Chinese BBQ Pork
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated and America's Test Kitchen, 2009.
- Servings: 4 to 6.
The recipe is adapted from one first published in 2009 in Cook's Illustrated magazine, from the folks at America's Test Kitchen. And to my way of eating, it belongs on the short list of the greatest recipes ever written. That's because its combination of easily available ingredients with a simple series of steps ends up producing pieces of meat that are hugely flavorful, crispy on the edges, tender on the inside, and with flavors that are rich and complex.
While Chinese barbecue, also called char siu, is traditionally made by hanging pieces of meat in a big oven that blasts heat against the meat, in this recipe no meat hooks are necessary. Instead a boneless piece of pork shoulder (Boston butt) is cut into thick slices, marinated, and slow roasted until tender but slightly chewy. Then it's glazed with a sauce that combines sweet, spicy, and complex tastes and finished with broiling to caramelize and crisp the surface.
The only change I've made to the recipe is to add a pinch of cayenne to the final glaze, giving the surface a slight sense of heat.
The result is the kind of pork-as-candy that can usually only be found in our cities' Chinatowns but by cooking it yourself, you not only save the trip but you'll also know exactly what's in your food.
Serve with greens such as bok choy or spinach, plus rice.
- 1 boneless pork shoulder roast (Boston butt), about 4 pounds, cut into 8 strips with excess fat removed
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 6 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 1/4 cup dry sherry
- 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 teaspoon five-spice powder
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 1/2 cup honey
- Prick the pork strips about 10 times on all sides. Place the pork in a large zipper-sealable plastic bag.
- Combine the sugar, soy sauce, hoisin, sherry, pepper, five-spice powder, sesame oil, ginger, and garlic in a medium bowl. Measure out 1/2 cup of the marinade and set aside. Pour the remaining marinade into the bag with the pork. Press out as much air as possible and seal the bag. Place it on a rimmed pan or in a bowl (in case the bag leaks) and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours.
- While the meat marinades, combine the ketchup, honey, and a pinch of cayenne with the reserved marinade in a small saucepan. Cook the glaze over medium heat until it's syrupy and reduced to 1 cup, 6 to 10 minutes.
- Place an oven rack in the middle of the oven and pre-heat the oven to 300° F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and set a wire rack on the pan.
- Remove the pork from the marinade, letting any excess drop off. Place the pieces of pork on the wire rack. Pour 1/4 cup water into the bottom of the pan. Cover the pan with heavy duty aluminum foil, crimping the edges tightly to seal. Cook the pork for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to cook until the edges of the pork begin to brown, 30 to 34 minutes.
- Turn on the broiler. Broil the pork until evenly caramelized, 3 to 5 minutes. Flip the meat and broil until the other side caramelizes, 4 to 6 minutes. Brush the meat with the remaining glaze and continue to broil until the second side is deep mahogany, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Cool for 10 minutes and then cut into thin strips and serve.
Note: If your broiler is a drawer-type broiler instead of one inside the oven, instead of using that broiler (it will be too close to the meat), increase the oven to 500° F and follow the same instructions except you will need to increase the cooking time by a couple of minutes on each side to achieve the same caramelized results.