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So you're thinking about doing a Luau? Let me tell you that it is
lots of fun and lots of work, however it can be easy with good
planning and preparation. Success is extremely rewarding, people
will be coming to you and asking you do one for them. It is not
that hard if you have a couple of friends that you can count on
that would like to help you, it can be a lot of fun.

If you plan to do this at your house you need to notify your nearest
Fire Department of your intention so they dont come over needlessly
because someone called them just because theyve seen some smoke.
No need to get them upset at you and have them ruin a beautiful
party. While you're at it you should notify the Police Department
also. They don like it too much if nobody notifies them either.

The Imu (under ground oven)

So what is it and how does it work? Imu (pronounced eemoo), is the
underground pit oven the Hawaiians cook in. Usually large amounts
or large joints such as pork, beef, turkey, etc. Well, you already
know you have to build a fire so you will need about 1/8 cord of
fire wood (preferably hardwood). The secret is in the rocks. The
rocks , 8 - 10 in diameter should be volcanic, porous type, known
to hold heat for a long period of time. Also minimizes the chance
of rocks exploding while cooking your pig. You will need enough
to cover a 7x5 area at least one and a half times or two layers.

I have not used any other type of rock. I have talked to people
from Texas who swear by river rocks. I believe it can be done,
because once the pig is covered, the rocks are not getting any
hotter. Any explosion will most likely occur during the 2 hours
prior to putting the poaa (pig) into the imu.

I once did a kalua (baked) pig in San Diego, for my brothers wedding
reception, I made a couple of (surf) trips to Rosarito, Mexico to
get the rocks for my imu. I was told that my choices were to go
either to the state of Washington or Mexico for volcanic rocks.

The Banana trees and leaves are what gives the smoky flavor to the
kalua poaa. You will notice when you start to line the imu with
the trunks and leaves, the smoke will be billowy white and very
clean. You could walk through it and your eyes wont even water.
Thats right, its not just an oven, its a smoker!

Good thing Banana trees are easier to locate. You could look in
the yellow pages for a produce company that can get their hands on
some or you can drive around and look for anyone who might have
some in their back yards that wouldnt mind cutting down two (thats
all you need). You can remind them that if the tree already fruited
they need to be cut down so that they can fruit again - and they
grow back fast. If you absolutely cannot talk anyone out of their
banana trees, go back to your commercial produce vendor and purchase
banana leaves or some Ti Leaves. You don have to have the trunk
of the banana tree. you would just have to use more leaves.

Ti Leaves (pronounced tea), are not cheap, they cost approximately
$4.00 a dozen and you would need about 10-15 dozen. Believe me I
would rather drive around for banana trees.

When you line the imu with banana trunks and leaves don over do
it. If you use too much, you will not only see green on parts of
the meat (harmless), but you wont get any nice crispies when you
pull the pig from the imu. If you got some crispies (not burnt),
then you know you did a good job.

The preparing of the Imu should be done days in advance. The poaa
can be prepared the day before.

So lets get started, and have fun.

Pick an area that is level and open with enough room for a work
table for working the poaa (pig) when moving it to and from the
imu. This place should be free of debris also have access to water
such as a garden hose.

You will need water for washing banana tree trunks, leaves, utensils,
soaking burlap sacks.

Tools and Items for the Job

Pick and Shovel

1-1/2 Pipe six foot length
Newspaper and kindling
1/4 cord firewood
1 qt. Charcoal lighter fluid
Machete or Sharp Knife
Sledge hammer
Post hole digger to pick up hot rocks (optional)
12 Burlap sacks soaking in a tub of water
12x12 Canvas Tarp
Garden Hose
Rock Salt (for seasoning)
3-1/2 x 5 Chicken wire
Large receiving tray for the kalua poaa
Large forks
Serving pans or trays

1. Dig a pit approximately 7x5 Keep the pile of dirt on the opposite
side of the pit you intend to work from. Remember the cleaner your
work the easier it is. The depth should be 2-1/2 to 3 ft.

2. Crumple newspaper and place on the bottom of imu. Add kindling on
to of newspaper.

3. Position pipe in the center of the imu standing up and build firewood
evenly in a 45 deg. angle around pipe as you would a bon fire.

4. Carefully place rocks neatly on top of fire wood and around pipe.

Poaa (the pig)

You can order through a butcher or if you prefer, a Hog farm. Just
ask for a whole dressed pig , which is butchered cleaned and ready
to cook. Prices will vary and also will vary by size, you should
expect to be paying around $250. A suckling pig will cost more,
usually due to the fact the farm doesnt really like to sell, or
butcher the young ones. A 125 pound dressed pig will feed approximately
150 guest. Of course that is counting on the fact that you will
probably be serving other entree dishes. I will usually serve a
chicken and a fish dish also, since you may have guest that may
not eat pork. Not to worry, I am including other luau recipes, and
sample luau menus.

Score the poaa with deep incisions in any of the thick parts such
as the hams (thighs). If you have a tight schedule and need it to
cook in 6 hours, then remove the spine from the neck to the hip.
Season generously with rock salt.

You will need chicken wire to wrap your poaa in to be place in the
imu. The chicken wire should be large enough to go around the poaa
once. Remember, you will have to unwrap the kalua poaa and lose
as little meat as possible so don over wrap! What some people like
to do is form a basket out of the chicken wire that the poaa can
fit into nicely and can be easily handled when removing from the
imu - while still extremely HOT. Be sure to have the open side of
the pigs cavity is on the same side of the basket. You will be
putting a couple of hot rocks into the cavity of the pig just before
you put the basket into the imu.

Here is where you can make other baskets for other items you would
like to add such as whole turkeys, steamship rounds of beef, sweet
potatoes etc..


Your Imu is now ready to be fired up! 2 hours to preheat the imu
plus 8 hours cooking time, total of 10 hours. Lets plan the

7am - 9am - Start fire, prepare the poaa

9am - 10am - Place the poaa into the Imu
10am - 5pm - Prepare other entrees, salads, desserts, etc.
5pm - 6pm - Set up Buffet. Unearth Kalua Poaa
6pm - 6:30 - after showing, debone and pan the Kalua Poaa
and place in chafing dishes on buffet.
6:30pm - Open buffet (if 150+ guests, Host to lead 2
tables to buffet at a time to prevent the mad
rush. Make announcement before opening buffet).
Good time to have bar open and maybe some music.
Or if you will be making any awards, announcements,
or speeches, now would be the best time.
7:00 or 7:30pm Start Hula show. The Show should last at least
1-1/2 hours. Be to work it out ahead of time with
the entertainers. After that let them do their
thing! They know what to do! Just relax and have
a good time.

Into the Imu

Okay so the imu is ready to be fired up, get out the charcoal
lighter fluid and pour the 1 quart bottle down the pipe and remove
the pipe. Carefully drop a lit match into the hole where the pipe
came from. Charcoal lighter fluid lights easily and doesnt explode
so it is pretty safe, I wouldnt use anything else.

Now would be a good time to have all your tools and items ready
sorted out and organized close to the imu. Cut the banana tree
trunks cut into 2 lengths. Cut those pieces in quarters lengthwise.
Use your sledge hammer to flatten them a bit. Neatly stack them
near the imu. Wash off the banana leaves with water and stack them
near the flattened stumps. The burlap sacks should be clean. Soak
them in a tub and have them near the imu also. The following tasks
should be done fairly quickly so too much of the heat from the imu
is not lost. It should take about a half hour by time the imu is

After 2 hours the rocks should have fallen lower in to the imu.
Using a post hole digger or a shovel, even out the hot rocks so to
form a bed that your poaa will eventually be situated on.

Put the poaa that is already in the chicken wire on your work table
next to the imu. Open up the cavity and season generously with rock
salt. Place about four hot rocks into the cavity of the pig. Close
up the basket with a couple of pieces of bailing wire.

Put a layer of the crushed banana tree trunks on the hot rocks
followed by a layer of banana leaves. Place the wrapped poaa on
top of the banana leaves. Cover the poaa with more banana leaves.
Now lay out the soaking burlap sacks on top of the banana leaves.
Cover the whole imu with the canvas tarp.

Starting around the edges of the tarp, cover with the dirt. Then
cover the rest of the tarp evenly. Try not to put too much dirt on
the middle of the tarp so you wont have a hard time taking it off.

The hose will be needed to spray the imu with water after it is
covered to create a good seal, and also to check for any smoke that
could be escaping from the imu. If any smoke is detected then you
must cover it with more dirt. If smoke is not covered, a fire may
start in your imu and you will lose your kalua pig (baked pig),
and all your hard work will be for nothing.

Once you have covered any leaks, then shoot it down once again with

Now you have 8 hours to prepare the rest of your menu.

Out from the Imu

You should have a large tray to receive the basket of kalua poaa.
There will be alot of grease from the poaa so be prepared to drain
it somewhere. Have a bucket of water handy to dip your hands in
occasionally to cool your hands while handling the hot rocks, basket
etc. You will also need some large forks to shred the meat and
remove the bones. Have your pans that you will be serving the kalua
poaa from handy so you can transfer it into after the bones are
removed and the meat is shredded.

The time has come to remove the kalua poaa from the imu. Remove
the dirt from the tarp, taking care not to puncture the tarp. Roll
back the tarp towards the back of the imu. Remove the burlap sacks.
Remove the layer of banana leaves. Carefully remove the basket and
place it on your receiving tray on top of your work table. Open
the basket and remove the rocks that are inside the basket. Turn
out the kalua poaa from the basket into the tray.

Using the forks, shred all the meat and remove all the bones. Season
with salt (I use Hawaiian rock salt).Transfer the meat into your
serving pans. It is ready to go to your buffet! Now go and enjoy
the fruits of your labor. As the Hawaiians say suck em up!

The buffet should be set up by this time, all there is left to do
is to bring the kalua poaa to the buffet. After setting up the
buffet decorate with leather ferns, palm froms etc.

The buffet line should be set far enough away from the stage so if
the buffet line should have to be broken down prior to the end of
the show, no one will be disturbed.

Wait a couple of days before you clean up the imu, to make sure
the fire is out. Save the rocks, you will agree that they are truly


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55 of 79 people found the following review helpful:
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Pig Roast in the City, September 22, 2005 - 11:04 PM
Reviewer: Gregg from Philadelphia, PA
I adapted these instructions to pull off a pig roast in Center City Philadelphia last September and now on the eve of the second annual pig roast I felt it appropriate to recap our success. Since a large open fire was out of the question in my backyard just off of Rittenhouse Square, we did the entire roast using charcoal. We wrapped the pig in banana leaves obtained frozen from a local Asian supermarket and secured the leaves with butcher string. Several layers of foil around the pig and it was ready to go into our pit just as the sun was coming up (7am) We covered the pig with wet burlap sacks and a piece of wet canvas. We had massive amounts of steam leakage which we remedied by covering the canvas with several plastic garbage bags. Every few hours we added additional charcoal both below and on top of the pig. 11 hours later we had an incredible 100 lb pig. This saturday we will do it for the second time!!

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32 of 44 people found the following review helpful:
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Great Step by Step Directions, August 18, 2005 - 11:49 AM
Reviewer: Anonymous from MI USA
My dad has been doing this type of pig roast for over 20 years. Banana leaves are in short supply in Michigan, so we've used corn husks and wild grape leaves. Turns out great

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32 of 54 people found the following review helpful:
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Dave & Jan, experienced Luau cookers, June 22, 2005 - 04:23 PM
Reviewer: Anonymous from Atascadero, USA
Excellent recipe from what sound like an experienced Luau master.

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24 of 40 people found the following review helpful:
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help, August 15, 2005 - 09:49 AM
Reviewer: Anonymous from Bismarck ND
where do you find banna trees and leaves in Bismarck ND??

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