web analytics

Big Island Smoked Pork

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, minced
  • Fresh Garlic, 5 large cloves, minced
  • Hawaiian Chili Pepper, 3 pieces, minced

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 down.

*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

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.

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!

Remove the cooled shoyu-based marinade from the refrigerator and pour it over the pork then toss to coat thoroughly. You can also lomi 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)
  • A chimney starter and newspaper (or your most successful way of starting a BBQ fire)
  • 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!

Now get your charcoal briquettes started. 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.

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.

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!

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!

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.

Big Island Smoked Pork, served with a bowl of Poi… Broke Da’ Mout’!

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!

Only when the internet has “smell-o-vision” will you fully be able to grasp how good this local delicacy really is. The closest thing to it is bacon. Go fry some and tell me that doesn’t smell awesome? Of course it does! Well this BLOWS bacon out the door and takes smoked pork to another level. While it’s not exactly healthy due to the high sodium and fat, on occasion and in moderation, it’s one of the tastiest of indulgences that you’ll ever experience.

**In Memory of Uncle Jack**

The Tasty Island related links:

Coverage: 5th Annual ‘Hogs Gone Wild’ Smoked Meat Cook-off

Coverage: 4th Annual Up in Smoke Cook-off

3rd Annual ‘Up in Smoke Challenge’

1st Annual Smoked Meat Competition a Big Hit

Kalua Pig Roasted in a Barbecue Grill

Smoked Tako (Hawaiian He’e Octopus), prepared 4 + 3 Ways


59 thoughts on “Big Island Smoked Pork

  • January 24, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    unko that looks so delicious, definetly like your tecnique can’t wait to give it a go here in Alaska!!

  • April 30, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    Mahalo bro, the mangos are about to drop and then the pork will come. Going to give your recipe a go. Aloha

  • March 28, 2013 at 9:27 pm

    thank you for the step by step instructions & pictures. i have always wondered about the process. it seems easier than i thought. i guess i will find out, i might try it this this wekend.

  • August 11, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    The next time I make Portuguese bean soup, I’ll try adding a few slices of this along with the ham hock.

    • August 11, 2013 at 1:56 pm


      Honestly I don’t think that would be a good idea. The kiawe smoke and caramelized char from the shoyu-sugar marinade would totally change the flavor of the Portuguese Bean Soup, making it taste like smoked meat soup. If you do, try just a small batch first, not the whole pot!

  • August 11, 2013 at 11:49 pm

    Yumm I remember that taste so well, thank you. From Carol in Austraila

  • November 20, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    Mahalos Pomai…from a long-time lurker and first-time commenter. Tried this recipe/method on my Weber while on vacation last week, 3 lb “test batch”. Came out mean! Wife was so ono for ‘um she went out and bought 6 more lb’s for me to smoke the next day, so she could share with family, friends, and co-workers. Thanks for messing up my vacation! Nah, was all worth it tho. Except now everyone asking for hana hou!!!

    • November 20, 2013 at 5:44 pm


      Glad to hear yet another successful first-time attempt at this recipe. When I said “you better make plenty, because once everyone smells and tastes it, it’s gonna’ get wiped out fast”, I really meant it!

      I’m curious how you found this Big Island Style Smoked Pork recipe. Search engine? Regular reader of this blog, only now attempting it? Social Media link? Personal recommendation? Or AroundHawaii.com?

  • November 21, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    Longtime reader of this blog, but only now attempting. Been looking for something “fun” to do with my Weber other than just grilling meat/veggies/seafood. I think i was searching the index for your smoked tako post, because i remembered being intrigued that you used a regular Weber to do it. Came across this post and figure i try ‘um out instead since i really prefer my tako poke-style rather than smoked (haha!).

    • November 23, 2013 at 8:30 am


      Which is why I chose the smoke meat recipe for my first entry on the AroundHawaii.com website. Being, knowing folks are looking for creative new ideas for Thanksgiving feast, that would be a popular one to try. GUARANTEED, if you have a plate of roasted turkey and a plate of Big Island style Smoke Meat next to each other, the Smoke Meat will get wiped out first. Did you create a heat shield out of an aluminum pan like I instructed? That essentially just buys you more cooking space in the Weber.

  • February 9, 2014 at 6:53 am

    Everytime my Ohana come visit me from Hilo I used to say “no forget to bring me some smoke meat and potagee sausage” but now I going make um my self! LOL Much Mahalos for da great step by step recipe. I no mo one old iron roof smoke house in the back yard but I get one smoker! Mahalo’s again.

    Braddah Rob

    • February 9, 2014 at 3:42 pm

      Howzit Braddah Rob,

      Glad to hear yet another success story on this recipe. Woot!

      But oh yeah, no can beat da’ Kulana brand Blood Sausage and Frank’s Podagee Sausage that only stay get on da’ Big Island (and some stores on Maui). I should try make my own Podagee Sausage, being I’m half Portuguese. Then I can say, “You like some of Pomai’s thick ‘n juicy Podagee Sausage?” LOL!

  • September 13, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    Hey this is great but gotta add the guava jam and onions when you fry it…ONOLICIOUS..!!!

    • September 16, 2014 at 6:25 am


      Sounds like a winnah! Another idea would be to substitute the sugar, instead using Guava Jam or Jelly as the sweetener in the Shoyu-based marinade. I’ve done BBQ Baby Back Ribs one time using Guava Jelly as the sweetener in the BBQ Sauce, and it turned out ono! Tasted just like the “Guava Glazed BBQ Ribs” they serve in the restaurants.

  • March 16, 2015 at 5:40 am

    Much Mahalo for this recipe. As this site shows you can adjust to taste. This is a winna base. I like mine sweeter 1:1 sugar to shoyu and hotter. I add two ghost chilli peppers to the basic recipe. I also soak it for three days plus. The problem I have with this recipe is I make 40lbs at a time and poof it’s all gone. My friends here in Utah just wack um.

    Mahalo for the recipe

  • March 16, 2015 at 6:27 am

    Pomai, I used peach as it was free. My wife loved it. She did not care for the pork I made using mesquite. Guava is still the best but when in Rome use what they provide you. Apple and Cherry are also available so I’ll be trying these woods soon. Each wood adds its own flavor and your recipe is so good the pork is wiped out in no time. So why not try the different woods. I throw in a slab of short ribs around ten pounds with hawaiian salt along with a rack of pork ribs when I smoke. Your stuff goes first. Soooo ono.

    Mahalo again Bradda

    • March 16, 2015 at 7:41 am

      Aloha Marc,

      Yup, cannot beat the ginger, garlic, chili pepper, sugar and shoyu-based “Hawaiian Paniolo” style smoked meat… that’s da’ best, and your friends in Utah prove it!

      Indeed, some local meat smokers here also don’t like Kiawe/Mesquite, as if you overdo it (put too much smoking wood or let it smoke too long), the final smoked flavor of the meat becomes too strong, pungent and/or bitter.

      That kinda’ happened to me when I smoked Tako for the first time, however mainly because I didn’t realize how much of a “sponge” Tako meat is… those buggahz really absorb the flavor of the marinade and smoke you make ‘me wit’! Plus, I tried to cook and smoke the tako at the same time… no can. Gotta’ cook da’ tako in beer first, then smoke ’em for a only a short amount of time.

      Still, one of the meat smoking competitors won overall best at a competition several years ago using nothing but Kiawe, so it really comes down to how good you are at managing it.

      There’s a company called ‘Guava Smoked’ who uses nothing but wild (invasive to Hawaii) “Strawberry” Guava wood. Good stuff!

      I’m curious how this recipe would turn out using nothing but Lychee wood.

      There’s a guy named “Crash” who competes in smoking competitions here on Oahu, who only uses fruit wood such as Apple, Cherry and Peach wood imported from the mainland, as he finds the taste much more pleasing. They come in kiln-dried hardwood branch chunks that are easy to manage. He gave me a couple pieces of Apple and Cherry wood to experiment with, however I never got around to it (yet). Anyways, that said, Crash has been winning the “Best Smoked Chicken” category every year since, using those fruit woods. See the local meat smoking competition links I provided right after the post above.

  • March 20, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    You say to leave top and bottom vents fully open. No way will this cook at 200-225. This will be a hot fire.

    • March 20, 2015 at 2:32 pm


      Then my Cooper thermometer must have been giving me the wrong temperature, as that’s where it read throughout the cooking process every time I’ve smoked pork using it in the 22″ Weber kettle grill with the cover on. Keep in mind, I use very little coals and only a small amount of mesquite (Kiawe) for smoke, all tucked on one side of the cooking area, keeping the meat away from direct heat as much as possible, which is why I fabricated that heat shield out of a pan.

      Whatever the case, the smoked pork I’ve made using that thermometer and method always turns out fantastic, not ever being dried out or burnt. Just the right amount of moisture in the meat, thanks to the shoyu-based marinade/brine.

  • March 20, 2015 at 5:33 pm

    I just started a batch of spare rib trimmings to cook this way. Gotta do something with them! Well, I apologize! I am using a ceramic kamado cooker,  I know it is air tight, and I know my grill. It must be the wet marinade, I am having to monitor my temperature, which is a probe thermometer at grill level. The meat has been on for an hour now, I  did have to have my vents , both top and bottom, fully open, to regain 215F after  placing meat on the grill. Temperature is now stable after the first hour. I don’t usually cook with marinated meat, usually use dry rubs. The temperature variances differ greatly. Thanks for the recipe, it is pretty much the same recipe I use for huli huli chicken on my Weber.

  • March 20, 2015 at 5:41 pm

    After monitoring for the first hour, after many adjustments, I am now stable at 210. IO think I will have to keep an eye on it, usually my fully open cooker is over 1000F!

    • March 20, 2015 at 6:46 pm

      Aloha Jack,

      Sounds like you got the weekend off to an onolicious start, smokin’ some meat on a Friday night! How many beers have ya’ gone through already? lol J/K.

      Is this the first time you’re smoking pork that’s been marinaded with shoyu, sugar, garlic, ginger and chili peppers? If so, you’re going to be in for an awesome treat! Good luck hanging on to it, as your family’s going to rush it! I’m sure you’re gonna’ love it!  Keep us posted on the results! Happy meat smokin’, Hawaiian style!

  • March 20, 2015 at 8:28 pm

    No,many pork butts and ribs under my belt. As i said, your recipe is nearly identical to my huli huli sauce. I’m surprised you have no reference to huli huli chicken on your site, have I not found it yet?

  • March 20, 2015 at 8:29 pm

    Oh, yes, first time doing a wet marinated smoke. Not the usual

  • March 20, 2015 at 8:32 pm

    It’s almost done! Too bad I can’t post a pic, it looks very awesome! Yea, gotta have beer to pass the time smokin’!

    • March 20, 2015 at 8:57 pm


      Oh yeah, smokin’ meat is like fishing: you need something relaxing to do to pass the time as you patiently wait. lol

      Please email me the photos of your smoked pork, and I’ll share it in the comments here. My email is on the About page.

      Here’s a link to The Tasty Island’s review of Hoku’s “Huri Huri” Chicken (spun name of Huli Huli Chicken).

  • April 8, 2015 at 5:53 pm

    I don’t see a link to email pics of my awesome smoke meat. I’m doing this recipe for the third time now. Country style pork ribs, not ribs but that’s what they call them in California’s markets, are sliced pork shoulder. Makes this recipe even easier. I’ve had some marinating a day and a half, on the smoker now. Got me thinking. This is a Good marinade. I think it can be used for buckboard bacon, which is bacon made from pork shoulder. More meat than belly bacon.  I’m getting some ready to try this. Any bacon cure usually used should work, just have to wait longer, 7-14 days depending on how thick it is.

    • April 8, 2015 at 6:03 pm

      Aloha Jack,

      Check your inbox at the email address you provided with your comment. Simply reply to that message I sent you with your photos and I’ll get them.

      Wow, if you’re doing this recipe for the third time now, it must have been well-received! Great to hear, my friend! Never heard of “Buckboard Bacon” until you mentioning, notably that it uses pork shoulder vs. belly pork. I actually wanted to try doing this smoked meat recipe vice versa: using belly pork vs. pork shoulder, thinking the fat would be CRAZY TASTY with this shoyu-based marinade/brine.

      I’m curious: are you rubbing the meat with rock sea salt before soaking it in the marinade brine solution? I found through experience, that makes a huge difference in flavor and texture for the final result, and is amiss without it. The secret is not using too much salt, though. Just enough to let the pork meat take it in. Sort of a “light rain” sprinkling effect in application, then you gotta’ “lomi” (massage) the salt into the raw pork.

      Another cut you might wanna’ try smoking with this Big Island style marinade/brine is a pork shank. Or shoots, the whole leg, from shank, to hock to foot!

      The Tasty Island

  • April 8, 2015 at 11:22 pm

    I’m pretty sure this will work just as well on pork belly.

    • April 9, 2015 at 8:11 am


      Are you going to send me those pictures of your smoked meat results? I’m anxious to see it! Check your email (the one you provided to comment here).

  • April 9, 2015 at 8:18 am

    Pomai, my wife gave me Beef Jerky Chips from Ilima Shell gas station in Kahului. Definitely worth your attention. Beef jerky prepared like potato chips.

    • April 9, 2015 at 8:45 am


      There’s a place on Oahu named Kaimuki Grill (in Kaimuki of course) that’s famous for their Beef Jerky Chips. See Catherine Toth interview them in this YouTube video:

  • June 28, 2018 at 9:25 pm

    Looking to buy best Beef Jerky in Australia? visit 24k Jerky. We produce our mouth-watering beef jerky. We also produce dried Jerky, Gold Jerky etc. Want to know where to buy the best beef jerky in Australia? Right here at 24k Jerky.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: