***Editor’s Note ~ This was our first attempt at whole hog. It was pretty simple and straightforward, but we’ve found a better way. It took an extra 40 minutes to do in terms of prep, but knocked an hour off the total cook time and thus well worth it. Click here to see our second attempt and how to do it yourself***
I have to warn you, seeing how this is the biggest thing we’ve ever grilled, this will also be our longest post. This pig weighed in at 60 pounds. We’ve grilled more than 60 pounds of meat a few times, but we’ve never grilled one thing that weighs 60 pounds.
Also, I’m quite proud to say that my beautiful wife was the one who came up with the idea for this pig roast/luau for Memorial Day Weekend and our youngest son’s first birthday. It’s rather refreshing since she’s not much for anything with the slightest hint of smokiness. Ironic, I know.
So how do you cook a whole pig? Honestly, it’s pretty easy.
Once we parked the trailer grill, we pulled the grill grate out of the grill and put three 20 pound bags of charcoal at the end away from the chimney (and near the vent on the left side) which would be directly underneath the head. We left about 18 inches of space and put two more bags under the rump. That’s a full 100 pounds of charcoal. My Father in Law, Dennis, helped with the charcoal distribution as well as hosted the little shindig:
You know you’re using a lot of charcoal when you have to use a snow shovel to move it around:
And here’s the first part of the trick to cooking the pig properly. I’m looking for 180 degrees internal temperature in the deepest part of the shoulders and 160 in the rear haunches. So the three bags of charcoal under the head and shoulders will cook them a little faster than the two at the other end so the meat at both ends is done at the same time.
But how do we light that much charcoal? It’s not like I have a charcoal chimney for 100 pounds of charcoal or even 60. Look close, as you will probably never see me use this product ever again:
Some will say I’m anti lighter fluid. That it makes the food taste bad. Well, if you cook on charcoal where the fluid hasn’t all burned off that is the case, but if you wait long enough all the nasty chemicals will burn away and the food will be fine. That’s not the reason I don’t use fluid. I’m a closet pyro. I love fire. But at almost $5 a bottle, I can’t justify the cost. One $10 charcoal chimney will last me five years if I leave it in the elements and a good 15 if I bring it in after each cookout. The free journal they toss on my lawn a couple days a week is all I need to get my fires lit. All that being said, drink this in. You won’t see it very often:
Now time to get to work prepping the pig. This is Maribelle. Yes, I named my pig:
That item on the grill grate on the lower right in the picture above is very important to the second part of the trick to cooking a whole hog – tin foil. The foil is needed to create a heat shield between the pig and 100 pounds of lit charcoal:
That’s two sheets running the length of the grill, plus a ribbon running down the middle. This is vitally important. Without the foil, the pig would be nothing but char on the outside and raw in the middle after two hours.
Time to get the pig into place:
Be very careful with the hooves. If they poke a hole in the foil, put a sheet of foil over the hole. One hole right under the meat could ruin the whole event.
Oh, the last thing to remember is it takes about one hour per 10 pounds for this method so we were looking at a 6 hour cook. Sounds nuts right? A whole hog cooked in six hours. Well read on, the pictures tell the story.
Maribelle is such a ham for the camera (sorry, I couldn’t resist):
If you’re wondering why the lighter fluid bottle is there, it’s because the wind kicked up. I had it there to hold down the foil. I used a whole bottle and a partial second. That’s the second.
Now it’s time to inject the pig.
1 gallon apple juice
20 ounces Worcestershire sauce
1 cup salt
16 ounces white wine
1 cup brown sugar, loose packed
1 tbsp cinnamon
I also added a bunch of minced garlic, but all that did was clog even the big syringe needle on my injector so I had to stop stirring up the bottom of the bowl when filling the injector, so very little garlic made it into the pig. In the future, I’ll add a bunch of granulated garlic.
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and fill your injector repeatedly and push the fluid up and down each side with a few extra injections in the shoulder and the haunches:
Don’t forget the apple:
And the obligatory goofy picture:
She’s ready for the grill:
How’s the fire?
The charcoal has been burning for about 35-40 minutes. It’s whited over completely and there is no odor from the “odorless” lighter fluid anymore. It’s only missing one thing:
Couple bags of hickory should do it. Going old school here, no fruit wood, just good old hickory:
It’s a two man job to get the grill grate onto the grill:
Shut the lid and let the smoker do the rest.
I know some of you are asking where’s the rub or sauce? Well I could rub the outside of the pig, but that won’t do any good. The pig has the skin on and we won’t be eating the skin. It won’t penetrate the skin and have any impact on the meat. There is sauce, but that’s for the end.
I didn’t open the lid for two hours and here’s how Maribelle looked at that mark:
With very little fat beneath the skin on the face, it has darkened quicker than the rest of the pig so I put foil on it to keep it from turning black before it’s all done:
You can also see the puncture marks where I injected the swine.
After the foil it was back home for a shower and a Hawaiian shirt. At three hours the cornhole boards were set up in the yard and the pig is looking outstanding:
This is what I’m talking about when I say that doing a whole pig is much more than making pulled pork. It’s an event and the pig is the star. Everyone wanted their picture taken with it. Here’s Cathy (left) and Maureen posing at the three hour mark:
And how can you resist taking a picture with this beautiful face:
At this point I started adding cherry logs to the end by the head as the smoke had subsided. Partially for the pig and partially for the trays of beans you can see over the left of the pig in the above picture. If you’ve never had smoked beans, you have to try them. The recipe is here.
Here we are at the four hour mark:
And here we are at the five hour mark with me and my oldest boy who was really excited about the pig when I was backing in with the grill at 9:30, not as much when he found out it wasn’t alive:
At five hours we’re sitting at 162 in the shoulder:
At six hours and 20 minutes we reached 180 degrees and she was ready to slice:
Now when I say slice, I mean slice the skin to get to the meat. After that no knife is needed. And we do this right on the grill. If I tried to move the pig at this point, it would fall apart in my hands.
I slice from the base of the skull all the way to the tail:
Then down the shoulder:
Then I slice down the haunch and the skin folded away:
You see that gloved hand above? That’s a cotton glove covered with a latex glove. The cotton insulates me from getting burned and the latex keeps the juices from soaking into the cotton glove. Now time to get my hands dirty. I dug in with two hands, pulling out succulent pulled pork:
The rib bones came out with little to no resistance:
More on the ribs in a minute. After I cleaned out the one side, time to go to work on the other side:
Here are a bunch of the ribs on the other side:
I reached in with one hand:
With no effort whatsoever, a handful of bones come out of the meat:
So what do you think now about doing a 60 pound hog in 6 hours?
Picking over the carcass:
Despite leaving enough meat in that carcass to feed a family of four for a week, we had this entire aluminum tray full of pulled pork:
Dad (left) and I went to work pulling the pork:
Those at the Luau couldn’t wait for us to pull it all so they started filling their plates before we were finished:
Here’s the finished product to go along with some buns and a pot of doctored Cattleman’s BBQ sauce:
So what’s the verdict? Is it worth the effort and cost. Abso-friggin-lutely. This will be an annual event for the Grillin Fools on Memorial Day Weekend. The food itself was nothing more than pulled pork, but the pig was so much fun to do. And not just for me, but for everyone who was there. The process was a huge event. Everyone was enthralled by the pig. It was more than just a barbecue.
Would I do anything differently next year when we do it again? I will probably pick up the pig a day ahead of time and either brine the whole thing in a huge cooler or inject it the night before and let the injection really work into the meat. Also, I would put a block of wood in the pigs mouth for the cooking process and then a fresh, shiny apple for the presentation at the end. Other than that, I wouldn’t change a thing.
If you have any questions about this mammoth post, feel free to shoot me an email or leave it below and I will get back to you as soon as I can.
If you are interested in other pork recipes by the Grillin Fools, click here.
And now I would like to show off my family that I am so proud of. And I would also like to thank my wife for taking over on the kids tonight as I spend hours trying to get this post finished. Here are pics from the first Annual Grillin Fools Memorial Day/my son’s birthday/Luau. The birthday boy:
The birthday boy not so happy that his brother is scarfing down his cake:
I didn’t realize the two grandmothers were that close:
And the grandfathers:
And the Godfathers:
Who needs a fork or even fingers:
There’s mommy (and my beautiful wife) holding up the dirty birthday boy. One day he’ll hate us for these pictures:
That’s the fam (plus my Brother in Law):
The birthday boy’s not so certain about that pig:
Special thanks to Heidi for taking so many of these pictures. I don’t often get to be in any pictures that make this site because I’m always behind the lens. Thanks for going to work for us on this one, Heidi. Between you and I snapping shots, we filled a 4GB card that day!?!