Blog: A taste of what you may find on Maui

Happy Thanksgiving Imu-Style

Thanksgiving turkey is the tradition in our house. This year I went Imu-style

I will admit, this year I do not feel like roasting a turkey. I know it’s tradition. But truth be told, the chicken I roasted for Canadian Thanksgiving last month was a flop, and I just am not up for a re-do. The family got lucky ~ I found and bought a ticket for an imu!

What is this Imu-style?

An imu is an oven created by digging a hole in the ground. You place rocks in the bottom and then build a large fire on top of it. Once the fire burns down, you place a layer of leaves (banana, ti etc) on the rocks, then all the wrapped meat dishes. Then you cover it tightly and let the contents steam overnight. The process is a lot of work and no, we do not have our own imu in our yard.

This year’s imu

I’ve participated in several imus over the years. This year I was able to buy a $20 ticket for the Hawaiian Outriger Canoe Voyaging Society imu. I’d heard of their imu in the past, but this was my first time with them.

I thawed my turkey in time to prep it Wednesday. I picked up a disposable tin roasting pan and heavy-duty tin foil at one of the grocery stores. My $20 ticket allowed for an 11×13 inch pan, for $40 I could have brought an 11×21 inch pan. I’ve learned in years past to bring an average (14-pound) turkey. A friend who uses a 20-pound bird usually has to roast it some more in the oven at home. He likes it that way, he prefers a turkey with crispy skin. Imu-roasted turkey is usually haole-turkey (kinda pasty white and no crispy skin – you know, dermatologist-approved).

I prepared my turkey as I always do, then placed it in the roaster. Do not stuff your turkey as it may not cook properly. Then you wrap the whole thing (roaster and all) in 6 layers of tin foil. The heavy-duty foil works better as it’s stronger, but regular tin foil will do if that’s all you have. I then used painter’s tape to wrap the seams and label the bundle with my name.

The result

I woke up at night wondering how the turkey was doing. When I dropped it off at 4 PM (per the instructions), they hadn’t even built the fire yet. Would the turkey be cooked through? I got up early and headed over to Sugar Beach at 6:30 AM. I took a quick peak in the direction of the imu, it was already opened, the tin-wrapped bundles set out on tables. So much for getting there on time to open the imu ~ it’s a pretty special thing. I was there for it a few years ago ~ check out this blog post.

I chose to go on my beach walk as planned. It was beautiful, the water clear, small waves lapping the shore. There were a fair number of walkers this morning. The Lahaina fire in August took out the Lahaina boat harbor. Ever since there are more boats moored off Sugar Beach (and Ka’anapali beach).

After I picked up my turkey. If you ever do an imu, remember to bring something to carry your bundle back home. I had a metal roaster, but a cooler would work well too. Sometimes they leak or are wet from other bundles having leaked. Just be prepared. It wasn’t hot anymore, had been sitting out for a while I guess.

At home I opened the packaging. Wow. I have never had a turkey this well-done before. Someone has mentioned ‘shredded imu turkey’ before, and that was what I have. The bones just fell off the meat and I got lucky, there was some juice in the package. I carved it all up, drizzled the juices over the meat. I then covered it and put it in the fridge. I’ll reheat it later when I bake the stuffing.


Curious to learn more about outrigger paddling? I blogged about it a few years ago. Enjoy!