Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Chinese Barbecue Pork (Char Siu) – Take That, Take Out!

There are many unforgettable sights and sounds you experience walking through Chinatown for the first time, but I think it was seeing all those hanging chunks of florescent red meat that made the biggest impression. 

Sure, the Peking ducks were cool, but they actually sort of looked like roasted duck, where as the char siu looked looked like nothing I’d ever seen before.

So, it was a little disappointing to eventually find out that it was from copious amounts of red food coloring, which I’m pretty sure was toxic back then, and not from some ancient Chinese secret cooking method. Anyway, enough with the nostalgia; the important thing to remember is that in addition to its impressive, high-gloss appearance, and savory taste, this Chinese barbecue pork is quite easy to make at home, even if you don’t have a fancy ceramic grill.

If you happen to be using your standard, backyard kettle-shaped grill, push all your coals to one side, and place your meat on the other. To add an extra layer of protection, you can also put it in a roasting pan, and place that on the grill. Or, forget the great outdoors, and simply roast it in the oven. The only catch is, you’ll need to place it under the broiler at the end, to simulate the caramelization we get on the barbecue.

As long as you roast it between 275 F. and 300 F., and do so until you reach an internal temperature of between 185-190 F., the cooking method really does not matter, and you should have something that rivals the finest take-out in town. So, I really do hope you give this Chinese-style barbecue pork a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for six portions:
3 pounds boneless pork butt, cut into 4 sections lengthwise
2/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup hoisin sauce
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup Chinese rice wine (can sub sake, or dry sherry)
1/3 cup ketchup
4  garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon five-spice powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/8 teaspoon pink curing salt, optional
1 or 2 teaspoons red food coloring, optional
Kosher salt to season pork before grilling


jacob luft said...


That's all..

Stephanie said...

Hey Chef John, how long do I have to boil the remaining sauce for it to be safe to eat?

Michael Sarko said...

Char Siu is a favorite of mine, too. An added tip: a way to get that rich, red color, some additional amazing flavor, and zero food coloring is to use red fermented bean curd. It's not only more traditional, it's also incredibly flavorful. It adds a slight pungency and a nice saltiness to the marinade, which takes the place of the ketchup. Any Asian supermarket will have red fermented bean curd. It gets its red color from a natural yeast process, so no funky synthetics are involved. A must-try for the next time you make this.

Tabi said...

Having no grill, I can suppose oven works too? What would be your recommended oven temp and for approximately how long?

thedarkmercy said...

So why the curing salt? It seems to be missing from the post.

Jacob Jasper said...

Can I use beef instead of pork?

Roberto Briceño said...

Is that an Arepa filled with Char Siu?!
That seems a really superb filling :-)

Erin said...

Can you explain the use of pink salt? Despite being vegan (I know, pray for me) I like to watch your videos then make the sauces -- or whatever I can, really. And the use of pink salt interested me, but I don't see the explanation in the post. If I'm just missing it, please yell at me. Thank you!!!

Dan said...

Long time viewer first time commenting. Enjoyed this video (and many of your others.) Eagerly anticipating your steamed bun follow-up. Keep up the good work!

Stark Radio said...

This looks wonderful! Chef John, do you have a link for the steamed buns? Thanks, I love your site!

Rina R. N. said...

Hey Chef John! Love your take on this traditional Cantonese dish! Not sure if you're gonna read this, but from what I've heard, chefs here(Hong Kong) usually add a tiny drop or two of pure rose extract into the marinade. Just thought it could be yet another fun experiment for you! :)

Saruichiban said...

Do you think this would well with beef? My brother doesn't eat pork anymore and I don't like cooking things he can't eat if he comes over.

Noel Bedford said...

You spelled meat wrong, fourth paragraph.

Sebastian Mancha said...

I don't believe you ever went over what the curing salt does? Can you explain why you add it and why it's optional>

Chuckles Hamman said...

Did anyone else spot the creepy white ghost-dog in the heat shield on the grill (lower right hand corner, toward the end of the grill scene)?

This looks amazing CJ. I'm definitely drawn to shiny foods.

Koh Kong said...

It seem delicious.

Koh Kong said...

It seem delicious.

Checkboard said...

Reserve a bit of the sauce into a separate jug before marinading, and you don't need to boil it again (as the reserved sauce hasn't come into contact with the raw meat.) The curing salt (aka Prague Powder Number 1 or Insta Cure Number 1) adds a pink "smoke ring" to the pork and adds a cured pork flavour.

Chris Sullivan said...

Made this yesterday, and it is gone!! Tasty, tasty! Thanks Chef!

Aaron Alexander said...

those look like quite the treat!. making them first chance i get!!

Laura Harmon said...

Great recipe! I was waiting for this one to happen. We made it tonight and I cut down on the soy sauce by 1/2 and only used a light sprinkle of 5 Spice which was to our liking. This one is a keeper.

Steve said...

Made this as written except for subbing dry sherry for the wine, and skipping the curing salt and food color. I marinated it overnight and cooked it in the oven on a rack over a baking sheet, flipping and basting every 30-45 minutes. It took about three hours at 275. I finished with some final basting under the broiler. Came out excellent. Really had authentic flavor. Served for dinner with rice and broccoli. The next day I made "cheater" bao buns by steaming flattened and folded buttermilk biscuits. They were great. I still have enough for some fried rice (there are only 2 of us). This is a great recipie I will make again.

rodentraiser said...

The pork is marinating as I post. So, Chef John, I only have one question: How long will it take before the red food coloring wears off my fingers?????

Kris Whiteleather said...

Works GREAT as a Korean anchor for a blended asiatic meal!

After marinade overnight I scraped off the excess and put the meat on a grill over foil in a roasting pan. I brought the meat up to room temp while bringing the marinade to a boil in the microwave and preheating the oven to 300degF on convection roast.

When the oven was ready and the meat at room temp I put the roasting pan in the oven and set my timers for 15 minute intervals. Every 15 mins I turned then basted the pork with the recently boiled marinade. This went on for an hour, or four 15-minute cycles. It was perfect: moist center with red/spicy outers and fringed with char.

During all the hullaballoo of oven roasting I simmered flat, brown-rice, lasagna noodles in a homemade pork-based, anise-flavored pho broth (chicken broth will do). Those were cooked, drained, and dropped into a skillet where I added fresh ginger, fresh garlic, red pepper, and diced onion/celery, then proceeded to stir fry. When the onion was soft I dropped 1.5 lb of cleaned baby bok choi on top and covered with a lid to wilt.

After 3 minutes I added a mix of sesame oil, Tamari sauce, fish sauce and water to the noodle/bok choi skillet and put the lid back on to steam. Had to add lots of black pepper, a teaspoon of red pepper flakes, and a shot of kosher salt. This was all tossed together to coat.

When the meat was done (1 hour), I brought the noodles and bok choi back up to hot.

I served the meat over a pile of the noodle/bok choi mixture. I topped the meat with chopped green onion.

I served a side of WARM kim chi from my homemade crock (but commercial kim chi will do). My American and Honduran guests asked for seconds of everything.

I used the pork recipe as the cornerstone of a more elaborate meal. Not necessary. Just make the meat, cook properly, slice and put on a tortilla. Add shredded lettuce (chiffonade?) and anything else for the most awesome sandwich.