August 19, 2018

Chinese BBQ Pork (Char Siu)

It all started with an email from my brother, on behalf of my mom.  Mom's an ardent America's Test Kitchen fan, similar to myself, and had just seen the Chinese Classics episode on PBS episode featuring char siu, or Chinese BBQ Pork.   She wanted the recipe so asked my brother to have me print it out for her.  (Before you ask, my parents are not technologically savvy so it's easier for them if they have hard copies of the recipe.) 

I hadn't seen this episode myself so I went about searching for the recipe on Cook's Illustrated's site since I have an online membership.  The results turned up a few versions of char siu, one from the tv show and another that was more traditional looking, i.e., very red.  I was immediately intrigued by the latter which reminded me of the delicious rows of glistening bbq pork hanging on hooks in Chinese restaurants.  The laundry list of Asian ingredients did seem a bit daunting, but if there's one thing I am, it's determined.  Once I set my mind on something nothing will stop me. 

After a quick trip to the local Asian supermarket to buy the ingredients I didn't already have I was ready to go. Trust me, do not be intimidated!  The most challenging part is gathering all the ingredients, after that the recipe comes together pretty easily.  Another plus, there's quite a bit of down time when you make this recipe.  The pork needs at least 10-16 hours to marinate so you can easily prep things the night before and finish baking the next day.  

This char siu is seriously so good.  I literally made the recipe 3x in the last week alone.  I knew it was a keeper when my family unanimously gave it the thumbs up and they are not the type of people to hand out compliments easily!   With authentic results made at home who needs takeout?  Not me!

Chinese BBQ Pork (Char Siu)

4 pounds boneless pork butt (also called pork shoulder or Boston butt)
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
3/4 cup hoisin sauce
1/2 cup Shaoxing Chinese rice wine
1/4 cup grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon red food coloring
2 teaspoons five-spice powder
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/8 teaspoon pink curing salt #1 (I got it from Amazon
3/4 cup honey

2 tablespoons cornstarch (if filling Pineapple Buns)

Cut pork into 4 pieces and butterfly to create 3/4-inch-thick pieces. Divide pork between 2 one-gallon zipper-lock bags.  Whisk soy sauce, sugar, hoisin, Shaoxing, ginger, sesame oil, garlic, food coloring, five-spice powder, and pepper together in large bowl.  Measure out 1 cup marinade and set aside.  Whisk pink curing salt into remaining marinade; divide equally between bags and rub to distribute evenly over pork.  Press out as much air as possible from bags and seal; refrigerate pork for at least 10 hours or up to 16 hours.

While pork marinates, whisk honey and reserved marinade together in medium saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until glaze is reduced to 1 cup, 4 to 6 minutes.  (Glaze can be prepared up to this point and refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

If filling Pineapple Buns: Reserve 2 tablespoons glaze and set aside.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 250 degrees F/121 degrees C.  ine rimmed bakin gsheet with aluminum foil and set wire rack in sheet.  Spray rack with vegetable oil spray.  

Remove pork from marinade, letting excess drip off, and place on prepared rack.  Cover sheet tightly with aluminum foil, crimping edges to seal.  Bake until pork registers 195 degrees F/90.5 degrees C, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.  Remove pork from oven and discard foil.  Let pork rest on rack for 30 minutes.

If filling Pineapple Buns:  Pour pan juices into fat separator and let settle for 5 minutes.  Pour off and reserve 3/4 cup defatted juices; discard remaining juices.

Heat broiler.  Brush both sides of pork with half of remaining glaze; broil until top is mahogany, 2 to 6 minutes.  Flip pork and broil until second side is mahogany, 2 to 6 minutes.  Brush both sides with remaining glaze and continue to broil until top is dark mahogany and lightly charred, 2 to 6 minutes longer (second side does not get broiled again).  Transfer pork to carving board, charred side up, and let rest for 10 minutes.  Slice pork crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick strips and serve.

If filling Pineapple Buns:  Combine reserved defatted juices with reserved 2 tablespoons glaze in small saucepan and whisk in cornstarch.  Bring to boil over medium heat, whisking constantly, and cook until mixture is thickened and glossy, about 1 minute.  Transfer to bowl with 12 ounces chopped pork and toss to combine; set aside until ready to use.  (Pork filling yields 1 1/4 pounds and can be refrigerated for up to 7 days.)


  1. Made this for dinner. It was delicious!
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