Pinoy BBQ – Filipino Pork Skewers

Filipino Pork Barbecue, Pork Skewers, Pork BBQ Sticks
pinoy bbq

Pinoy BBQ is tender and flavourful pork in skewers with a sweet and savory glaze. The layers of flavour create an instant party in your mouth with every bite.

Filipino and Barbecue

Filipino Barbecue or Pinoy Barbecue or Pinoy BBQ as I will refer to it is probably the most prolific food in the Philippines. They are sold as street food (yes, the ever popular Street Food which is Asia’s answer to Food Trucks).

You can find them in almost every street corner especially around twilight and into the night. The street vendors don’t even have to advertise themselves. If you see smoke and a temporary table setup on a street corner, you’re in for a treat. You won’t only find pork barbecue but also different grilled Filipino favorites (or delicacies).

Filipino BBQ sticks, as these pork skewers are sometimes called, are usually thinly-sliced pork in a Filipino BBQ marinade. They are often cook-to-order as they are best enjoyed right off the grill or off the coals. Then you can dip them in either a special pinoy BBQ sauce or a chili vinegar dip. For homemade ones or if ordered in restaurants, pork barbecue is served with “atsara”, a sweet-sour pickled vegetables.

filipino bbq pork skewers

East vs West Barbecue

Like many Asian barbecues, the marinade of Filipino pork BBQ is a combination of sweet and savoury flavours. Some of the ingredients in the barbecue marinade in the East include soy sauce, (brown) sugar, fish sauce and coconut milk. Garlic, shallots and sometimes, lemon grass and coriander are also added to the mixture. The marinade is usually in liquid form with herbs and spices added to them.  In the West, barbecue is commonly a dry rub or a thicker marinade that can be used as a baste as well.

My Special Pinoy BBQ Recipe

There was a time in my life (in my 20’s) that I thought, like really really thought that I was omnipotent and invincible! I believed that I can do anything and everything regardless of time and effort, etc. At one point, I had a day job where I worked more than 9-5, by choice. Then I had this grand idea to go into business (it was small but still). I opened a food kiosk! My niche was Filipino favorites and my flagship item was… you guessed it right, (Filipino) Pork Barbecue.

Long story short, I realized that I have only 24 hours in a day and I am not a machine. I had to close it but I kept all my recipes that I developed for that venture. This is my pork BBQ recipe that used to be my best-seller. That me was a lifetime away. But this barbecue recipe is still a bestseller, guaranteed!

In case I go the entrepreneurial route again and open a restaurant, this will be included for sure. And if you happen to drop by, look me up and say hi :).

pinoy bbq skewers

How to make this Filipino BBQ Pork Recipe

There are different ways to grill meat. You can do it direct or indirect, hot and fast or low and slow. There is also spit-roasting or rotisserie and even grill-smoking. Barbecuing is the low and slow way and you cook Filipino BBQ pork skewers this way.

First step is to marinate the pork slices for 6-8 hours (and up to 24 hours). After which, skewer them in bamboo sticks ready for barbecuing. The grill is on low and while the meat is cooking. Brush the pork skewers with a baste (or glaze), usually in between flipping them. Enjoy with a BBQ sauce or atsara or vinegar dip.

Pinoy BBQ Ingredients

Types of Pork Cut

Best cut for skewered pork or pork kabob is actually pork shoulder. It is also called blade shoulder or Boston butt.  This is the upper part of the shoulder which connects to the neck and the loin. But because it has an uneven cut and shape, it takes more work to cut them into the desired pieces for the Pinoy BBQ style.  Most of the time when I buy pork shoulders, I cut them into (easier) cubes for adobo, asado siopao or menudo and not as much for thinly-sliced for barbecue.

If you don’t have time to do all that work, I suggest to use porkchop (with fat). It is easier to cut them up and you have the fat and meat combination that you need. I myself use a mix of pork belly and shoulder or pork belly and loin. You need the fat! Even if it is barbecued and not grilled (inihaw), it will come out dry without the fat.

I have tried pork loin but because they are fatless and the type of their muscle striations, they were cardboard-dry and tasteless (as per my hubby’s description). It is easy though to cut loin in skewer-friendly shape and size (not to mention better-looking for presentation purposes). So in this Pinoy BBQ recipe, I actually used a mix of belly and loin.

bbq pork ingredients

Filipino BBQ Marinade Ingredients

For the marinade, it is no rocket science. Just combine all the ingredients and make sure that the brown sugar is fully dissolved in the liquid. But why do we marinade? Marination is a cooking technique and a process of adsorption. (It’s not a typo; it is really adsorption and not absorption). Adsorption is when the components in the marinade adheres to the meat surface (while absorption means they penetrate through). Marinating is both for flavour and to improve the the meat’s texture.

Marinades usually have salt and seasonings in it. Salt helps retain moisture while seasonings are of course for your desired flavour. Some marinades also contain an acid which acts on the collagen and elastin fibers of the meat. Leaner and tougher meat cuts (like the pork shoulder and loin) have more of these fibers in the meat’s connective tissues. Acid denatures or breaks down the protein thus leaving the meat more tender.

I am a nerd so I did a more in-depth article on Science of Brines and Marinades for the unapologetic geeks out there. High Five!

Soy Sauce – If you guessed that this is for the salty and umami flavour components, I will give you 10 points for paying attention!

Vinegar – Filipino cuisine usually is all about balancing flavour profile – mostly salty (and umami), sweet and sour. Some recipes use lemon juice instead, especially for those who don’t prefer processed acid like vinegar.

Sprite or 7-up – Secret ingredient, woohoo! Not too secret though as many are also using it. I use it in other recipes too. As soda is an acid, it tenderizes meat. The more subtle flavour of Sprite or 7-up also enhances the other flavours without being the center of attention. (I actually use Crush Orange and Mountain Dew in other recipes. They contribute more than Sprite does in terms of flavour. Colour as well in the case of Crush).

Brown Sugar – This is my favorite ingredient in barbecue. Sugar is also the reason why you cook them in low heat – basting and turning regularly until the meat is cooked. While in grilling, you cook in higher temp to seal in the flavours while creating a great char outside. If you with sugar in higher temperature, the sugar will not caramelize beautifully; they will burn and will be bitter.

Ketchup – I am tempted to say banana ketchup but if you don’t have it in your pantry, tomato ketchup is good. Banana ketchup is less sour and has a thicker consistency plus the red coloring makes the Pinoy BBQ more appealing. If you want to look for banana ketchup, most Asian or Filipino stores carry them.

Garlic – This is the only aromatic and seasoning in this marinade so don’t scrimp on it. I pound them before I mince them so that the flavour comes out. But if you don’t want the minced garlic sticking on your cooked pork barbecue meat, just pound them and add to the liquid marinade. Then before grilling, remove the garlic cloves so that they don’t accidentally stick to the meat.

pork barbecue recipe

Baste Ingredients – Pinoy BBQ Sauce

The purpose of the baste is to help retain moisture while grilling as well as to add flavour. It turns grilling, which is dry-heat way of cooking to resemble moist cooking method or at least the combination method.

For proper food safety procedures (to prevent cross-contamination), never use the marinade as baste so we need to mix a baste for this. Plus the baste for Filipino barbecue is usually thicker, more like a glaze. Dispose unused baste as again, they could be breeding ground of harmful bacteria. Although I just try to use them all up as this recipe is measured for the amount of meat.

I mentioned above that the Pinoy BBQ is a delicate balance of sweet, sour, salty and umami flavours. Thus for the baste, we just need to balance these flavours using the stronger ones such as soy sauce and sugar. Then ketchup‘s role again is for colour plus it makes the baste thicker. This way the baste sticks to the Pinoy BBQ meat better (and not at the bottom of your barbecue, burning).

Ingredients Substitutions

Because I used Filipino brands for the ingredients, here is your guide to substitution. There will probably be slight differences so I suggest to hold off a tablespoon of sugar and vinegar (rather than mixed everything in). Then after mixing them well, start tasting your marinade (at this time it should just be the marinade; no uncooked pork yet). You should have a salty sweet flavour with a little sourness at the end.

As previously mentioned, the flavour of this Pinoy BBQ is almost a balance of sweet, salty and sour. Although it should be the sweet and salty that’s prominent then with that undertone of vinegar or lemon. After you tasted your marinade mix, add the vinegar and sugar in increments until you get the balance and flavour that you like.

At the end of the day, this recipe is just a guide on the flavours. You can customize it as per your taste and preference. After all, the Pinoy BBQ recipe of others could slightly differ from this. However modesty aside, I already declared earlier that this was my bestseller so I can claim that this is probably in the top 10 (or maybe 5?) best Filipino pork barbecue recipes in people’s books. 🙂

In case you want to follow the recipe as is, the Filipino soy sauce, vinegar and banana ketchup are usually available in a Filipino or Asian store near you.

Soy Sauce – I always use the Filipino Silver Swan brand soy sauce. I am used to the taste and salt content. However, any other Soy Sauce would do. Be aware though that some soy sauce may not be as salty as others . So make sure to taste the marinade (before adding the pork) to ensure that you have the correct saltiness (and that you like the flavour).

Ketchup – Filipinos have banana ketchup which is similar but at the same time different from tomato ketchup. For one, it has a thicker consistency (so the baste becomes almost a glaze). Tomato ketchup is also generally more sour while banana ketchup is sweeter. A little secret – I even use the spicy banana ketchup for the baste to give my Pinoy BBQ recipe a little bit of spicy excitement.

Vinegar – Datu Puti, a Filipino white winegar is the vinegar I used here and with vinegar, it is easier to substitute. Having said that, if you opt for other types with different flavours (hint of flavour I should say), then it could affect the overall taste. Lemon juice is a good substitute too. Some Filipinos actually prefer lemon or the local version, calamansi (which is more like lime). It is organic compared to the processed vinegar plus they like the citrus flavour in the marinade.

Sugar – If I can, I prefer to use brown sugar because of the molasses flavour. But you can substitute granulated sugar. Just hold off a tablespoon (from the measurement); taste your marinade mix and add if necessary. Granulated sugar is sweeter than brown sugar.

Preparing and Grilling Pork Barbecue

Prepare the Pork

Wash the pork thoroughly.

Cut in 1 or 1.5 inches width and 1/4 inch or 1 cm thickness. Set aside.

pork marinade bbq

Marinate the Pork

Combine all ingredients – Soy Sauce, Vinegar, Ketchup, Sprite or 7-up and Brown Sugar. Make sure that the sugar is completely dissolved. Pop in the microwave for 30-45 seconds if needed.

Add the Pork and mix to ensure the marinade covers the meat. Massage the marinade into the pork if necessary.

Add the Minced Garlic and mix again, massage into the pork if needed.

Put in the fridge, in an air-tight or ziplock container. Marinate for at least 6 hours (and up to 24 hours). Reminder: Marinated meats should always be in the fridge to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.

Meanwhile soak the bamboo skewers in water (same duration as marinade although 24 hours is best). Pro-Tip: Because the bamboo sticks are water-soaked, they will not easily burn when grilling.

Skewer the pork with the bamboo sticks. Dispose leftover marinade.

Mix the Baste

Combine the Soy Sauce, Ketchup and Brown Sugar and mix thoroughly. Ensure that the brown sugar and ketchup dissolve into the mixture. Pop in the microwave for 30-45 seconds if needed.

Grill Pork BBQ

Pre-heat the grill to 200°F.

Place the Pork BBQ skewers on the grill and turn down the heat to the lowest setting.

Using a basting brush, baste the topside of the Pinoy BBQ pork skewers.

Flip after 3 minutes and baste again the pork (this time the other side). I know this is a lot of work but this is the difference between grilling and barbecuing. You want to cook them low and slow and nice ensuring that they are cooked through without burning the meat.

Cooking them this way and with the baste turns it from dry-heat cooking to more of a moist-heat cooking method or maybe more of a combination cooking! It makes even the leaner pork cuts, moist and tender, just like what braising and stewing do.

Continue flipping every 2-3 mins and basting until the pork BBQ is done. Internal temp should be 145°F which takes about 8-12 minutes depending on the thickness and rest for 3 minutes before serving. If you want to serve it right off the barbecue, cook to internal temp of 160°F.

Vinegar Dip

Dissolve Sugar and Salt in Vinegar. Microwave for 15 seconds if necessary. Add the Ground Black Pepper. Optional – put a clove or two of Garlic and Thai Chili (if you want it spicy).

Pour in a tall jar (to dip the pork skewer in). If you are eating the Pinoy BBQ with rice or on a plate, you can pour the vinegar dip in a dipping bowl. Either dip each piece of pork barbecue or pour the dip on the skewered pork.

Interested in other Pork Recipes? Check Out:
shanghai lumpia
Fried Spring Roll
pork giniling recipe
Pork Giniling Recipe
stir fry ground pork with green beans
Stir Fry Pork with Beans

Expert Tips and FAQ’s

What is the point of basting?

The purpose of basting is to moisten the surface of the meat during roasting or grilling. This culinary technique is also used to add flavour or enhance the taste, thus flavourful stock or some other liquid is used. Butter or pan drippings are also commonly used as baste.

How do you baste on a BBQ?

You need a basting brush or a heat-proof brush. Dip it in the baste then brush the surface of the meat with it. Repeat until you cover the entire surface of the meat or enough baste for the meat to hold (otherwise they will just drip off or down).

pinoy bbq sticks

What is the difference between basting and glazing?

In basting, you brush the surface of the meat with a liquid mixture during grilling. The baste provides additional flavour and helps retain moisture. A glaze is usually thicker in consistency especially because of the sugar content. The sugar caramelizes and adds another layer of flavour and a wonderful glossy finish. It needs to be thicker to stick to the surface of the meat.

What do you baste with?

One of the reasons for basting is to add flavour to the roasted or grilled meat so baste is usually a sauce or liquid mixture that is flavour-packed. It could be a mixture similar to the marinade (to enhance the marinade flavour) or pan-drippings or stock. Other options include butter and oil.

Why does grilled meat become hard and dry?

During the cooking process (not only grilling), the heat boils away the moisture from the surface of the meat. Then the internal moisture which includes the soluble components of the meat tissues moves out to replaces the exterior moisture. This also makes the muscle fibers contract (as the soluble parts were removed). That’s why cooked meat shrinks or relatively smaller than when it was raw. Especially if the meat is over-cooked, it will be likely hard and dry.

pork barbecue

How do you keep meat moist when grilling?

Brining or marinating meat helps keep it moist on the grill. Brining is simpler – submerging the meat in a salt-water mixture. Salt denatures or unwounds the meat’s protein allowing the cell structure to retain more water within them. Marinades usually have other ingredients for flavour but salt is one of them and the same in brining, it helps the meat take in more water or moisture.

This Pinoy BBQ recipe is using soy sauce though, not only for the salty component but the umami flavour.

Is it OK to marinate pork overnight?

Generally, it is better to marinate overnight to ensure that the meat absorbs the full flavour. When I was developing this Pinoy BBQ recipe, I tried marinating for 2 and 4 hours and in my opinion, they were not flavourful enough. So personally I always marinate overnight but not more than 24 hours.

Take note though that if your marinate has acid in it, marinating longer may bring more harm than good. The acid, which makes your meat tender by breaking down the tougher fibers in the meat continues to do it’s job. Marinating too long with acid could result to mushy meat.

Can I marinate pork for 3 days?

Pork, the same with beef, veal, lamb and the meat of other game animals can be left in the fridge for up to 5 days while marinating. It must be in a covered container and then make sure to discard any leftover marinade after. Read more about this in How long can you marinate pork? – Ask USDA

What happens if you marinate pork too long?

If you have acid in your marinade, it breaks down the meat’s fibers making the meat tender and more flavourful. However, if the meat is in the acidic marinade for longer, the acid continues to break down the meat’s tissues and they will end up mushy, dry and/or tough.

Does lemon juice tenderize pork?

Lemons are used as tenderizer because they are highly acidic. Acid breaks down the meat tissues resulting in a more tender and flavourful cooked meat. However, because it also draws water from the meat, having too much lemon juice or leaving the meat longer in an acidic marinade can make them dry and tough.

Does vinegar make pork tender?

Like lemons or citrus, vinegar is also a relatively strong acid. It works the same way as lemon – tenderizes meat and make them more flavourful. But then again, too much and/or too long in this acid will make your meat dry and tough and even mushy.

Why we should NEVER reuse marinades?

For food safety purposes, leftover marinade must never be recycled. It was in contact with uncooked meat and might contain harmful bacteria. Should you decide to use it as your baste as well, do the basting way before the meat is fully cooked. This will ensure that it has been cooked or subjected to enough heat to kill bacteria.

What temperature should pork be on BBQ?

Previously, USDA’s guidance on the required internal temperature was 160°F. However, the new guideline for best quality and microbiologically safe pork is 145°F with at least 3 minutes resting time. This way the meat is still slightly pink on the inside and not overcooked and tough and dry. Check out this USDA page.

bbq pork recipe

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pinoy bbq
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Difficulty: Intermediate Prep Time 6 hour Cook Time 20 min Total Time 6 hrs 20 mins
Servings: 7 Calories: 468
Best Season: Summer

Description

Pinoy BBQ is tender and flavourful pork in skewers with a sweet and savory glaze. The layers of flavour creates an instant party in your mouth with every bite.

Ingredients

Marinade

Baste

Vinegar Dip

Instructions

Prepare the Pork

  1. Wash the pork thoroughly.

  2. Cut in 1 or 1.5 inches width and 1/4 inch or 1 cm thickness. Set aside.

Marinate the Pork Cuts

  1. Combine all ingredients - Soy Sauce, Vinegar, Ketchup, Sprite or 7-up and Brown Sugar. Make sure that the sugar is completely dissolved. Pop in the microwave for 30-45 seconds if needed.

  2. Add the Pork and mix to ensure the marinate covers the meat. Massage the marinade into the pork if necessary.

  3. Add the Minced Garlic and mix again, massage into the pork if needed.

  4. Put in the fridge, in an air-tight or ziplock container. Marinate for at least 6 hours (and up to 24 hours)

  5. Meanwhile soak the bamboo skewers in water (same duration as marinade although 24 hours is best).

  6. Skewer the pork with the bamboo skewers or sticks.

Prepare the Baste

  1. Combine the Soy Sauce, Ketchup and Brown Sugar and mix completely.

  2. Ensure that the brown sugar and ketchup dissolve into the mixture. Pop in the microwave for 30-45 seconds if needed.

Grill

  1. Pre-heat the grill to 200°F.

  2. Place the Pork BBQ skewers on the grill and turn down the heat to the lowest setting.

  3. Using a basting brush, baste the topside of the pork skewers.

  4. Flip after 3 minutes and baste again the pork barbecue (this time the other side).

  5. Continue flipping every 2-3 mins and basting until the pork BBQ is done. Internal temp should be 145°F which takes about 8-12 minutes depending on the thickness and rest for 3 minutes before serving.

    If you want to serve it right off the barbecue, cook to internal temp of 160°F.

Vinegar Dip

  1. Dissolve Sugar and Salt in Vinegar. Microwave for 15 seconds if necessary. Add the ground black pepper. Optional - put a clove or two of garlic and Thai chili (if you want it spicy).

  2. Pour in a tall jar (to dip the pork skewer in). If you are eating the Pinoy BBQ with rice or on a plate, you can pour Vinegar dip in a dipping bowl. Either dip each piece of pork barbecue or pour the dip on the skewered pork.

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size 2 sticks

Servings 7


Amount Per Serving
Calories 468kcal
Calories from Fat 178kcal
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 20g31%
Saturated Fat 5.98g30%
Cholesterol 118mg40%
Sodium 2522mg106%
Potassium 752mg22%
Total Carbohydrate 32g11%
Sugars 26g
Protein 40g80%

Vitamin A 6 IU
Vitamin C 12 mg
Calcium 6 mg
Iron 13.99 mg
Vitamin E 3.99 IU
Vitamin K 2 mcg
Thiamin 65.98 mg
Riboflavin 32 mg
Niacin 52 mg
Vitamin B6 50 mg
Folate 4 mcg
Vitamin B12 16 mcg
Pantothenic Acid 12 mg
Phosphorus 38 mg
Magnesium 15.98 mmol
Zinc 13 mcg
Selenium 44 mg
Copper 6 mg
Manganese 8 mg

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily value may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs. Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption. source: https://nutritiondata.self.com

Notes

  1. The common pork cut for barbecue is the Boston Butt or the shoulder blade. However, because Filipinos like a bit more fat in their barbecue, pork belly is also a choice. More often, it is a combination of pork belly and shoulder blade or pork belly and loin. Others would just cut up a porkchop and skewer them in bamboo sticks. See blog above for more info on pork cuts.
  2. I use Silver Swan, a Filipino brand. See blog above for details on substitution.
  3. Banana ketchup, which is sweeter and less sour than tomato version is the ketchup in this recipe. See above for substitutions.
  4. In this recipe, I used a white vinegar. Again, see above for my explanations on substitutions.

 

Keywords: pinoy bbq, pork barbeque, pork marinade bbq, pork barbecue recipe, bbq pork recipe

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