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Pressure-cooked Kalua Pig

Success! Ah yes my friends, this second time around I’ve successfully made Kalua Pig — “Kalua Pork” if you prefer the sound of that — in my new pressure cooker. This, after FAILING MISERABLY in my first attempt.

As I’ve suggested in comments from my previous post about “My First Pressure Cooker“, the ideal goal of using a pressure cooker should be about both speed and simplicity. Well, this method of making cooking Kalua Pig certainly exemplifies both those virtues in using this “wonder gadget” of a cooking tool. Which, again must say, I’m convinced in this resource-crunched, energy-starved world, that EVERY household should have and use on a regular basis.

Here’s how I did it.

I began by deeply scoring the fat cap on a MASSIVE 7¼-pound pork butt (shoulder) that’s been thawed from previously-frozen state. Then I rubbed it generously on all sides with Wright’s Concentrated Hickory Seasoning Liquid Smoke (the must-have Kiawe wood “nevah stay get Imu’d” substitute), followed by an also generous sprinkling of Hawaiian rock salt. That’s it. NEVER use anything else on your Kalua Pig. No garlic salt. No ginger powder. Believe me, I’ve seen recipes like that before, which always makes me CRINGE. NO!!!! Keep is SIMPLE folks.

Then in it went DIRECTLY in the pressure cooker pot, resting on the bottom, fat cap side up, cut side down, using NO steamer basket.  Just directly resting in the pot. The theory behind that, is that I wanted the bottom to get browned from the heat, so that there’s some “roasted” flavor going on. Then I added 2 cups of water, to which it looked like this…

Fearing it would scorch, burn and essentially turn out rancid like it did in my first attempt, this time, instead of wrapping the pork butt entirely with Ti Leaves, I added it around just the sides like this…

Then topping it generously with layer-upon-layer of Ti Leaves like this, making sure to tuck both ends of each Ti Leaf tightly in so the overall “build” within didn’t obstruct the pressure valves on the underside of the lid, keeping in mind that my 6-quart pressure cooker must have at least one-third of its total capacity reserved to build pressure…

Cover it up, lock the lid, set the switch to “High”, put it on the stove, set the fire to HIGH, then once the yellow pressure button indicator pops up, TURN THE FIRE DOWN TO LOW and start the time for 1½ hours.

As is emphasized in LOCKED CAPS in the previous sentence, LOW HEAT from the stove top fire source is all this pressure cooker needs once it hits 15 PSI, whereas, the big mistake I made in my first ever use of my pressure cooker was leaving the flame on HIGH, which pretty much “blew” the valve.

Keep in mind that, although the heat is reduced to low from the stove top source, the heat within the pressure cooker itself remains at a stable, high pressure 257ºF temperature, which PENETRATES the meat fibers throughout the entire cooking time, in a way conventional oven roasting can’t be achieved.

After about an hour of pressure cooking time, steam starts to slowly release from the automatic valve switch, due to the pressure increasing beyond the valve’s designed threshold…

At this INCREDIBLY QUICK 1 hour cooking point, you already begin to get a drift of “Luau” aroma that wafts in the air from the combined smell of the near-tender pulled pork that’s been thoroughly infused with the flavor of liquid smoke, Hawaiian Salt and Ti Leaves.

1½ hours is up, so I turn off the fire, then turn the valve switch to “release” to depressurize the cooker, which takes about a minute or two to blow all the hot steam out. Once the yellow pressure button drops down, I remove the cover, where it looks like this uncovered…

Aaaaahhhhhh… ooooooohhhhhh… aahhhhh.

The Ti Leaves certainly look like they’ve been “extracted of their essence”, yet amazingly still look incredibly GREEN, and not parched at all.

Uncovering the Ti Leaves, the 1½-hour pressure cooked pork looks like this…

LOOKS tender. Now let’s find out if it’s REALLY done and ready for “pulling”, where the tools of choice are simply two forks…

I really shouldn’t have done it yet at this stage, but I drained the liquid in a heat-proof container, although of course I saved it, as that’s the “essence” of your Kalua Pig… it’s all in that liquid!

But nope, not quite ready yet, as after that 1½-hours pressure cooking time, underneath the top layer of buttery-tender pork and fat cap, the inside part of this massive pork butt was still tough and resistant…

No probs. Put back the rendered Ti Leaves, drained liquid and cover it back up, brought it to back to pressure, then I decided a half-hour (30 minutes) should be enough more time to fully cook this “butt” to pulled-pork tenderness to the very core…

My “guesstimate” proved correct, as sure enough, the 30 minutes of additional pressure cooking time, plus the time it took to let it cool down naturally, which took another 30 minutes, resulted in absolutely ONOLICIOUS, fork-tender pressure-cooked 7 pounds (starting weight) of Kalua Pig…

Once again, that MASSIVE 7½ pound pork butt turned into falling-off-the-bone, super-moist, tender ‘n tasty Kalua Pig in just 2½ hours in my 6-quart pressure cooker. If THAT isn’t incredibly energy-efficient and outright statistically AMAZING if you understand cooking basics, I don’t know what is!

Here in this next shot, you see I’ve saved the cooking liquid, as, once again, this has the “essence” of the Kalua Pig, which you should add to the meat slowly until it reaches just the right amount of moisture and flavor profile that you’re happy with…

Notice in the cooking liquid is the one single bone this pork shoulder had in it.

7.5 lbs. bone-in pork butt cooked for a total of 2 hours under pressure + 30 minutes natural release = a bone that LITERALLY fell off the meat…

At this final stage after you’ve added the liquid drippings to the moisture and flavor profile you like, the last thing you want to do is adjust the seasoning by adding more Hawaiian rock salt to taste, if necessary. Yet be VERY careful when doing this, and by all means, DO NOT go overboard! Remember when salting foods, you can always add, but you can’t subtract. If in doubt, have someone who has a “good palate” do the salt seasoning taste testing for you. I’m pretty good about it, as I’m quite sensitive to sodium on my tongue.

Now to illustrate how my method of not using a steamer basket (and following directions) worked out beautifully, notice here that there was absolutely NO burning or scorching of the pork (or Ti Leaves for that matter, thank GOD!) on the bottom of the pressure cooker pot after all was said and done…

Nothing but net…

Just add poi, live Hawaiian music, hula dancing, da’ pa’ina gang, and we’ve got ourselves a Luau!…

With this, you can also do all kinds of other fun ‘n tasty stuffz.

Oh, like say, being adventurous and going south of the border, “KP style”

Or bowl-up some hot steamed rice and top it with the all-time fave’ Kalua Pig ‘n Cabbage

Summing it up, I give my pressure-cooked Kalua Pig in this successful method an absolutely moist ‘n tender, super onolicious 4 SPAM Musubi.

I honestly must admit that roasting it in the oven or of course in an Imu tastes better, as, if you were to compare it with this pressure-cooked Kalua Pig, you could tell this tastes more “steamed”. Still, at just 2-½ hours of cooking time using this no-fuss method, I have absolutely no complaints!

Follow my energy and time-saving instructions here on making Kalua Pig with your pressure cooker, and I’m confident that — providing you understand the dynamics of your own pressure cooker — you too will have fantastic results!


33 thoughts on “Pressure-cooked Kalua Pig

  • April 11, 2015 at 8:15 am

    Thanks for the recipe . This is one of  if not the best pulled pork I’ve had. I couldn’t find and leaves so I used a banana with the peel. I’m going to be making this on a regular basis. 

    • April 11, 2015 at 12:53 pm

      Aloha Mike,

      Glad you enjoyed the recipe, and especially glad you insisted to at least use Banana leaves, since you couldn’t get Ti leaves. Those leaves really do impart that “Hawaiian” and/or “Island” flavor into the pork. I honestly think the roasting version has a bit better flavor than the pressure cooker, however you can’t beat the short time it takes in the pressure cooker, if that’s a factor.

  • June 4, 2016 at 5:38 pm

    Aloha e Pōmai,

    Mahalo for documenting this! We adapted your recipe to the Instant Pot pressure cooker. I should have taken pictures.

    5.5 lb roast
    1.5 Tbsp Hawaiian Salt
    2 Tbsp Wright’s liquid smoke
    1 cup water
    Tī leaves
    Manual setting for 120 minutes

    We found that using the rack inside the pot helped cook the bottom of the roast. It must be because of the water we add which submerges that part of the roast which does not cook as well as the top part.

    Ke aloha nō, Liko


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