Before You Go Whole Hog Posted by: Aaron Stearns | 0 Comments
A female comedian once observed, “Men only want to cook when there’s danger involved.” This pretty much explains the continued popularity of the outdoor grill with its open flame in general. It also explains the growing trend of literally going whole hog over barbecue.
Friends must be recruited. Advice must be sought. Much beer must be consumed. Arguments are required over brining, seasoning, smoking, heat and any other process or method you could encounter along the way. Otherwise, you’re just doing it wrong.
First off, a roasting pig weighs roughly 60-70 pounds. Moving that thing around, especially when it’s hot, is not a one-man job. To procure pork like that, you generally need some kind of hook-up. A local butcher or meat locker will typically have connections in the area with growers to get you what you need. Depending on the season, price runs approximately $3-3.35 per pound.
As far as actually cooking the hog, this is where theories and methods and voodoo start to play a part. Best I can put together, pig roasting is to 30-something men what canning vegetables from the garden is 70-something women. The mechanics are pretty basic. But if you don’t turn around seven times in counter-clockwise motion, cross yourself three times and spit, well … you might as well just throw the whole thing out. It’s not worth eating now.
Ultimately, what you want to do is get enough heat on this massive piece swine to cook the meat hot enough so it won’t make people sick. It needs to be 160 degrees. A good remote meat thermometer will be very helpful to determine if you’ve achieved edible temperatures. There’s several ways to achieve this:
Burying – Dig a hole roughly five feet long, 3.5 feet wide and 3 feet deep. Line it with brick on the bottom and sides. Lights coals, drop in the pig, cover the hole with plywood and the plywood with dirt. Cook for 6-8 hours, depending on the size of the hog. There are, of course, 258 variations on this technique, which is what the beer and six hours are for: to debate if you’re doing it wrong.
Smoker – If you have a big enough smoker, drop that pig in there and let it cook. The China Box is a particular brand several smokers swear by.
Rotisserie – Your smoker may have an appliance for this technique. There is also the old tried and true, open-flame-hanging-from-a-stick method.
Brining, seasoning, injecting, smoking, rubbing … these are the topics that could make a less interested person’s eyes glaze over. But true pork lovers spend hours, weeks and months of their lives debating the finer points of these issues. It should be noted a person could enjoy some tasty pork prepared at home without going in whole hog. You don’t have to give up what is essentially a cemetery plot out back just to have a perfectly respectable barbecue.
A good smoker, like a Big Green Egg, can produce some mighty fine ribs, shoulders, butts and more. The time commitment is significantly less but equally delicious. In fact, the finest pig roasters often suggest getting a firm grip on some smaller pieces of ham before taking on the big prize.
Don’t worry; there is still plenty of beer and argument to be had in these categories too. You don’t get to be Boss Hog without being able to chew the fat on just about any piece of pork.
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