I'm cooking a whole 100lb hog at a party in a few weeks. I've never done it before. Now my former braggadocio is quickly materializing as an ulcer. If anyone is willing to take the time to help, I'd be much obliged.
I've ordered the pig. I've bought wood. I've got a spit coming. I've planned a menu. I've got a general sense of how its supposed to work. Yet a few things are keeping me up at night:
-I ordered the hog thinking that it would feed a ravenous horde. Now I'm not so sure. There are 50-65 people coming. That will supply plenty of food, right?
-The cooking equipment is being made by a relative: an elevated 4x3 iron box with a sloping bottom for the wood and an adjustable mechanized spit attached to rails in the middle, which means the heat will be direct but distant. He was thinking about attaching a hinged lid (which would make it about 5ft tall), as well as making it more of a smoker by giving it a side firebox and chimney. Does this present anything that I should be concerned about? Do the glories of spit-roasting over an open fire conflict with the zen of smoking in a closed box?
-I haven't cooked over wood too many times. When I do the wood seems to burn a lot faster than I expect. I bought a 4x4x2 box of cherry wood about the size of my arm--that is, a few inches thick and a few feet long. How much will I need? Should I supplement it with charcoal or thicker logs?
-I know that the pig will be about 3 feet over the wood. Everything else about the heating logistics eludes me: the fire should be of a decent size to hold its temperature, but not so big that it oversmokes the pig; it should be hot enough to actually cook the meat, but not so hot that it overcooks; it should be low enough to cook evenly for optimal tenderness and flavor, but not so low that it dries out. How do I know the appropriate size and temperature of the fire?
-Then once it's going, I'll have to throw in some new logs at a steady pace to keep the fire at the optimal temperature. How do I evenly regulate the temperature of the fire? Or even measure it?
-I'm not so worried about the food taking too long because we can always play cards and serve more drinks. If it cooks too quickly, though, we not only lose the spectacle and the shared carnal experience of hanging out in front of a slowly burning animal, but we're also stuck with the problem of holding the meat at the right temperature until we eat. We plan to start cooking for the late afternoon party sometime the night before. Is that necessary? Given all of the variables, how can I estimate the cooking time?
Thanks to anyone who waded through this, and even more for advice/therapy from anyone with experience in these matters.
Only time I ever participated in cooking a whole pig over a fire was at my brother's place in Tennessee. None of us had ever done anything like this. The fire pit was a hole in the ground; the spit was a straight branch peeled clean and riding in two forked stakes. Made a big fire late in the afternoon, put the pig on around eight or nine, sat up all night with a case or two of Stroh's and some, ahhh, native herbs, and added to the fire and turned the pig as needed. Woke in the morning to a world that smelled a lot better than it felt. About midday we broke Mr. Pig down on the big table and had us a heroes' lunch, with help from the women and children. Moral: as long as you don't burn it or leave it raw in the middle it will be edible, and most likely wonderful. You do need to keep the fire pretty steady, feeding wood in as needed, and watch out for grease flares. Stick an instant-read deep into a large muscle mass every so often to check on your internal temperature; we didn't do that (or even have one of those) so I can't tell you what to cook it to, but I damp-smoke shoulder butts to 190º and hold'em there for a few hours.
sorry for brief post, i have no time right now
but you need to get spine bolts/spine clamps-- they go through the spine of the animal to secure it to the spit-- otherwise the spit will turn, but the pig won't, it'll hang there, lamely burning while you look a fool trying to wrestle with it. . . more details later.
is this your relative's first cooking contraption, or has he made others before?
I'd suggest that you burn your wood down to coals and heap them on the fire pit instead of throwing logs on.
This will help you regulate the temperature better and you wont have a lot of soot and ash coating the skin (one of the benefits of doing whole hog is the crispy skin).
Wow....I'm fascinated by your undertaking and await your report after.
Quick Google about spit roasting a whole hog....
100# hog will yield 40 pounds of cooked pork for serving
Will take 8-10 hours....that's a lot of card playing and drinking
12" from the heat source
You going to brine it? and where do you brine something like that in your bath tub?
"Do the glories of spit-roasting over an open fire conflict with the zen of smoking in a closed box?"
Definately. One or the other. Can't really do both at the same time. Get that meat down to within a foot of the heat. You don't want FLAMES you want coals. I'd get 6-x times as much wood as you describe and a couple bags of charcoal to suppliment. You're goona have to have heat for 8-10 hours. Have your friedn make a lid for the grill. It will help keep the heat and flavors in.
Thanks so much for the help. Let me see if I've got this straight:
-Spine clips. Check.
-Burn wood down to coals. Is that like burning charcoal before grilling? How do I do that without burning the wood entirely? Do I need some heavy logs for that?
-Keep pig about a foot from the heat. Check.
-6x as much wood! S#*t! I could build a house with that much wood.
-I'm definitely nervous about the hog fitting on the spit. We asked for a longer one, but this is what we got. The head might not make it. I don't know if he's made one before. I'll attach a photo of it in process.
I bought Chris Lilly's new bbq book. It has three recipes for whole hogs.
Just for the record, the one we cooked in my brother's back yard was headless, mostly because the farmer who butchered it kept the heads for himself, unless you wanted to pay a lot more. Among other things, it hugely simplified the mounting of the carcass to the pole, a process which I recall required several yards of baling wire. And as the pole was studded with stubs of branches, we didn't need spine clips either.