Last Updated on December 9, 2022 by Carne Diem
Origin: Chinese, Asian
Method: Grill, Smoker, or RotisserieJump to Recipe
Char Siu is a fabulously delicious Chinese roast pork dish. This popular dish can frequently be found in many Chinese restaurants here in the United States. Ironically, however, I never tried this dish until a trip to China a few years ago.
After a great trip exploring the breathtaking landscape of Zhangjiajie, China we stopped at a non-descript restaurant outside the park. The table next to us was enjoying the most worderfully aromatic and vibrantly colored pork dish. After the "chicken parts" fried rice disaster the night before, I knew that I didn't even need to see a menu. I was having what they were having.
As it turned out that dish was Char Siu, and I was instantly in love. We have tried this dish with a few different cuts of meat over the years and with a couple different methods of cooking. Pork collar cooked over an open flame is still my favorite, just like they prepared it in China.
Making the Barbeque Char Siu
Prepare the marinade
To prepare the marinade you will need honey, Chinese 5 spice, oyster sauce, Shaoxing cooking wine, Hoisin sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, and garlic powder. Traditional Char Siu also uses an ingredient called lam yuh which is a fermented red bean curd that typically gives the dish its signature color. We elected to forgo this ingredient as it is not easily found and is typically just used for the color. We just added a little red food coloring to mimic the coloring instead. If you are a purist, by all means skip the food coloring. In addition, traditional Barbecue Char Siu is also prepared with maltose syrup and not honey, so feel free to use what you have on hand.
Next, combine all of the marinade ingredients in a medium sized bowl and stir to combine.
Reserve about a scant ¼ cup for basting the pork during cooking, and use the rest to marinade the pork.
Select and trim your pork
This Barbecue Char Siu can be made with just about any cut of pork, though different cuts may require different cooking strategies. For our char siu we elected to use a boneless pork collar from Snake River Farms. While they are most known for their fantastic American Wagyu beef, they also have some of the best KUROBUTA PORK in the nation. It provided a great amount of intramuscular fat to keep the meat nice and juicy. If you choose not to use pork collar you can also use boneless pork butt, pork loin, or pork tenderloin.
Trim the excess fat from your pork and cut into 2 long pieces. Depending on the cut you are using there may or may not be much trimming.
If you are using a pork loin or tenderloin you may not need to halve the meat. If you are using a pork butt or pork collar you will want to halve the meat lengthwise.
Marinate the pork
Rub the pork with the marinade and then place in a plastic bag. Place the bag in the refrigerator overnight.
Cooking the Barbecue Char Siu
When you are ready to cook, heat your grill or smoker to 350 degrees. For our cook we choose to cook the Barbeque Char Siu rotisserie style on our Big Green Egg using a rotisserie. You can also cook the meat directly on the grill, but it will require frequent turning and should be done on indirect heat. You may also consider dropping the temp of the grill to 300-325 if cooking directly on the grates. Another method, is to skewer the meat and place it so it rests above the grates, and rotate the skewers about every 5-10 minutes.
After carefully skewering the meat we place the pork on the rotisserie and started cooking. You will want to monitor the temp of the cook frequently using a meat thermometer. For this cook we used a Tappecue Air Probe 2, which is wireless so it makes the perfect thermometer for monitoring meat temps during our rotisserie cooks. If you are grilling the meat on a standard grill of smoker you can use a standard wired in meat thermometer or check it frequently with an instant read thermometer.
After about 20 minutes of cooking it is time to start basting the pork with the reserved marinade. Evenly baste the pork after each additional 15 minutes of cooking.
Cooking time will vary greatly depending on the meat used, size of the pork, and cooking method that you choose, but generally the pork takes about 60-90 minutes to cook.
Serving the Barbeque Char Siu
The pork is done cooking when it has reached an internal temp of 140 degrees. Remove the pork to a cutting board and rest for about 5 minutes. Carryover temp during the rest will carry temp over 145 degrees. Note: if you are using a cut of pork with a lot of intramuscular fat like a pork shoulder/Boston butt you may wish to continue cooking the pork to at least 165 degrees to give the fat more time to render. Fatty cuts can tolerate higher internal temps, so don't sweat it if the internal temp gets as high as 185, but if you go much above 195 you will be getting into pulled pork territory.
If you are attempting this with a very lean cut like pork loin, do not go over 140-145 of the pork will run the risk of drying out.
After the rest slice the pork.
Serve the Barbeque Char Siu with your favorite rice or Asian inspired side dished.
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Barbeque Char Siu
- 4-5 Pound Boneless Pork Pork Collar, Pork Butt, or Pork Loin
- 2 Tab Soy Sauce
- 1 Tab Hoisin Sauce
- 1 Tab Shaoxing Wine
- 1 tea 5 Spice
- 1 Tab Oyster Sauce
- 2 Tab Brown Sugar
- 2 Tab Honey
- 2 tea Garlic Powder
- ¼ tea Red Food Coloring optional
Prepare the marinade
- Combine all of the marinade ingredients in a medium sized bowl and stir to combine.
- Reserve about ¼ cup for basting the pork during cooking, and place the remaining marinade in a large zip lock bag.
- Trim the excess fat from your pork and cut into 2 long pieces. Place in the bag with the marinade and place in the refrigerator overnight.
Cooking the Char Siu
- Heat your grill or smoker to about 350 degrees if using a rotisserie or if you are able to skewer the meat and keep it off of the grill grate. If cooking directly on the grate, cook indirect at about 300-325 degrees.
- After about 20 minutes of cooking it is time to start basting the pork with the reserved marinade. Evenly baste the pork after each additional 15 minutes of cooking.
- Cook until the pork reaches an internal temp of 140 degrees if using lean cuts like loin or tenderloin (carryover temp will carry internal temp above 145), or at least 165 if using fatty cuts like pork shoulder/pork butt (to give the fat more time to render).
- Remove the pork to a cutting board and rest for 5 minutes before slicing and enjoying.