I learned how to roast a whole pig by trial and error. You might think the process was riddled with failed attempts and disappointment. I was surprised that I pulled it off perfectly on my first try fifteen years ago.
Since then, I have roasted not only suckling pigs but larger whole pigs on a spit with remarkable ease. My buddies and I met up every month to have a barbeque and my special designation is roasting the pig.
In this article, I will walk you through how to roast a whole pig on a spit successfully.
Buy a suckling pig weighing anywhere between 20 – 30 pounds. This is an ideal size for a single gathering of 20 – 30 people assuming a pound of meat per person. It will likely be frozen and wrapped.
A whole pig needs 48 hours to defrost which means you have to visit the store a few days ahead of your big feast. The process should be slow, so prepare a cooler or a bathtub. Unwrap the frozen suckling, put it in the cooler, and add ice water.
You can also wrap the suckling in loose plastic or put it in a large plastic container and place it in the refrigerator. After 48 hours, remove it and ready the suckling for cooking.
Most vendors don’t have a whole pig ready for sale which means that they will have to provide you with one on order. If you have access to a readily slaughtered suckling from a pig farm, this would be the best choice.
Ensure they are USDA-certified to slaughter and that the pig carcasses they sell have undergone the necessary testing. Tested pigs are marked and branded.
Suckling pigs are too young to have much muscle mass. Their meat is highly gelatinous, a quality that makes any further flavoring unnecessary. However, some extra flavor may come in handy if your pig is much older and has denser fat and muscle mass.
You have the option to dry brine or wet brine your pig. Wet brine recipes or marinating involves soaking your pig in a solution of curing salt, pickling spices, and water for a period of four to twelve hours.
Dry brine recipes are a mixture of various pickling spices that you can sprinkle or rub all over your pig. Then, let it sit in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours before roasting.
My favorite flavor method is rather pedestrian. I score the skin and simply coat the pig in a lot of olive oil which I spread by hand. I then sprinkle a mixture of kosher salt and pepper generously all over the pig and move on to the fun part.
Once your pig has been wet or dry cured, let the whole pig rest at room temperature for approximately 30 mins to an hour. This is the best temperature to cook the meat at.
If you have vegetables to stuff into your pig’s cavity, then secure them tightly using the kitchen twine.
You can also cook the vegetables separately. This would be the better option for your first try.
Secure the ears with aluminum foil to protect them from drying out too quickly and cracking.
Secure the pig on the spit and pay attention to the specific instructions that come with your jack. The rod should support the spine. Keep the poundage of your pig within the recommended parameters of the spit you are using.
A weight exceeding the maximum indicated weight will render the rotisserie stationary or keep it from rotating evenly, which will in turn prevent the heat from distributing. Your cooking will not be even.
Use the kitchen twine to secure the legs to the rotisserie.
Light the briquettes, wood, or charcoal, and get a hot blaze going. You can place wood chips over the burning briquettes to enhance the flavor of the pig. Pecan and maple are my personal favorites.
Since the fire is an open flame, you need a thermometer near the lower area of the pig to continually ensure that your temperature is within the recommended range. With time, you will not need it.
Your cooking should be slow so try to maintain a temperature of 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Let the pig rotate until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
Once you have set up your rotisserie, make the basting sauce.
In a saucepan, pour some olive oil and let it heat up. Add the bacon grease and stir. Reduce the heat and add wine, your preferred barbecue sauce, rosemary, salt, honey, and peppercorns. Let the sauce simmer on the lowest heat possible for about five minutes while stirring continuously.
Eventually, add the apple cider vinegar to create a slight sourness to the basting sauce. You will need a kitchen brush to coat the pig all around with this basting sauce.
After your pig roast has been cooking for about an hour, it will begin to drip liquid into the fire. Do not let this fluid go to waste.
Using the long tongs, rearrange the burning coals and place a drip pan on them to collect the dripping liquid. This is to be expected but it should not happen too fast.
The goal is for the pig to get cooked in its own juices, so if the coals are burning too hot causing too much fluid to ooze, then rearrange the embers.
Save as much of this liquid as you can. You will need it for cooking accompanying vegetables. As the roasting proceeds, the fluid loss will decline, at which point you can remove the drip pan and simply continue with the cooking.
Start basting the pig every half hour. This will protect the exterior from drying out and create a lovely caramelized crispy skin.
Grab a six-pack and sit back with family and friends since you have a full three hours of cooking to go. Your only job is to hydrate yourself and baste every thirty minutes.
In four hours, your hog will be ready and you will have a mouth-watering dish.
At a temperature of 275 degrees Fahrenheit, a 20 – 30 pound pig roast will take approximately four hours maybe less.
A rule of thumb is to give your pig roast approximately one hour of cooking time for every 10 pounds. A 70-pound hog should cook at this temperature for approximately 7 hours.
Larger animals could take much longer than the approximate amount of time you would get when calculating with this rule. They have denser muscle mass and the heat may not penetrate as easily as it does with a suckling.
You may be tempted to increase the temperature and get your pig roast going much faster but this will only sear the external parts of your pig leaving the inside poorly cooked and the outer shell too dry.
The most accurate way to determine whether your pig is cooked all the way through is by checking the internal temperature of the meat. An internal temperature of 160 – 170 degrees Fahrenheit is the sweet spot.
Remember, you need to cook food not just to culinary perfection but to destroy pathogens that threaten your health. However large the pig is and however long it takes, an internal temperature of 160 degrees destroys said pathogens making your meat safe.
Measure the internal temperature of your cooking at the shoulders and the hams since these are the densest areas of the pig.
A rotisserie pig is a pork roast or pig roast.