Having a pig roast is hands down one of my favorite things to do. There are few other edible, legal party activities that put everyone in a good mood and garner as much excitement as serving moist delicious roasted pork to a large group of friends does. If you've never roasted a pig before for a party or special occasion, and are not a vegetarian or vegan, you've got to read this Instructable and try it. This pig roasting Instructable chronicles the entire process of having a pig roast, and extends far beyond the process of strictly roasting a pig. "Having a pig roast" is a bit like "having a baby" - there's a lot besides the pig/baby to think about. As a very gross estimate, roasting a pig takes approximately one day of prep, and one day of actual roasting. To be clear - I am no expert on pig roasting, but then again, few are. I am simply passionate about the subject and have done it a number of times. I have welded my own spits out of steel and also rented motorized spits from party rental supply stores. I have roasted one pig all by itself, two pigs together, two pigs with a bunch of chickens and some multi-headed ducks with chickens. I have learned a lot from each experience and I hope to share some of that info with you now in this Instructable. **This Instructable is based on a couple different pig roasts that I've been lucky enough to organize or asked to be a part of over the years. I thought I'd share a bunch of different approaches on how to roast a pig, since there really is no "right way" and the more information we share about roasting pigs, the tastier the meat will be. As a result, I am sorry if the images jump around a bit through the different methods.**
Alright, let's get into things...Where does one buy a pig?Whole hogs can be specialty ordered from the farm itself where the animal has lived, a good neighborhood butcher, or at the meat counter of your local quality supermarket or co-op. Ask around first at the butcher and work your way onwards from there. If they can't get you a whole pig, chances are they know who can, or point you to the pig farm where they buy their meat from. PricingI have paid as much as $4.00/lb and as little as $2.50/lb for a whole pig. Organic pigs can sell for significantly more depending on the source. You pretty much get what you pay for when you buy a pig, so do a little leg work and chose wisely when ordering.SizeSome seasoned pig roasters will recommend about 1 lb. of hanging weight pig per person attending the party. I have found that ratio to be much too low. The math on that estimate yields around 6 oz. of cooked pork per person. I'm not going to say publicly how many ounces of meat I expect to eat when I go to a pig roast, but I'll tell you it's certainly more than six. I recommend doubling this sizing guideline and figuring on 2 lbs of hanging weight pig per person attending the party...roasted pork makes great leftovers and soups, so if you go a little overboard, there's no reason anything needs to be wasted.Fresh or FrozenThe pig may come frozen, but hopefully it will be fresh. If it's been frozen then it will need to defrost over 24 hours or so. DO NOT ROAST A FROZEN PIG. Place it in a safe place where animals can't get to it, wrapped in plastic, and let it thaw. A big plastic tub works well as a holding vessle, or the bathtub, or in a cardboard box in the garage located such that if some juices come out as it thaws that it won't make a mess. If you your pig will come frozen, order it for the day before your pig roast so you can defrost it.If it's fresh and not frozen, that's great! Simply keep the pig refrigerated, in a cool place, or on ice in a cooler until the morning of the pig roast. Since it's so large, I have learned that having a spare fridge on hand can be nice. Remove the racks from the fridge, place the pig inside, and shut the door. If your pig will come fresh, order it to be picked up on the morning of your pig roast and then you won't have to deal with the "where do I store a whole pig" dilemma.Regardless of whether you defrosted your pig or not, remove it from the fridge/cooler an hour or so before you are ready to place it on the spit since it's not proper form to cook cold meat.Cook TimeRoasting pigs are young pigs - usually between 30 and 60 pounds, however they can come larger. Pigs that are used to make bacon are generally hundreds of pounds, however that's not a great roasting pig since the meat is older and tougher, so stay away from anything that's over 100 pounds if you're looking for tender juicy meat - additionally, at that size, it just becomes unmanageable. Better to get a second or third smaller pig for your roast. A 50 pound pig cooks in anywhere from 4 to 7 or even 8 hours depending on your heat source and whether or not you've stuffed it with anything...more on that later. Some fellow pig roasters recommend around 1 hour and 15 minutes per 10 pounds of dead weight pig. I have found that it's actually pretty variable depending on the heat from the fire, the height of the spit above the flames, if the pig is stuffed, and if you are using a motor driven rotary spit, or rotating by hand. In general, work backwards from when you'd like to eat using the 1hr 15m guideline per 10 pounds of hanging weight pig and add in an hour or so for carving and all the things that take longer than you've planned just to be safe.Sources for Pigs in the San Francisco Bay AreaJust recently I purchased a whole pig from Ver Brugge Meat, Fish and Poultry in Oakland, CA. Last year I we purchased a tasty pig from The UC Davis Meat Lab in Davis, CA. Whole Foods, and other grocery stores in the area can often special order whole pigs as well. As I said before however, going direct to the pig farm is best and you'll likely avoid the butcher's mark up. If you are in the bay area there are several local pig farms to choose from. Although, this article makes a compelling argument as to why it's better to buy a midwest pig as opposed to a local one. Long story short there is that it takes less carbon to feed the pig local grain in the midwest and ship the dead animal to California than to ship 4 times as much midwestern grain to pigs out west
Now there are a few different ways to secure the pig to the spit. If you are using a commercial spit then slide the retaining spikes into position around the pig's jowls and literally into the rear end, and lock them onto the pig by tightening the set screws. These, coupled with some bailing wire used to secure the trotters onto the secondary bar is all you need. This process is shown in the first photo and is pretty straight forward.If you have made your own spit then you'll need come up with something a little more inventive. I chose to drill holes through my spit rod and insert additional smaller diameter steel rod into those holes. Then, I used bailing wire tied around the front legs, mouth and that smaller diameter steel rod to secure the pig in place. See second photo above. That way, when you rotate the spit to cook the pig evenly, the pig doesn't just flop around to it's lowest point (back down, legs up). The first time I roasted a pig I got a little overzealous and drilled several holes all along the entire spit rod. See third photo in this step. Once the pig was on I took 1/2" steel rods and skewered the pig into position hell-raiser style, in addition to the bailing wire. This was overkill, and a little scary for people to see in hindsight. Since then I've opted for simply creating a hard point on the spit rod and securing the pig's feet to that point at the front and back like the scenario I've described in the previous paragraph.
Remember the chickens that have been brining in a delicious bath of salt, lemon, herbs and spices from step 6? Give them a good rinse and throw them onto the spit too. The chicken roasting device that I created is a bit crude, but works very well. You simply sandwich/clamp the chickens between the three rods and place it on the spit. The photos above show them getting loaded up - they look as if they are going to escape...they did not. The key feature of the chicken roasting level is to have whatever is there be basted in the juices of the pig roasting above it. Chickens roasted in pork drippings are some of the best chickens around.The second photo above shows the chickens getting secured to the spit using just a simple BBQ skewer that passes through a hole in the spit rod. Many options here, do what's easy and exciting for you.
With all the animals affixed to their respective spits, it's time to put them over the fire and begin cooking. At first, watch the roasting process closely and get a feel for how hot your fire is. You don't want to burn the outside of the pig before the inside comes to temperature. Move coals away from the pig if things get too hot. Add coals with a shovel if things look like they aren't hot enough. You'll know the fire is too hot if your skin begins to crack or get crispy in the first hour or two.If you are using a commercial spit then the motor will turn the pig constantly at a slow speed the entire time. Until recently I had only roasted animals on non-mechanized spits. The same effect can be achieved by rotating the pig every 15 minutes or so. Set a timer and remember to keep it close by. When the alarm goes off, remove the hanging weight or clamp holding the spit in place, give the pig a 1/4 or 1/8 turn, replace the weight or clamp, and go do something else for the next 15 minutes. This process sounds tedious, but it's really not. Checking back in with the pig on this kind of basis is probably a good idea to make sure everything is proceeding as planned, and if given the choice between motorized and manual rotation, I think I'd choose manual just because it's fun to hang out with the pig for a while. 2b1af7f3a8