Step 7: The Pig

Alright, let's get into things...

Where does one buy a pig?

Whole hogs can be specialty ordered from the farm itself where the animal has lived, a good neighborhood butcher, or at the meat counter of your local quality supermarket or co-op.  Ask around first at the butcher and work your way onwards from there.  If they can't get you a whole pig, chances are they know who can, or point you to the pig farm where they buy their meat from.  


I have paid as much as $4.00/lb and as little as $2.50/lb for a whole pig.  Organic pigs can sell for significantly more depending on the source.  You pretty much get what you pay for when you buy a pig, so do a little leg work and chose wisely when ordering.


Some seasoned pig roasters will recommend about 1 lb. of hanging weight pig per person attending the party.  I have found that ratio to be much too low.  The math on that estimate yields around 6 oz. of cooked pork per person.  I'm not going to say publicly how many ounces of meat I expect to eat when I go to a pig roast, but I'll tell you it's certainly more than six.  I recommend doubling this sizing guideline and figuring on 2 lbs of hanging weight pig per person attending the party...roasted pork makes great leftovers and soups, so if you go a little overboard, there's no reason anything needs to be wasted.

Fresh or Frozen

The pig may come frozen, but hopefully it will be fresh.  If it's been frozen then it will need to defrost over 24 hours or so.  DO NOT ROAST A FROZEN PIG.  Place it in a safe place where animals can't get to it, wrapped in plastic, and let it thaw.  A big plastic tub works well as a holding vessle, or the bathtub, or in a cardboard box in the garage located such that if some juices come out as it thaws that it won't make a mess.  If you your pig will come frozen, order it for the day before your pig roast so you can defrost it.

If it's fresh and not frozen, that's great!  Simply keep the pig refrigerated, in a cool place, or on ice in a cooler until the morning of the pig roast.  Since it's so large, I have learned that having a spare fridge on hand can be nice.  Remove the racks from the fridge, place the pig inside, and shut the door.  If your pig will come fresh, order it to be picked up on the morning of your pig roast and then you won't have to deal with the "where do I store a whole pig" dilemma.

Regardless of whether you defrosted your pig or not, remove it from the fridge/cooler an hour or so before you are ready to place it on the spit since it's not proper form to cook cold meat.

Cook Time

Roasting pigs are young pigs - usually between 30 and 60 pounds, however they can come larger.  Pigs that are used to make bacon are generally hundreds of pounds, however that's not a great roasting pig since the meat is older and tougher, so stay away from anything that's over 100 pounds if you're looking for tender juicy meat - additionally, at that size, it just becomes unmanageable.  Better to get a second or third smaller pig for your roast.  

A 50 pound pig cooks in anywhere from 4 to 7 or even 8 hours depending on your heat source and whether or not you've stuffed it with anything...more on that later.  Some fellow pig roasters recommend around 1 hour and 15 minutes per 10 pounds of dead weight pig.  I have found that it's actually pretty variable depending on the heat from the fire, the height of the spit above the flames, if the pig is stuffed, and if you are using a motor driven rotary spit, or rotating by hand.  

In general, work backwards from when you'd like to eat using the 1hr 15m guideline per 10 pounds of hanging weight pig and add in an hour or so for carving and all the things that take longer than you've planned just to be safe.

Sources for Pigs in the San Francisco Bay Area

Just recently I purchased a whole pig from Ver Brugge Meat, Fish and Poultry in Oakland, CA.  Last year I we purchased a tasty pig from The UC Davis Meat Lab in Davis, CA.  Whole Foods, and other grocery stores in the area can often special order whole pigs as well.  As I said before however, going direct to the pig farm is best and you'll likely avoid the butcher's mark up.  If you are in the bay area there are several local pig farms to choose from.  Although, this article makes a compelling argument as to why it's better to buy a midwest pig as opposed to a local one.  Long story short there is that it takes less carbon to feed the pig local grain in the midwest and ship the dead animal to California than to ship 4 times as much midwestern grain to pigs out west 

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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