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Spit-Roasted Pig on the Barbecue

Paul is a barbecue enthusiast. He is currently grilling and smoking on a Komodo Kamado Ultimate 23.

Our Spit-Barbecued Pig, With an Apple in its Mouth

Behold the browned and crispy head of a suckling pig, after a six-hour roast.

Behold the browned and crispy head of a suckling pig, after a six-hour roast.

Barbecuing a Suckling Pig

If you are looking to learn how to spit roast or barbecue a young pig, you've come to the right place. I set out to learn how to do it and didn’t find much information, so I hope you enjoy this article.

The first thing you need to decide when planning a pig roast is how large a pig you want to cook. Plan on four to six ounces of meat per person, and assume about 60% of the pig’s weight will be edible. Four to six ounces may not seem like much, but a young pig is pretty rich and gelatinous and has a stronger pork flavor than pork tenderloins and baby back ribs.

How Many People Will a Whole Pig Feed?

Size of pigNumber of guests it will feedServing size per guest

30 pounds (suckling)

50

4-6 ounces

80 pounds

120

5-8 ounces

160 pounds

240

5-8 ounces

The Pig I Purchased to Barbecue

It came in a box with ice.

It came in a box with ice.

Where Do You Buy a Whole Pig?

If you just show up at the butcher, he's not likely to have any whole pigs available: whole pigs aren’t in high demand. Call seven days in advance and order the pig to make sure your butcher can find you one.

I started by calling butcher shops in the San Francisco Bay Area. Pape Meat Company in Millbrae would order me a 50- to 100-pound pig, but that was too big for what I was planning. I was looking for a suckling pig. Another option was Marsh and Sons’ farm in Half Moon Bay, who offered to slaughter a pig for me. I ended up ordering a 25-pound pig from the Golden Gate Meat Company for $165. They let me pick it up at their retail outlet at the Ferry Building, wrapped and in a box with ice, which was very convenient.

I picked the sucking pig up the day before we planned to roast her. I put her in some ice in a cooler in the garage until we were ready to start preparing her to be cooked.

Your Barbecue Equipment

Most barbecues’ rotisserie motors aren't strong enough to turn even a small pig. You need some torque. Rent a barbecue from a local party supply store. We used Action Rentals in San Francisco. Cost: $40 a day.

The first step in preparing the pig for spit roasting is pumping the pig full of a salty solution (an internal marinade) that keeps it moist as it barbecues. You'll need a meat injector. I purchased one from Williams-Sonoma for $20 that worked great.

Internal Marinade For Injecting Barbecued Meat

  • 1/2 gallon of water (per 25 pounds of pig)
  • 1/2 cup of seasoned salt (per 25 pounds of pig)
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For seasoned salt, you can use Penzeys 4/S seasoned salt, or Lawry’s, both work great.

When you use the injector, poke it into a spot in the body cavity and point it towards the outside (skin side) of the pig. Insert it a few inches deep and inject the fluid. As you inject, you can feel the flesh and skin expanding, filling up with the solution.

Go all around the legs, ribs, and shoulders injecting the fluid and pumping up the pig.

After the pig is pumped, it's time to tie it to the spit. This is the hardest part. The pig is heavy and unwieldy and you don’t want it slipping. Run the spit through the mouth and out the butt of the pig. Next, place the clamps on the spit and ram the head and butt into the forked clamps. As the pig rotates on the rotisserie, the clamps hold the pig in place. Once the pig is on the spit and clamped, stitch the pig up with wire. We used a Phillips screwdriver to punch holes in the pig’s skin, and then we used the meat injector needle to run through the holes with the wire, using it like a needle and thread.

Barbecue For Hours, Basting Once An Hour

Barbecue at 250 degrees on a rotisserie barbecue.

Grilling time: Approximately one hour for every five pounds of pig. Yes, a 100-pound pig will take nearly 20 hours! Baste every hour with the vinegar-based mop sauce below.

Mop Sauce Recipe

For a 25-40 pound pig

  • 4 cups of white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons coarse kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, sliced

Whisk the sauce together so the salt is dissolved and let it sit for two hours before applying. Baste meat every hour once the meat has started to brown.

Cutting up the Finished Pig

After six hours, the skin was a deep golden brown, and when I stuck my meat thermometer into the pig, it read 180 degrees. I was a little worried that it would be overcooked, but it wasn't. It was the richest, most melt-in-your-mouth pork I've ever eaten.

The last step is cutting the whole pig up for serving. With a pair of cooking gloves and a sharp knife ready, start by pulling off the legs and butt; the meat should be very tender and the legs should come off without much cutting. Next remove the front legs and shoulders. Then slice off the ribs from the spine; I just pulled the ribs off individually, with a little help from the knife. Lastly, the pig cheeks have rich tender meat; just slice it off the head. That's all there is to it. From there you can slice the meat into serving-size chunks, with attached skin if possible though you won’t get neat slices from this tender, falling-apart meat. Or you can put the chunks of meat in serving trays, with a knife and fork, and let people haggle it up for themselves.

All in all, after pumping up the pig, slow roasting it, and cutting it up, the pork turned out delicious and a great way to feed a crowd of people.

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