Step 3: Preparation - Spit

Picture of 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.