Grilled pork skewers will be the star of your next cookout. The char-grilled, bite-sized pieces of pork are cooked to perfection. They emerge from the grill glimmering with a bright red sheen from the ketchup marinade. The edges are crispy and the pork is tender and succulent with sweet-savory-spicy notes.
These grilled pork skewers do not last long on the serving platter. If you’re the host, grill a double batch, maybe even a triple. There will be no leftovers.
Infused with Filipino Flavor
Grilling, especially over charcoal, is a common cooking technique in Filipino cuisine. Thanks to the tropical Philippine weather, outdoor barbecue is common all year round.
Pork barbecue and skewered meats are quintessential street foods in the Philippines. This is the kind of party fare that transcends all social divides. They can be served as a pulutan (appetizer) or a main course with achara (papaya pickles) and a mound of garlic rice.
Gas vs. Charcoal Grill
As opposed to gas grills, charcoal grills (with either lump coal or briquettes) need more time when starting, maintaining, and putting out the fire. But the aromas and flavors of charcoal cooking are potent and powerful.
Gas grills are more convenient—a quick flip of the switch—and the food cooks faster. Both ways give you irresistible pork barbecue pieces, so use whatever grill you have available.
The Best Cuts of Pork for Skewers
Use pork shoulder, pork belly, and/or pork butt sliced into 1-inch long by 1/2-inch wide pieces to make grilled pork skewers. The meat must have a good amount of fat marbling. When slicing and skewering, leave some fat on the meat and skewer a fatty piece at the top of the stick. The flavor from the fat-filled piece will trickle down the rest of the pieces when grilling.
An Easy Marinade
The key to great Filipino barbecue is a good overnight marinate. The marinade ingredients are staples in most Asian kitchens and easy to find in major supermarkets, with simple swaps for certain ingredients. If you can’t find banana ketchup, use tomato ketchup. Calamansi juice can be swapped for lemon juice. The grilled pork skewers will still be incredibly delicious.
If You Don’t Have a Grill
If you do not own an outdoor grill, you can make these pork skewers indoors using the oven or stovetop:
Oven: Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place the skewered pieces in a pre-greased shallow baking sheet, careful not to overcrowd the meats. Boil the marinade and add the sugar per the recipe. Brush the marinade on top of the pork. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, basting every so often. Flip the skewers halfway through, so that the meat cooks evenly. To achieve the slightly burnt-edges effect, broil for 3 to 5 minutes at the end.
Stovetop: Boil the marinade and add the sugar per the recipe, then let it cool down for about 10 minutes. Soak the pork in this mixture, then remove the pork pieces and set aside. Pre-grease a griddle or grill pan with cooking spray. Over medium heat, add the sliced, marinated pork pieces (without skewers). Stir around and pan fry for about 25 minutes till cooked thoroughly. Do not leave the grill pan unattended or the pork can burn. When done, skewer 1 to 2 pieces on cocktail toothpicks. Serve warm.
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Prepare the pork:
Using a sharp knife, slice the pork into 1-inch-long pieces that are 1/2-inch thick. Leave some of the fat on the meat for flavor and tenderness.
Make the marinade and marinate overnight:
In a large bowl, combine the sliced pork pieces with the marinade ingredients: minced garlic, soy sauce, ketchup, soda, calamansi (or lemon) juice, sesame oil, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper. Massage the meat, incorporating the marinade well.
Store in a covered plastic container or a resealable large freezer bag. Keep refrigerated overnight.
Prepare the grill:
Clean the grill grates well. Before lighting, spray a thin veil of cooking spray over the grates to prevent the meat from sticking.
Preheat the grill to medium-high heat, at least 10 to 15 minutes for a gas grill.
Prepare the skewers:
Slide the marinated pork pieces onto skewers. Thread about 5 pork pieces on each small wooden skewer (more if you’re using bigger skewers, but do not crowd them), placing a fatty piece on top.
Reduce the marinade:
Pour 1 cup of the marinade into a small saucepan. Simmer for about 5 minutes over medium-high heat.
Add the brown sugar and mix well. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Grill the skewers:
Place the pork skewers directly on the preheated grill grates. Line up the skewers side by side without overlapping.
Brush with the sauce every so often. Cook the pork skewers for 3 to 4 minutes. Use barbecue tongs to flip the skewers and grill another 3 to 4 minutes on the other side, painting with sauce.
When done, the edges will be slightly charred and the middle of the pieces should be soft, juicy, and cooked through.
Serve immediately on their own as an appetizer or as a main course with rice and achara on the side.
Leftover grilled pork skewers can be kept, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. To freeze, cover in plastic wrap and foil tightly and store for up to 1 month.