So, You Think You Can Roast A Pig?
It makes all the sense in the world: Roast a whole pig over an open spit or coals, and carve up an impressive, tasty lot of food for a whole lot of people. Not so fast—literally.
Slow is the name of the whole-hog-roasting game, and mastering it seems like it could take a lifetime. But let me fill you in on a little secret from masters of yore: It’s what you do during that lag time—drinking, joking, commiserating, playing rickety banjo tunes—that makes the experience all the more worthwhile.
Like anyone who’s ever homebrewed before knows, anticipation is fun. And fortunately, it’s a lot harder to mess up pig roasting than it is homebrewing. Yes, you can roast a whole pig for a celebratory occasion this summer, and here’s how.
Method 1: Rent, buy or borrow a wooden pig-roasting box, and arm yourself with plenty of charcoal. The enclosed structure of these boxes speeds up cooking time compared to the next two methods, and is easy to use.
Method 2: Dig a rectangular ditch, and line it with cinderblocks. Fill the bottom with coals atop foil, and get them going evenly. The pig sits atop this on a roasting rack and should be flipped every hour, preferably by securing it between two of these racks. This could take anywhere from five to six hours for a small pig (40-70 pounds), to 12 hours for a large one (150 pounds), roughly speaking. Pigs this size also need to be halved or butterflied first (don’t tackle this one yourself—ask the butcher to do it).
Method 3: Opt for a suckling pig for its smaller, more manageable size, and secure it to a spit suspended by tripods over a (smaller) ditch, as in Method 2. There’s no heavy lifting this way, but the continual rotating of the pig over the charcoal, which needs to be stoked, still demands your attention.
Ideally, you’ll want to spend the last few hours of this activity with all your party guests around and watching. That’s the festive process that they’ve signed up for. Calculate about 2 pounds of pig to each meat-eating person. Have them bring their dogs, too, as the ears and other crisped bits are perfect treats. Finally, once it’s ready to serve, be sure to designate a separate table just for the task of carving the pig up, and use gloves, as it’ll be hot for hours.
It’s not exactly the same as setting up badminton in your backyard, but a pig roast is a team sport all the same. While one team tackles the heavy lifting, another can assemble the side courses and sauces you might want to serve with your pork. But since slow-roasted, smoky, crispy-skinned pig needs little embellishmen, the team can focus on keeping the cooler filled. Here are three types of beer that pair well with roast pork:
IPAs and Pale Ales: Bitterness helps cut the richness of the hearty entrée. Plus, there’s a few swine-centered beer names out there to choose from, from Russian River’s Blind Pig IPA to Porkslap Pale Ale from Butternuts Beer & Ale.
Wheat beers: Pork is a white meat, and a tasty, refreshing Hefe with tons of character won’t overpower. Try something traditional, like Erdinger Weissbier, or branch out to New World riffs, like Rogue’s Half-E-Weizen.
Smoked Beers: Bring home that bacony essence from the meal with a complex Rauchbier, made with smoked grains. Alaskan Smoked Porter, Stone Smoked Porter or bottles from the Schlenkerla brewery, from the style’s heartland in Bamberg, will add big flavor to that beast. ■