How to Build An Imu – Cook a Pig in an Imu

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How to make and Imu and Cook a Pig or Food

Step 1 - Dig your hole for your Imu and add quick burning materials.

Dig the hole 2 to 4 feet deep for your Imu. The hole is built depending on the size that you need it to be. As you add quick burning materials you are building the bottom layer of our Imu, which is just the quick burning material (tinder). Using coconut husk works great, and of course you can always use newspaper as both are really light and really easy and able to burn quickly. So now we beging to add the next layer to our Imu.

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Step 2 - Add a second layer of small sticks and wood to your Imu

You've already dug your hole and put some things that burn easiest on the bottom. Next is putting sticks to help kindle the fire going from smallest to biggest. You will need a tall stikc for going in the middle, but we will explain that later.

So there's a real science behind putting the whole thing together and your selection of wood has everything to do with it, beause if the underneath stuff disappears and it's not heated yet then you're not gonna have a very good Imu. So you are probably asking do we put the wood in and just make it as full as possible? No. We're still thinking in terms of trying to keep everything level and distribution of heat and which section is gonna give in first. You want the wood to be uniform so it buns uniformly and it all drops at the same time.

Step 3 - What type of wood should you use in an IMU

When you gather the sticks to use with your Imu it's better for you to use the harder woods because they burn hotter and longer. Usually the softer woods come from the trees that bear fruit, so you don't want to use those you kind and if possible you want to stay within those types of wood that are hard wood. For instance guava wood is gonna be very good, it burns hot and long. Woods like java plum are no good, at least not for the main wood for heating the stones. You want Kiawe (mesquite) wood, or Iron wood which are very hard woods and burn for longer times. A piece of wood like Iron wood may burn for about two hours. The same size wood made out of java plum wood will probably burn for about 15-20 minutes.

So it's much better to have the Imu burning for two hours so that it will really heat the stones well.

Step 4 - Selecting the middle stick, creating your chimney

So what is the center stick for again? The middle stick serves as a placeholder. Later a smaller stick will be used to set fire to the bottom and act as a chimney for the fire and for air flow. So it needs to get the fire down to the bottom where the fire needs to start from. So that's why you make the hollow center all the way down to the bottom, because heat rises. It's hard to force heat from the top stone to the bottom.

Step 5 - Placing the logs

How to Build An Imu - Cook a Pig in an ImuYou now have some wood that's picked out. That will need to put into the Imu. You want to have the wood fit into the Imu nicely, snuggly and in an even layer. So what you should do is to go through and cut the wood so that it fits nicely either length wise or width wise depedning how you are placing the logs. Next you go ahead and do that and place the logs evenly over the Imu. Keeping the wood organized is best as you stack the wood a few inches deep.

Step 6 - Placing the stones

Okay, now it's time to add the stone finishes. Here we form a line, and pass the stones from person to person which will make this step faster. You know what, it's said, in ancient Hawaii the large stone walls were built passing the stones person to person.

What you want to do is keep the chimney open as you add the stones. One question you might have is where to get the stones from and what kind? In Hawaii you can usually get them from a river if there is on near by. You would be looking for the stones with these holes. The stones where the holes are too compact, those will crack and possibly explode. So you want the ones with a lot of holes if you can find them. A medium sizes basalt stone is a good stone with a lot of holes. If you can't find basalt stones, some people will use bricks. Again we are thinking even weight distribution so the fire will fall evenly as it burns. So if possible the more holes the better creating a pattern on this stone itself.

Step 7 - Starting the iMU fire

Remove the center stick, and pour in kerosene and then light the center using a small stick. Then let the fire burn 1.5 to 3 hours or until the stones reach their maximum heat. Of course don't pick them up to find out if they are hot, they may not look hot, but they will leave a very bad burn.

Step 8 - Gather the material for Hali'i or the cover

Gather some materials for the Hali'i which may include Banana Stumps, grass, Ti leaves, or palm fronds. If you can't find these then some good substitutes include cabage, lettuce, soaked corn husk/stalks, wet newspaper, thistle, watercress, cottonwood leaves, Kiawe/Mequite leaves. Very important though, your food will resemble the taste like the material you use so we suggest you make it good.

Step 9 - Remove the burning wood and reorganize the stones

Hint don't use your hands. A shovel is a good way to remove the burning wood embers and reorganize the stones. Even out the rocks to as flat as possible. What you are doing is taking the unburned wood from the bottom.

Step 10 - Add the first layer of Hali'i and your food of choice

How to Build An Imu - Cook a Pig in an ImuThis layer of Hali'i creates a buffer between the rocks and the food. You probably want to add your layers of Hali'i from densist type first to thinist. The rest of the Hali'i should be used to cover the food in final layers. Banana stumps are a good first layer we leaves or grass on top. So if you were to look inside the Imu at this point you would see the layer of our rocks that we put on, the hali'i and then the food.

Step 11 - Finish up by covering food with Hali'i and then mats

Your Hali'i at this point will be palm leaves, grass or palm fronds, again we are going for a cover on top of the food before placing on the mats. Now make sure you thoroughly soak the mats in water before placing them on top. Wet burlap is a great option for a mat. In ancient times, kapa mats were used for the top covering. Today many people just use pieces of wet carpet or burlap.

Step 12 - Add the finishing layer to your Imu

Finish it all off with a top layer of dirt and let cook for 2 to 8 hours depending on the heat, size, hali'i used and of course the food you are cooking. Pig is always a good choice. The bigger the portion or size the longer cooking time will be needed. Then uncover and enjoy your awesome IMU cooked food.

If you enjoyed this post....
  • and you are a coffee lover
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  • and you're old enough to drink alcohol

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