What Kind of Pork to Use for Filipino Barbecue
Filipino pork barbecue is cooked on skewers at high heat to produce a crispy, sweet dish that goes well with lumpia, fresh vegetables and noodles. Unlike American grilling recipes that use tender cuts like chop or tenderloin, Filipino-style recipes rely on the tougher pork shoulder.
You’ll need to slice this meat thinly and use an appropriate marinade to avoid dryness, but the classic crisp-tender texture makes the extra effort worthwhile.
Filipino pork barbecue uses pork shoulder or pork butt, cuts taken from the upper and lower shoulder of the pig. These are also referred to as Boston shoulder, Boston butt or picnic shoulder.
They are well-marbled cuts that can be tough if cooked incorrectly. Look for a firm piece of meat with fat throughout. The color should be pink to pinkish-gray with creamy white fat and reddish bones. Grayish meat or white bone ends indicate old or tough cuts.
The best Filipino-style barbecue uses meat sliced very finely. This allows the heat to penetrate quickly and cook the entire piece without drying the outside. Cut the pork into pieces about one inch wide and ½ inch thick for the best results.
If you want small pieces of meat for eating directly off the skewers, slice your pork shoulder into pieces about 1 ½ inches in length. For sandwiches and similar uses, cut the meat into strips about 4 inches long and thread the skewer through each strip several times to keep it in place.
This type of barbecue uses a distinctive sweet-and-sour marinade that relies on soy sauce, garlic and brown sugar. Many recipes also add rice wine, pineapple juice or even commercial lemon-lime sodas. No matter which marinade you choose, allow the pork to marinate overnight in the refrigerator so that the acids can penetrate thoroughly.
They are essential to both the flavor and texture of the pork. Most cooks use the leftover marinade for basting. Bring it to a boil on the stove top to reduce potential health risks before you apply the marinade to the cooking meat.
While most cooks use only pork shoulder for Filipino barbecue, some prefer to add a fattier meat, such as pork belly. Professional food blogger Jun Belen recommends alternating small pieces of pork shoulder with pork belly on the skewers.
The fat from the pork belly helps keep the moisture in the leaner shoulder and produces a richer, more delicate finished product.