Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Nov 14, 2006 12:48 AM

Anyone know how to bury a Turkey? Mumu, Imu etc....

So this year, we want to cook our turkey underground polynesian style. I have had a turkey that was cooked this way once before and it was great. Very moist, good flavor. I get the general idea; big pit, heat up some rocks, bury the bird etc.... What I need some advice on is the specifics. What to wrap the turkey in, how long to heat the rocks, how long to cook the turkey, and so on. Has anyone done this and can they provide a tutorial. Thanks-

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I've done several hangis, for up to 400 people, acting as apprentice to a Maori friend of mine. To answer your questions:

    Use house bricks or pieces of railway line if you can get them. They're already tempered and hold the heat well. If you use quartz or other more brittle rocks, you could well end up with them exploding in your face with disastrous results.

    The secret to a successful hangi is a clean hole once the bricks have been fired. You want to get a big hardword fire going with the bricks somewhere in the middle. If using railway line, it should get to red/yellow hot. When the fire dies down, be dressed in heavy woollen jumper, heavy jeans, long woollen socks and good heavy duty leather boots and a wolleen beanie, with overalls over the lot. Have someone soak you down with a hose and jump in the pit for about ten to 15 seconds at a time (with a dousing between each session) and furiously shovel eveything out, leaving not a speck of smouldering wood or any other material and separating out the bricks/rails. The need for cleanliness of the hole cannot be overstated. If anything is left smouldering it will taint the food and be bitter.

    We used a reinforcing steel basket lined with bird wire to hold the food. The basket was thickly lined with cabbage leaves. Normally they use palm leaves, but they're not so plentiful here in southern Australia. I imagine lettuce leaves, swiss chard or something similar would do as well, but make them plentiful! Cover the food with a similar amount of the same. Line the hole evenly with the hot bricks/rails and site the basket over the heat source. The basket should sit quite snugly in the hole.

    Cover the food with an appropriately folded old damp bed sheet or something similar, that will keep earth from settling on the food. Cover the package with wet wheat bags or potato sacks, then cover with earth, being careful to cover everything to a depth of about six inches. It must be well insulated, with no steam escaping.

    When doing this, we had legs of pork, large fishes, whole turkeys and chickens, butts of beef etc in there. We just left it for four or five hours and consumed ridiculous amounts of beer whilst waiting. The steaming process keeps it moist anyway.

    When opening up the pit, be very gentle about removing all possible earth without disturbing the bags or sheet covering the food. When all possible earth has been removed, it's possible to flick the remainder off with a deft flick of the wrist while removing the bags. Lift the basket out with the sheet still on and remove it at the carving table. The leaves shloud just peel away and you shouldn't need to carve -- the bird should just fall apart.

    Hope that helps -- please report back! Cheers.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Ozbyte

      Thanks a lot, that is great info. The info on cleaning the hole is a great point, I had heard that vaguely before but wasn't sure what the reason was. I am thinking that maybe we will fire the bricks or rocks outside of the hole and transfer them after they are heated with a posthole digger and avoid the issue of burning matter altogether. Could you describe the basket that you put the food in, was it actually a wire basket or was it more of a bucket? Would you imagine that sizing the hole as closely as possible to the size of the item to be cooked would be the way to go? Seems like having as much space as possible filled with bricks as opposed to dirt would be beneficial. Thanks for the help. I will keep you updated with the results.

      1. re: Biggun

        The basket was made of the type of steel you use for reinforcing concrete in driveways, etc, oblong shaped, (the hole was dug to match). Envy you your use of the machine, but then I might be a little fitter for it! You need the fire in the hole to insulate the heat as much as possible. The surrounding earth will hold a lot of heat and if it's cold, it will drain the heat out of your rock/bricks too quickly. While the hole needs to be snug, it also needs room for convection. I omitted to mention in the previous post that the covering (bags, etc.) is spread out beyond the hole's sides and weighted down. You don't want earth down around the sides of the food. The heat source in our case was directly underneath, but I can see no reason for not puttin it around the sides as long as it's not in direct contact with the food or leaf wrapping. Hope this helps. Sorry about the slow response, but we're on opposite sides of the planet, afterall!

        1. re: Ozbyte

          Well, I can't have you going off thinking that you are advising yet another lazy american that is getting some sort of machine to do his work. A posthole digger, here at any rate, is a handheld device that is basically like a big pair of tongs or two long narrow shovels hinged at the middle. You jam it down into the ground and seperate the handles to gather up a load of dirt (or rocks). Although, come to think of it, if I had access to some mechanized rock mover, I would probably use it. So disregard, you ARE advising another lazy American =-)....I take your point about the heating of the hole however and will likely use the posthole digger to remove the burning wood from the hole then get down in there with my welding gloves and clean up the bits of ash. Thanks for your continued advice.

          1. re: Biggun

            Not a problem. Sounds like the long way about it, though. That whole has to be squeaky clean. We do the soaking ritual, then get in there with shovels -- big square mouthed ones. Then again, for one turkey the hole won't be that big! One nice thing my friend taught me was a thing the Maori call loo, or lu, or whatever. Basically, it's just uncooked corned silverside shredded or minced, mixed with fresh or sour cream, wrapped up in foil, then cabbage leaves and thrown in with the rest. Doesn't sound much, but it's ambrosia! I've applied variations to it by adding in minced onion, garlic, tasty cheese and black pepper. Can be done in the oven as well, of course....

            1. re: Ozbyte

              Sounds like a good recipe if only I knew what corned silverside was. Are we talking a cut of meat or some kind of vegetable? I am definitely going to do it whatever it is. Seems like it would be bad luck not to have something authentic in this process.

              1. re: Biggun

                Not sure of the American cuts. Maybe corned brisket? It's the corned meat that isn't rolled. Has the texture and appearance of round steak, if that helps.

    2. A friend of ours used to have a turkey party every november, pre-thanksgiving. I don't know the details of how they did the bird, but I know the guys started working on the pit and the fire the night before, and stayed up all night in their campchairs trying to make interesting glass sculptures out of beer bottles in the flames.

      The bird cavity was stuffed with ice and butter. Good luck...I'll be watching this thread w/ interest.

      3 Replies
      1. re: danna

        What do you suppose the ice was for? Maybe to create steam when it melted?

        1. re: Biggun

          A variatation of beer can chicken in a pit?? Stick a gallon of beer up a turkey's butt and bury it in a hot pit.... Doen't sound too bad!

          1. re: Ozbyte

            Yeah, all I know is the ice and butter was suppose to "baste" the turkey as it melted.

            Frankly, I can't really remember how the turkey tasted. I mainly remember what a cool party it was. Unfortunately, the friend traded his gorgeous property w/ the mile-long driveway, 10 acre lake, deer on the property, yada yada, for a McMansion in a treeless subdivision. I never understood that, but it was the end of the turkey parties.

      2. Good info from everyone thanks a lot.

        1. The discussion of apparatus to use for roasting meat has been split off and moved here:

          1. The apparatus bit was just a two item spin off. The rest of that thread is pertinent to this thread.