1 1/2 deep.  I lined the sides with thin fire brick.  For the fire I used apple wood and mesquite chips.  A friend of mine loaned me lava rock.  We got a 50 pound pig which fed 56 people with plenty of meat left over.  To create the steam I used 70 loose ti leaves plus I soaked about 25 burlap sacks to finish filling the pit.  I covered the sacks with 3 sheets of plastic and shoveled the dirt over it to plug up any steam leaks.  To prepare the pig I rubbed it with Hawaiian salt, put a couple of ti leaves inside, and added several small white-hot lava rocks.  The fire took about 2 hours to be ready for the pig, and I cooked it for 12 hours.  I let it rest about 1/2 hour before shredding the meat--pulling it apart by hand using rubber gloves.  I added more salt and served it with a sauce on the side.  It came out perfect! - Gary B.

 

IMU FEEDBACK - For our 70lb pig we ordered 76 loose ti leaves. We found we did not order enough Ti leaves. We had no banana leaves, no banana stalks, no lava rock, so we improvised. We substituted round (igneous) rocks for lava rock; we threw in some man made fire brick just to be safe. We used corn husks from the local produce section in place of ti/banana leaves. We used water soaked green wood in place of stalks. Other than that we followed the recipe and times. We had a 70lb pig split and quartered; came out absolutely delicious! - Frank D. of NY

 

If creating and cooking in a traditional Hawaiian imu seems like more work than you would like, we offer recipes for oven roasted kalua pork and kalua turkey here on AlohaFriends.com in the Popular Luau Recipes and Thanksgiving Luau Recipes!

If you enjoyed this information on creating a traditional Hawaiian imu then continue to explore AlohaFriends.com where you will many more FREE resources to assist in creating a fun Luau or Hawaii theme wedding anytime, anywhere including...

  • Popular Luau Recipes for Luau Party Food
  • First Name Translations into Hawaiian for Luau Party Name Tags
  • Popular Hawaiian Words and Phrases
  • Luau Party Decorating Suggestions
  • Hawaii Theme Cake Ideas
  • Fun Hawaii Theme Games
  • Hula Instruction to Learn to Hula Dance
  • Instructions on How to Make a Flower Lei
  • Resources to Learn to Play the Ukulele
  • Thanksgiving Theme Luau Menu
  • Christmas Theme Luau with Christmas Party Games & Recipes
  • Hawaii Theme Wedding Vow Suggestions
  • Decorating Ideas for Hawaii Theme Weddings
  • Traditions and Suggestions for Hawaii Theme Weddings and Vow Renewals

 

 

The Luau tips can also be modified to create a Hula theme, Tiki themed, or Polynesian themed party!

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