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 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.
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.
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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.
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!
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