How To Roast A Whole Pig

20 Feb

(warning: pig carcass photos below)

I just found photos from a pig roast & camping trip in Stanislaus National Forest organized by some friends last summer. It was everyone’s first time roasting a large whole pig, but the pork ended up delicious, moist, and not too greasy. Success!

I wasn’t involved in the planning, and don’t really have a detailed “recipe”, but here’s the general approach:

1. Rub the whole pig with salt (there wasn’t really space or room to store a big tube of liquid brine)

2. Fill it with whole apples, lemons, and carrots and “sew” it shut with wire

3. Skewer it on a pole (he used a long copper pipe)

4. Figure out how to mount it on a frame above the fire and periodically turn it (Nate built a frame out of 80/20 aluminum framing, and connected the spit to a 12V DC brushmotor, gearbox, timing relay (such as McMaster Carr part #7630K19), and a car battery, which in combination would turn on the motor about every 30 seconds, rotate the spit an eighth of a turn, and then shut off, with no need for other electronics or any software).

A video:

5. Burn wood in a firepit nearby to make coals, and periodically shovel them under the pig. Put most of the coals under the shoulder and butt and fewer under the belly (it’s thinner, so it doesn’t need as much heat).

6. Build up enough coals and choose a height so that it’s painful to hold your hand where the pig is (one suggestion I read was that after 4 or 5 seconds of holding your hand at the pig’s height it should be painfully hot). We started at probably 30″ from the coals to the bottom of the pig, but lowered it a few times in the first few hours as we were concerned about temperature– we probably ended up with the pig about 16″ above the coals.
7. Cook for a while (it took about 6 hours for our pig).
8. The skin may naturally split and fall off– I’m not sure how to prevent that.
9. Test the meet deep in the shoulder and butt with a thermometer periodically (but don’t run the thermometer into the bone). We aimed for 145F.
10. When it’s ready, take it off, wrap it in foil, and cover it for 45 minutes to let it rest
11. Carve and devour!

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