For centuries, roasting whole joints of meat round an open fire has had a certain celebratory appeal and in this modern day of electric spit rotisserie machines it’s no different…
But roasting a whole hog takes some planning, especially when you’re catering for someone else and their guests, so we’ve pulled together the best advice and ideas to make sure your hog roasting event is a success!
How To Roast A Hog
Step 1: Ordering A Piggy – A Week Or So Prior
When buying a whole pig, plan for about 400-500g of pork per person - which equates to approximately 200g after cooking and removing bones. The best pigs for roasting are 40kg or less, but if you’re feeding up to 200 people you’ll obviously need a bigger hog. Younger pigs have a softer and leaner flesh that melts into perfection as it cooks, whereas older pigs have a lot more fat on their flesh but the meat can be tougher and drier.
It’s also wise to consider the measurements of your spit and grill when buying a pig, you don’t want to get that hog home and find it’s too big for the rotisserie.
The quality of the pig will ultimately affect its final flavour no matter how much BBQ sauce you smother it in. Get down to your local butcher or look for a naturally reared, free range farm animal – buying directly from a farmer can save money.
Frozen pigs will need to be defrosted for 24 hours or so before roasting, the best way to do this is wrap it in plastic, so animals and insects can’t get to it, and simply let it thaw. Bath tubs and large cardboard boxes are great places to thaw too. If it’s just chilling in a cooler or fridge, let it come to room temperature for an hour or so before roasting.
Step 2: Attaching & Securing – Roasting Day
Washing your hands and work surfaces, before and after touching raw meat is just a given.
The most important part of this whole process is securing that little piggy to the spit. If it’s not attached properly these heavy pigs can flop about on the spit and nobody wants that pig falling onto the coals! Insert the spit through the anus, along the spine, and out of the mouth. The forks should be attached to either side of the pig whilst you can make incisions to secure the spine ring in place and push each foot into the feet rings.
Create some more holes and attach thick wire (14 to 16 gauge is best) if you think it needs a bit of extra security, use pliers to twist the ends as tight as possible.
Start the rotisserie for a minute or so to check that the pig is held firmly in place against the spit. If the butcher hasn’t already, you should thoroughly shave the pig to get rid of any hairs, yep just with a good old Bic razor, it sounds weird but hairy crackling is never nice!
Step 3: Light Her Up – Time To Start The Fire
Charcoal briquettes are the most reliable option, but what about adding a different flavour with wood? Just remember the denser the wood the longer it will burn and using non-resinous wood will prevent soot forming on the food.
Hardwood coal isn’t recommended as it can burn too fast and hot, plus it’s hard to maintain the slow, even heat needed for prolonged cooking. Plan for approximately the same amount of coal to pig, with extra on hand just in case.
Light the first batch of coals (charcoal chimneys are best for this) then spread them underneath the pig in a circular shape. You want the heat concentrated under the thicker parts of the pig, usually the shoulders and rear which take the longest to cook – avoid putting coals under the belly area as juices will drip down and could catch fire as they hit the coals.
Top tip: place a disposable aluminium tray underneath the stomach to catch any juices and save them for later to make a tasty marinate for roast chicken and potatoes!
Start the rotisserie.
To maintain the heat, replenish the coals by adding fresh ones on top of the hot coals approximately every 30 minutes.
Every so often it’s also worth checking that the pig isn’t over cooking. It should take about an hour and 15 minutes per 5kg of pig (stuffing can add extra time too), so if it appears to be cooking too quickly (especially within the first hour) increase the height of the spit or slow down the rate at which you’re adding fresh coals to the grill.
The last 30 to 45 minutes is when the real magic happens - that skin’s gotta get nice and crispy! So pile on the coals at the very end (remove the disposable aluminium pan if you added one to catch the juices) and cover the space underneath the belly with coals too. You can even stop the rotisserie at different points and try lowering the spit closer to the coals to make sure all that skin gets a good blast of heat.
Step 4: Is It Ready Yet??? – Almost Time To Tuck In
To tell when the hog is cooked, the skin should be a dark golden brown and very crispy, joints will wiggle easily and the juices should run clear. Push a meat thermometer (how about this Hanson digital meat thermometer from Argos) into the thickest part of the pig and you should get an internal reading of at least 60°C.
Don a pair of heat proof gloves and remove the spit from the grill to place the hog on a clean work surface that can take the weight of the whole pig. Use wire cutters to take out any excess wire you added earlier and unbolt the forks, spine hook and feet hooks.
Step 5: Sharpen Those Knives It’s Time To Carve
You’ll need a sharp knife or two to carve the pig quickly and effectively. A lending hand from a friend wouldn’t go a miss either – just make sure they don’t eat it all instead of carving!
First off, work the knife between the shoulder and hip joints to remove all 4 legs. Each of these can be carved up separately and will probably hold the most meat.
The loins should be easy to carve off of the back, and then continue with the rest of the torso. Cut the ribs off with a hack saw or pull the meat off by hand to serve it off the bone. Place a knife between two of the neck vertebrae just behind the ears and cut off the head.
Got any bits of skin which haven’t quite crisped up? Set them back onto the grill and they should get crispy in no time.
Top tip: Bare bones make great stock for soups and gravy whilst dogs find cartilage and strange boneless off–cuts tasty too.
Now it’s just a case of loading up the serving platters, don’t keep those guests waiting any longer!
Rubs & Seasonings:
Dry rubs are perfect for adding that extra bit of flavour before starting up the spit roast. Create your own from mixed herbs and spices or buy a tasty packet of seasoning from the supermarket. Make sure to rub the meat inside the carcass, whilst the skin will cook best rubbed with olive oil and salt.
If you’re going to say stuff it just remember this, as steam is created from veg and other meat it can decrease the tastiness of the meat itself – don’t worry there’s no chance of the pig drying out without a stuffing if you’ve picked a young hog.
If you do want to try stuffing, do so lightly with fresh herbs and a few vegetables like onion and carrot. Remember you’ll need to sew up the hog or secure everything inside the carcass to stop the stuffing escaping, it’s best to do this with non-galvanised metal wire.
Marinating & Basting:
For extra flavour use a meat injector to inject marinate directly into the flesh before cooking. Then baste the pig with excess marinate using a basting brush every hour. Ideally you don’t want to baste with anything that will burn over the cooking time, so stay clear of sweet and sticky glazes until serving.
A basic marinate and basting sauce has the following ingredients: Oil – to stop the meat from drying out, Acid – to help break down the meat muscle, and Spices – for flavour… e.g. Olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and thyme.
Serving & Accompaniments:
A roast pork sandwich tastes good. But it’ll taste even better on a plate of delicious sides and sauces, here are a few ideas...
Place foiled wrapped potatoes directly onto the coals and remember to turn them from time to time, these can take approximately 45 minutes to cook depending on the size of the potato.
Knock up tasty coleslaw using grated raw carrot, apple, red onion and cabbage – mix in mayonnaise and lemon juice, then put a simple spoonful into a bread bun with the roast pork.
Other tasty side dishes include homemade bread, potato salad, roasted vegetables, baked beans, macaroni cheese, salad and of course a selection of your favourite sauces.
Need More Inspiration?
Check out our Pinterest board of tasty pins for recipes and ideas, there’s even a few for leftover roast pork too…
With free next working day delivery to the UK mainland when you order by 2pm, you could be serving from your KuKoo Hog Roasting Machine in no time!