Your whole roast pig options in L.A. (fresh and pre-roasted included)
I've been going through a process of trying to figure out how to host a roast pig party and wanted to create a dedicated thread to consolidate information taken from various other CH posts.
As I quickly learned, in L.A. your options are quite good for roasting a whole pig, whether you want to do it yourself or purchase a pre-roasted pig. Just keep in mind that most of these places require at least 4-5 days lead time.
Roasting at home is obviously more of a logistical challenge but can be very rewarding if you're willing to put in the effort. It is NOT, however, more cost-effective, especially when you budget in time. If you do plan to go this route, I highly recommend this guide: http://www.cuban-christmas.com/pigroast.html Otherwise, I wouldn't get into the actual cooking part (though folks can feel free to take up that discussion below).
Quick background: I need a pig big enough for 20-30 adults. From experience, we'd be talking about something in the 40-50 lb range (with a ton of leftovers). In fact, that may even be overkill but better to go bigger than smaller.
Notably, two of my local butchers really tried to dissuade me from trying to order a 40-50 lber . That includes the butcher at Fresco (Hermon) and Alexander Meats (Alhambra). Both really made it seem like it was a major hassle and/or expense but when I started calling around to other places, all of them said, "oh sure, not a problem." I don't quite understand why I met with reluctance from two sources but their concern was that, for smaller pigs, the price per pound goes up. That may be true but the prices I found were quite reasonable (I thought).
Note: the furthest "west" I called was mid-city. I live in the SGV and I didn't want to source a pig from the westside; there may very well be options out there.
BANG FOR THE BUCK: Broadleaf Game in Vernon. http://www.broadleafgame.com/
They could sell me a 45 lber for less than $3/lb. That was phenomenal; at least 30% less than any other source I found. The only catch is that, because they are a wholesaler, your pig arrives frozen. Some butchers will pre-thaw for you but not them. Therefore, you need to be prepared to thaw the pig (ideally, safely). I got the sense that, if the pig is in stock, you could buy it immediately but of course, you still need time to thaw and that's going to take a few days.
$130 or $2.75/lb
STILL REASONABLE: Harmony Farms in La Crescenta http://www.harmonyfarmsonline.com/
They get pig deliveries every Thursday and they will NOT be frozen (I asked). If I were to order, I'd lean towards them, mostly b/c they're not that far and their delivery schedule works with my dates.
$190 or $4.20/lb
Also: Cal Poly Pomona's Meat Lab http://www.csupomona.edu/~meatlab/
A bit off the beaten path but they will custom slaughter, clean and cut. You first have to buy a pig from their "swine unit" and then it's delivered to the meat lab where they will finish the cleaning and dressing. I didn't get a precise price here because I only spoke to the folks at the meat lab and not the swine unit (the names aren't exactly the greatest but hey) but they guessed the pig would run $80 and then the slaughtering/cleaning/dressing would be $100 (it's $20 less if you don't care to keep the head and feet; those are a pain to clean so they charge extra). They are the only source where everything is on location, unlike everywhere else where the pig is first ordered through a farm that then delivers it to the butcher. This may or may not matter to you.
$180 or $4/lb
Marconda's Meats (mid-city) http://www.marcondas.com/
They quoted me $4.49/lb. Obviously more than Broadleaf but not that much higher than Harmony or CPP. They also receive their deliveries on Thursday; I didn't ask if the pig was frozen or not or if they'd partially thaw on premise for me.
$200 or $4.49/lb
MOST EXPENSIVE: Lindy and Grundy (mid-city) http://lindyandgrundy.com/
Popular option for the organic, pastured, high-end meats crowd but you are definitely paying for what you get. They quoted me the final price but working backwards, the price per pound would be in the $7-8/lb range. They also receive their deliveries on Thursday; I didn't ask if the pig was frozen or not or if they'd partially thaw on premise for me.
$345 or $7.67/lb
There should be many other options to folks throughout the city; this just gives you a general range and a few places to consider.
I'm heavily leaning in this direction b/c home-roasting is a lot of work and as the date draws near, I'm feeling like I could use ONE less source of stress. And from a guest point of view, a roast pig is a roast pig, regardless of where it was cooked. Or so I think? Anyway...
These usually do not come by the lb but rather, by the size: small, medium, large, etc. For my purposes, a "medium" is what I needed, which, from what I could gauge, is probably good for 25-35 adults (ymmv). A small would be something like a suckling pig: 15-20 lber, good for a small dinner party of 20 or less. Except where noted, these are all places where you have to pick-up. I found one place that delivers but in general, I didn't seek out delivery as an option.
BANG FOR THE BUCK: Kim Tar BBQ (City of Industry) http://www.yelp.com/biz/kim-tar-bbq-restaurant-city-of-industry
They may be out in the sticks for many, but Industry isn't really that far for anyone in the SGV.
$198 for a "medium" (they also had a small option but, interestingly, not a large one).
STILL REASONABLE: Sam Woo BBQ (Alhambra). http://www.yelp.com/biz/sam-woo-barbeque-alhambra#query:sam%20woo%20bbq
They thought I would need a smaller pig for my party size, which presumes you can go at least two sizes up for bigger parites.
Eva's Lechon (Koreatown) http://www.evaslechon.com
This name came up a lot during my research though it sounds like you should never order around major holidays. The reviews of their customer service during heavy demand are scathing, to say the least. I didn't call them but their prices are listed. I needed something between 1/2 a pig and a medium but there's a weird price jump when you go between the two even though their own calculations suggests that a 1/2 can feed 25 whereas a medium is for 30, yet the price goes up $75!
Toto's Lechon Manok (Eagle Rock) http://totoslechon.com/
They have a few locations and I called the one in Eagle Rock b/c they're closest. For the size I needed, the cost was fairly high and I can't find enough reviews to vouch for the quality of the final product.
YOU WANT DELIVERY? Outback Catering (Van Nuys) http://www.outbackcatering.com/
Outback came recommended via a few CHers. You can do either pick-up or delivery though obviously, the latter costs more. They will also do on-site catering but I didn't ask about that. Their prices are about 10-15% more than more local options and for delivery (at least from Van Nuys to the SGV), it's an extra $50. Not cheap but not, in my opinion, unreasonable considering they will delivery, to your door, an entire roast pig.
There are, of course, a ton of other Chinese places I could have listed (CBS in Chinatown comes up a lot) but I'm assuming their costs would be about the same as Kim Tar and Sam Woo. For me, personally, I'd lean towards either Kim Tar or Sam Woo. The former b/c they're the cheapest, the latter b/c they would have a ton of experience doing this kind of thing. Eva's is tempting but I'm scared off by the reviews plus K-Town is a longer haul than Alhambra.
I would also add...one of the jokes I heard from the guy at Outback is that "if you can speak Mandarin, you'd have a lot of good options locally" but as I discovered, I definitely didn't need to draw on my basic Mandarin skills; the folks at Kim Tar and Sam Woo who handle these orders are completely fluent in English and you wouldn't need to stress any kind of language barrier.
One thing: someone on CH said that King's Hawaiian in Gardena/Torrance does whole roast pig but when I called their catering division, they said they did NOT provide this. Not sure if they changed their policies or I spoke to someone who didn't know what they were talking about (since I called during the dinner hour but they supposedly passed me onto their catering staff).
Recently posted on KirkK's excellent blog, he and friends roasted a whole pig early this December:
Also, posted this week, Costco in Tustin is selling whole suckling pigs:
very nice post!
a note about the chinese places. the two you listed, sam woo and kim tar, are both cantonese speaking (with kim tar being teochew). so english or cantonese is fine.
you could of course speak mandarin, but they're cantonese by origin (not mandarin), as are most of the chinese bbq places
Picked up my 20.9Lb suckling yesterday at $175 which comes to $8.39/lb from Meat House Costa Mesa. Marinating it overnight in toasted fennel seeds, salt, pepper, garlic, thyme, and olive oil. Will stuff with fennel bulb, orange, garlic, and bay leaf and roast for 7 hours mañana. Pics to follow.
I don't know the cost, but Sweet One Bakery & Kebab Factory, an Armenian grocery/bakery/buther/restaurant in Van Nuys lists whole roasted baby pork and roasted pork leg on their catering menu. I've ordered roasted meats from their restaurant menu and they have been pretty good. And the buther prices are generally very good.
It's possible that the person who answerd the phone just didn't have their info straight; I was calling later in the evening so I didn't get the day shift folks. I suspected that was the case but I didn't bother to follow up since King's, even if they did do it, are located on the other side of town and therefore, logistically, they weren't as desirable.
Just bought a pig from Kent Short @ old Fashioned Country Butcher in Santa Paula. Picked it up today. Will be roasting it on the 4th on our custom spit that we built specifically for roasting whole lamb.
We do our best to avoid any meat that was raised on commercial feed, corn, etc. We also avoid meat that was raised on antibiotics. ( I guess we are one of the "High End Meat Crowd")
Kent suggested a pig from a rancher that feeds large amounts of acorn and almonds.
Over the years, Kent has found us some pretty amazing beef, lamb and pork.
Kent slaughters the animal and butchers it to order.
The shop has USDA certification. Our pig was about 77 pounds hanging weight and we paid under $300 for it.
We deboned the pig. Bones went into the stock pot . Head went into a separate pot for version of Pigs Head Torchon.
The meat was rolled into a 5 foot long porchetta. We then spitroasted the porchetta for about 4 hours.
Results were pretty spectacular:
Meat was tender. Skin was super crispy. The Torchon was divine.
Pork Broth awaits in the freezer for a nice winter Ramen.
I'll post some pictures of this the roaster and detailed instructions of how we built it. If you have a friend with some welding skills it's fairly easy to put together. Its basically a steel box. The base has sand on it which allows for you to clean up and a nice heat base. (Also allows for some advanced steaming). There is motor and chain drive. 1 inch steel skewer that goes into bearings that are removable. Built a cover so that we can control the temperature.
My friend Mitch Freider came up with the idea of the porchetta. 2 or 3 times a year we get together and cook something crazy. We usually do whole lambs. Mitch is a restaurateur, caterer and also instructor at the culinary academy. So deboning was his skill to teach me . It took about an hour.
We roasted for about four hours with indirect heat in the corners using charcoal and apple wood chips. Skin was crisped by moving the coals directly under for the last half hour.
Mitch posted fotos and a video on his blog. Www.macksbbq.blogspot.com
re: LEAD TIME.
I said "4-5" days above but that's inaccurate. From the butchers I called around town, if you order by Tuesday, you can have your pig as early as Thursday.
In addition, for places like the Cal Poly Pomona Swine Unit and Broadleaf Game, they seem to have a variety of pigs in inventory so it's possible you could get one on even shorter notice (but given that doing a pig roast is rarely some kind of "spur of the moment" event, it'd be doubtful you'd be in a situation where you need to pick up a pig on the drop of a dime).
I've used Broadleaf the last few times I roasted a pig. Great place. The pigs came unfrozen.
When I first called around, I thought for certain I could buy a whole, uncooked pig from an asian or latino market. And I'm still certain you can, if you know the magic password phrase (something like "I am not from the Health Department"). So thanks for compiling the info, odub.
As for roasting your own, I highly recommend it. Here's a whole primer I wrote up on the various roasting methods: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/700586#6455322
Overall, the Caja China is much simpler than the cinder-block method. Here are details of how I built my homemade caja china (with photos): http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7005...
Buying a pig pre-roasted is indeed simpler and quicker (not necessarily cheaper), but your guests will miss out on SO much of the fun. And you will miss out on the primal thrill of cooking a beast, the adulation of blissful diners, and the swooning hearts of young maidens besotted with your culinary awesomeness. If you're into that kind of thing.
Thanks for the input. The caja was something I thought about but it seemed too expensive to order (though the Cuban cinder roaster wasn't exactly cheat either) and I wouldn't have had the skills to DIY it. The cinder method is *mostly* straightforward though labor-intensive. As I keep stressing: these roasts work best if you have a crew to help.
I would disagree with you re: cost. Even if I take out the cost of the roaster and strictly focus on the pig + charcoal, in most cases, the cost of a pre-roasted pig was never going to be much higher than ordering it raw. Now I didn't shake every tree - I did not, as you suggest, call local Latino or Asian markets to source my pig and I think it's entirely possible that, had I, I may have been able to get an even lower price. That said, I'd be surprised if any of those markets can do better than Broadleaf's frozen pig rates, which were incredibly reasonable, all said.
Just curious, why do is the pig an "aftermath"?
I'm guessing the way the skin is folded back, it was not crisped to cracklin? Otherwise, thats a good looking pig to me...
Just my 2c to the thread -
I live in the Montreal area. I do whole hogs with the cinderblock pit method (a la Cuban Xmas), maybe 3-4 times per year. It always comes out great.
Maybe I'm spoiled, but theres an abbatoir about a 1/2 hour drive away. You can choose a live pig and slaughter it right there, or you can choose one ready to go outta the cooler.
Its been awhile since I had one slaughtered there, but his dressed hogs run about $2.50/lb.
You can plan the roast, call the guy to make sure he keeps the size you want, build the pit the day before, pick up the hog the day of, and go from there. Not frozen, no need to keep cool overnight, etc.
My verdict? Roast it yerself!
However - ya gotta like to do it. Me? the prep, the getting the pig, the starting the charcoal, the sittiing by the pit, are as much a part of the experience as eating the thing. IMO if you don't want the fuss, then order it pre-roasted.
Porker: 1) We didn't do anything to properly crisp up the pig skin. I thought about it but the roast ran over an hour late b/c I couldn't keep the heat properly maintained for a spell and a flip to re-roast the skin felt like it'd take prohibitively long so I left it out. Some of our friends' dogs benefitted from this so at least the skin didn't go to waste.
2) Roasting at home vs. ordering it. I was half-joking and really, my roast was VERY negative colored by the fact that, as a result of my high cholesterol, I had gone on a VLC (very low carb) diet for the two weeks leading up to the roast. What I didn't realize until after is that a suddenly shift to VLC can completely wreck your mental/emotional state, especially in potentially sending your cortisone (stress hormone) levels through the roof. That's what apparently happened to me and given that the pig roast was mostly "on me" (i.e. I didn't have a crew around to help share the workload more evenly), it was dropping a stress chaser into a big mug of stress. Or something like that.
Let's just say I was not having a good week and planning/executing a pig roast wasn't helping. Even though everything ended up coming off well, I still wish I had just ordered the damn pig, already roasted. At least for *that* occasion, just to have spared me all the added stress. But now that I feel normal again, I think a second roast would likely go much smoother.
Quite a job on follow up replies!
Just a few more cents from the porker;
I can understand the stress involved in a first-time pig, and thats without diet/lifestyle changes thrown in. My biggest concern on my first was the pig never cooking properly - that I'd have a semi-raw, dead hog on the table with 40 people standing around with plates and forks in hand... I might add that its not the first time feeling such anxiety: I used to own a restaurant and did plenty of wierd caterings - all stressful, especially with paying customers - so my first pig wasn't WAY out there.
Just to add, crisping the skin is relatively quick. Assuming you have quite a bit of charcoal in the corners, redistribute along entire bottom of pit, turn pig over, and CHECK SKIN EVERY 5 MINUTES. If you sit around, drinking beer and telling stories, you will (at least I did) burn the skin. Takes ~15 minutes. If you have very little charcoal left, remove layers of the brick pit, getting the pig closer to the bottom, again checking often.
I agree, to do a roast pig, it helps to have at least one dedicated, enthusiastic friend. A crew would be better.
The caja vs cinderblock jury is still out for me. I'm currently building a modified caja allowing burning charcoal inside the box.
Building your own is not cheaper than buying it. I knew this going in (at least in principal), but seeing the hardware bills pile up is another thing. I'm building for the sake of it so the cost isn't a damper (after seeing me make a slick poker table and the semi-finished caja, mrs. porker has me working on a huge barn-wood dining table next.....) .
With that said, I think the initial time/cost/effort of making your own caja is much steeper than the cinder block method. It might be better over time, though.
Given a choice between an off-the-shelf caja and the cinder block method, I think I'd choose the cinder block for the smokiness of the internal charcoal - but thats me.
What I'm trying to figure out is what I can do with the pit and grate besides roasting another pig. Not that I'm against the latter (though I don't know if I'd want to host another 40 people for it!) but it'd be good to get multiple usage out of it.
The thing is: it's just so big that it's rather inefficient as an oven/grill. It wouldn't make sense to grill chickens on there, for example, unless I was planning on doing a dozen.
HOW TO ROAST A WHOLE PIG.
As I noted above, I use these directions: http://www.cuban-christmas.com/pigroast.html
One of the hardest things to put together are the two grates that you will sandwich the pig between. It really really really helps to know someone who welds but it's not 100% essential.
Welder or no welder, in L.A. if you go to Home Depot, here's all you need:
10 pieces of 4' rebar http://goo.gl/BR2u8
3/8th inch is fine unless you're planning on roasting a monster of a pig in which case, you may need 1/2 inch. But if that's the case, the grates are going to be very very heavy. 3/8th rebar is much easier to work with.
6 pieces of 10' rebar. http://goo.gl/FPKwP
If you want, you can cut them to 9' but you can also leave them at 10' if you want extra long handles.
2 pieces of 4x8 welded wire mesh (usually sold where the rebar is in the store).
3+ packs of stainless steel cable ties http://goo.gl/eGkSR
These are brilliant; you can use them like plastic zip ties to secure the mesh to the grate you're going to make from the rebar. Note: if you have access to welding equipment, you may only need 1 or 2 packs. If you have no welding equipment, you may want to double your purchases to at least 6 or more.
Total cost: $60 or so.
If you have access to welding equipment, you would first weld the five 4' rebars to the three 10' rebars, forming a grate whose dimensions are basically 4x8. Weld both sides, just to make it extra secure. If you can't weld it, bust out the cable ties and secure all the "joint" areas, maybe with two ties per joint. It will be more wobbly than with a welded one but it should hold.
Then weld the mesh to the grate. In most cases, there should be overlap on at least 2, sometimes 3 of the same sides. What parts don't overlap enough to mesh, use the zip ties to secure the mesh to the grate.
Give everything a good scrub down with steel wool and water. That rebar and mesh are dirty!
And voila, you've just made your pig grate.
Price for the chilled pig ended up around $3.75, which put that in the same realm as Harmony Farms and Mercado's. I ended up going with Harmony Farms. Their pigs are delivered on Thursdays so you need to order by the preceding Tuesday at the latest. For 40-50lber (not quite sure what the exact weight is), they're charging $175.
Eva's and Maybe Toto's are Philippine style Lechons and would come with a lovely liver based sauce; anyway different and IMHO better than Cantonese style roast pig because better marinade and juicier. I wouldn't worry about scathing criticisms if they are mostly about long waits to pick up. That is just a cultural thang ie tropical sense of time:-). As for Cantonese style, I haven't tried Kim tar's but have often ordered from Sam Woo (?) downtown for to give away during holidays. Reliable but a bit dry. Ditto King Hua. NBC (Atlantic) IMHO does a better Roast Pig.
Excellent post. thanks so much for compiling all of that information.
I will say that I have ordered from Eva's several times (including during major holidays) and honestly have never found them to be rude in any way. The lady that answers the phone and calls you back to confirm doesnt speak great english but I found that if you are polite to them they are generally very nice. They always have had the pig ready at the time that they quoted and were very helpful in getting it out to the car and loading it into the trunk. I have honestly had good experiences there many times.
Carln: Thanks for some personal input. The issues folks have raised isn't so much about rude customer service, rather it has to do with pick-up times that ran late, getting the wrong order, etc.
Still, this is what they specialize in so I assume they put out a pretty good product at the very least!
Yesterday, I bought some pork at the new Altadena Farmers' Market from an operation called Jubilee Farms. They had signs identifying a couple of their clients, one of which was Lindy & Grundy. If they are willing to sell a pig directly to you, it might be less than L&G's price since you're eliminating the middle man.
re: Jack Flash
Jack: thanks for that info. I just tried to call them but couldn't get through. I did look at their website and found this passage:
"Jubilee Farms sells all of our Berkshire Pork at a flat $4 per lb. This includes cutting and wrapping (either paper or vacuum sealed). This price does not include delivery, curing or smoking. All are available at an additional price.
You have the following share options:
1/4 share = 43.75 lbs ($175)
1/2 share = 87.5 lbs ($350)
1 share = 175 lbs ($700)
It typically takes us 30-45 days from ordering to fulfill your order but we are working to shorten that timeframe as the year progresses."
This suggests cut/butchered meat rather than a whole pig and it definitely doesn't sound like you can easily order a pig in your desired weight class (but I'm not positive about that). $4/lb is quite reasonable though, as far as pasture-raised, Berkshire pork goes. I do wonder, however, how much delivery kicks up the cost. Some farms have CSA systems where it's delivered to farmer's markets but I don't know where the cost for that is absorbed.
re: Jack Flash
I originally was going to roast at home but as noted, you would be investing a fair amount of time, effort and (modest) costs to make that happen. The actually cooking part isn't very complicated at all. The hassle comes with prep, both for the pig (since you'd ideally want to thaw and/or marinate it in a safe way but most of us don't have a meat locker to store a pig in), and the roaster itself, which - while cheap in construction costs - is laborious for having to move around cinder blocks, ideally weld together some rebar and a bunch of other steps.
Having witnessed a whole pig roast before, it was really really cool and inspired me to want to do it. But as the person expected to actually carry out the roast? DAUNTING.
Pre-roasted is looking amazing attractive to me right now, ha!