How to Cook Meat Underground

Updated February 21, 2017

Several cultures have culinary traditions that involve cooking meat underground, such as the New Zealand Maori, native Hawaiians and various Polynesian cultures. The underground oven consists of heated stones placed into a hole in the ground, which is then used to cook meat and other food. With the correct dimensions and kindling, you can prepare an underground cooking pit to cook meat at home.

Dig a hole that is between 2 and 3 feet deep and long enough to accommodate the size of the meat or other dishes that you want to cook underground. The hole will vary greatly in length depending on what you are cooking. It would be much longer if you wanted to cook a whole pig, for example, instead of a beef brisket.

Lay a layer of small firewood on the bottom of the pit and insert a stick that is 4 inches in diameter upright in the centre of the pit. To make sure that it doesn't fall over, lay more small firewood around the stick.

Add a layer of round porous stones, such as sandstone, on top of the firewood.

Wrap a clean rag around the stick and pour lighter fluid over the rag.

Remove the stick, light it, and then turn it down and light the firewood at the bottom of the hole that was created by the stick. This way the fire will burn from the bottom up. After the fire begins burning, safely discard the stick.

Wait until the fire is burning very hot. You will know this when you can see the firewood glowing. This will indicate that the stones are very hot and ready.

Line a piece of chicken wire with banana leaves; then place your meat onto the leaves.

Cover the hot stones with banana trunks. The trunks should be cut and crushed so that they will lay flat.

Place the chicken wire with the banana leaves and your meat onto the banana trunks and completely cover your meat with more banana leaves.

Cover the whole pit with burlap sacks and then cover the sacks with the earth that you dug out to form the hole.

Cook your meat until it is done according to your recipe. When done, carefully remove each item in the reverse order that you put them in until you reach the meat. You should remove these items with long tongs used for grilling. You may also want to wear heat-resistant hand gloves.


An underground pit is very hot and the stones that are heated will remain hot for many hours. Don't try to touch your meat or other items in the pit with your bare hands.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Firewood
  • Stones
  • Rag
  • Lighter fluid
  • Chicken wire (4 sq. ft.)
  • Banana leaves
  • Banana trunks
  • Burlap sacks
  • Grill tongs
  • Heat-resistant gloves
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About the Author

Jessica Jewell is a writer, photographer and communications consultant who began writing professionally in 2005. Her chapbook, "Slap Leather," is forthcoming from dancing girl press. Her recent work has appeared in "Nimrod," "Harpur Palate," "Copper Nickel," "Rhino," "wicked alice," "Poetry Midwest" and "Barn Owl Review." Jewell was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She earned her Master of Fine Arts from Kent State University.