Step 3: Preparation - Spit

The spit is what the pig is attached to while it cooks.  It's best to think about how to construct the spit before the day of the event since it takes a little bit of work to build one.  The spit consists of some simple elements including:

  • the spit itself - usually a simple steel pipe no more than 1" in diameter (the pipe will have to fit through the pigs body parts and size is a factor to consider)
  • supports for the spit - this can be cinder blocks, steel supports with cradles or pipe welded on the top, sawhorses, rocks, landscaping, other structures and so forth - just preferably not anything that burns
  • a method for keeping the spit from rotating - the pig will want to turn back-side-down unless something keeps the spit in position.  A handle at the end of the spit and a bag of bricks or a clamp works well to hold the spit in the last position you set it in.
  • a means of rotating the spit in a controlled manner.  This can be a motor attached with a bike chain, or simply a few bricks and some string.  In the second method mentioned, you rotate the spit by hand and use the weight to hold it in place.
  • a method for attaching the animal to the spit, can be bailing wire, steel rods sent through the animal, steel prongs at the head and butt of the pig to hold it in place.
  • fire pan or pit - if you can dig a fire pit in the dirt or sand, that's great, if not, it's usually necessary to put down some kind of barrier between the coals and the ground so you don't damage or stain anything with all the heat and drippings.
There are two main options when it comes to obtaining the spit.  You can make one or rent a commercial one.  Few people own their own spits, but if you do, more power to you/ya.  I think making one yourself is a lot of fun, although, the ease that comes from renting or purchasing a motorized spit is nice too.  Your local party rental center may rent a roasting spit.  Call them up and ask.  If you are going to make a spit you can build something complex, or hack together a minimal, but functional spit in a few minutes with a simple trip to the hardware store or metal scrap yard.

The first spit I made (with my friend Ian) appears in the first photo in this step.  It was a 2 pig spit for a real big party, with steel supports and a simple but effective handle on the end.  The four positions allow you to actually make 1/8 turn rotations because you can chose to hang the brake (a bunch of bricks held together by steel cable) on one peg for the 1/4 turn, or on two pegs for the 1/8 turn.  More on rotating later.  Clamps also work to hold the spit in position, but I found the hanging weight method to be much easier and versatile.  

Another thing to keep in mind about the spit is that it should be longer than you think.  The pigs' legs get stretched out in front of and behind the pig - thus making it's total length longer than you'd expect.  Make sure you have at least 5 feet of spit rod if you're roasting a single pig.  If you're doing two like I am in the photos, go big.

If it's possible to construct the spit with adjustable height, that can be useful to compensate for the heat of your fire.  Height adjustability is by no means a necessity however.  I have found that depending on fire temperature, you want between 2' and 3' of distance between the coals and the pig. 

When it comes to ground protection - bricks make a great ground liner.  Other things I have used include:
  • dirt
  • sand
  • cement board
  • sheet metal
Additional grilling surfaces can be nice to use for grilling side dishes.  Some expanded metal welded over a steel frame works well and is pretty cheap.  This can allow you to cook side dishes like corn or potatoes over the same fire that your pig is being cooked on.  Having the side dishes under the roasting pig is an advantage since the tasty drippings will rain down upon your veggies.

Finally, as you'll see in the photos, I created a secondary roasting position for this roast below the main spit with three steel rods welded onto a steel plate.  The rods are received in another steel plate in 3 holes.  Everything is held in place on the two supports.  This secondary roasting area had some chickens on it once we got cooking...more on that later.

The additional photos above show some simpler roasting setups that are rather minimal using simple supports like cinder blocks and saw horses as supports, and a very basic spit clamping system that uses only a c-clamp.
Great post with great information. As specially about the deferent ways to spit the meat.
Do you think that cooking a rinoserous in the same way would work too?
Super inspiring. Goal: Do this within 3 years.
3 years is almost up..... did you do it?!
<p>When I was living in the Bay Area (Oakland,CA.) I used California Bay Laurel.</p><p>It had a very unique flavor that everyone I cooked for liked.</p><p>Next time you are out on a hike in the woods bring a small hand saw and cut some downed and dried Bay. Please don't cut from a live tree.</p>
<p>Looks like you folks are having a lot of fun! Good Job!</p><p>I plan on roasting a PIG myself.</p>
<p>Use Oven racks, if you don't have a wire mesh grate.</p>
<p>A basic basting sauce has 1) Oil, so meat won't dry out 2) Acid, to help break down meat muscle and 3) spices. Ex. Olive oil, lemon juice, salt,pepper, thyme, rosemary.</p>
<p>try not to use resinous woods (pine,oak, etc.) they leave soot on the food.</p>
Well, what wood good?
<p>I'd like to do it with the head off. I don't want to look at a face. Yeah, I know, call me a wimp. Would also help get the weight down. Has anyone done that? Any trouble getting it to stay on the spit? </p>
Head off, skip u.no Offense
This man knows his stuff most important advice he gives is buy a young pig , smaller size the better. Doing one this weekend thx alot for refreshing my memory.
So share
<p>Do you know anyone who makes the two level staggered spit racks with multiple spits (6-12) and a 'bicycle chain' drive with a single electric motor or gas engine to drive it?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!</p>
Looks great, I can almost taste it from here! Just like to recommend one thing Invite your friends over to help set it up the night before the cooking so that you can be well under way by the day of. My friends and I would make it a &quot;Men's Night&quot; the night before. We would dig the whole and stoke the fire, set the pig(glazed, seasoned, stuffed, and start the tall tales) granted it was 150 lb pig and a side of beef&nbsp; for the families of about 240 military unit members,&nbsp;but these are things you remember when you get old and say you have not lived until.... And your are right man has always gathered around a fire and made some pretty good friends around a decent meal. Thank you for sharing. Gives me an idea for a small pig and 2 bushel of blue crabs with all the sides.
Awesome instructable-thanks for the info
How do u enter a contest
Good post, it looks like you had quite a great party, and isn't that what good food and friends are all about? As for vegans - hey, more for me! Being vegan is unhealthy anyway. We are omnivores for a reason. <br> <br>One thing though, while your invitations are as creative as your food, I would not like a fork stuck in my doorjamb, or my paneling, or anywhere else unless it is my mouth when the fork is full of delicious roast pig.
Sori for bad english. Best basting is beer. Just shake the botle and spray over the pig. Do it in every 30 min. Simple and delicious <br>
We had an 11-year-old guest who cried when she saw the head at our last roast. Otherwise it was a great Party!
I'm from San Leandro, can I come join you and get a hands-on tutorial? I'll even bring potato salad.
What a fabulous posting! I seldom read entire instructibles but this time I did and I was drooling the whole time! You did a great job in your attention to detail, pictures and humor! I loved it! Good job!
This works good for little pigs but if you do a whole, market pig (220 lbs). You really need to rap them in &quot;chicken wire&quot; or they fall apart.
Here's the last &quot;pig&quot; roast I went to. But these are of the rodent variety. I much prefer the traditional pig roast like you did. I know some complain about his cute little face (the pig, not yours) in the pics. But...it's a delicious little face. Oh, that's guinea pig in the pic. I live in Ecuador where they raise them in their houses for special occasions. Not very tasty.
oh piggy!!!! his eye and face - why am i looking at this!?!? this is no different to me than roasting a dog! <br>though it's really a good instructable, objectively speaking... <br>ps. this is NOT like having a baby! except maybe from the pig's point of view, spears up the crotch sounds about right!
Except for vegans, vegetarians - and observant Jews and Muslims!
&gt; &quot;Having a pig roast&quot; is a bit like &quot;having a baby&quot; <br>Yes, well... Here's hoping you never confuse the two! ;) <br> <br>By the way, if you need any voulenteers for the logical follow-up instructable; &quot;How to eat a roast pig&quot;, keep me in mind! 8-D
I'm impressed! Looks a lot like the way the cook it in the Philippines. I'm hungry now : ) <br> <br>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lechon <br> <br>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-cbC48gVW8
Wow, seems like you spent almost as much time on this 'ible as you did roasting the pig! Excellent job all the way around.
This is great. I've cooked a number of these and even had then we prepared so they were fully cooked overnight and then taken them to a football game for tailgating. The best was cooking a lamb in a similar style overnight at the Rose Parade. if you haven't tried this.. you should.
studleylee - &quot;Make mes hungry! Would this work on politicians?&quot; <br> <br>No, they are always spouting hot air, besides politicians are full of poison! <br> <br>Makes me hungry for pork.
Brings back great memories of wicked party's, great friends and great pigs! <br>Remember, It takes a lot of beer to roast a pig.
Wow. I'm actually vegan, but this is one awesome party that I would love to be at. I'd just focus more on the cooking of the pig and the eating of the stuffing and of course the drinking of the beer.
You sir, know how to live.
I think there is no bad way to cook a whole pig. I have had them open pit like yours, buried like in the islands, a wood fired brick oven, and a stainless steel cooker. The different methods yield different favors, and they are all good. However, I have come to like the wood oven or the SS cookers a great deal, because they seem to have more of the smokey flavor. <br> <br>Regardless of the method used, the details are pretty much the same. <br> <br>One note of caution, though. If you want a really fresh pig you will be buying it by the pound on the hoof. Just talk with your abbatoir to get the number of servings close.
OMGosh! This is amazing! We lived in New Zealand for a year &amp; they did magic things with pigs, too, but they had to dig a massive hole, cover the pig with wet paper or cloths &amp; surround the whole thing with hot river rocks then bury it again - a day-long messy job. I can't imagine how many neighbors want to come by to 'visit' when this baby is roasting. In fact, uh, what's your address? ;~}
Make mes hungry! Would this work on politicians?
Super inspiring. Goal: Do this within 3 years.
Man, that looks like a great party! <br>Roasting a pig on a spit is not easy, I know from experience, you guys are pros. <br>Here in Miami, Florida you can get whole pigs for around $1.50/lb during the holidays and not much more on any day. In the Cuban-American culture one must have, at least, one roasted pork every year and the preparation and roasting is as important as the eating of it. <br>Thanks for sharing.
You could send this to Mother earth news also &amp; post it there too. Great job. If I have time I'll build this kind of pit. It's nice to have everything in one place.
Outstanding Instructable! Your use of materials at hand to &quot;Git r dun&quot; ( tarps, cinder blocks, bricks, roofing hammer to split wood, glass patio tables, etc.) is fantastic! Thanks also for the tips on operating a spit; you gave me a few ideas for when I make mine. <br> <br>Kudos for the fork-vitation; I'm stealing that idea!
Food! I really am hungry now. <br> <br>Also, what is that guy in the picture doing splitting wood with the wrong kind of axe and in sandals? eek.
My friend is an experienced wood splitter. The small hatchet is all we had on hand on the time, we were college students, in a city. I will agree with you however that the sandals are probably not the best idea. Luckily, his toes lived to tell the story.

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