10 Lessons for Smoking Your First Whole Hog

Many of you, no doubt, are planning on cooking a whole hog (or, more elegantly, pig) for your New Year’s dinner.  You are to be commended.  I’m sure that Dan Kenney would be cooking a whole pig if he weren’t exhausted from frying turkeys for half of Lumberton.

The ultimate method of cooking a whole pig — or another large part of a pig — is cooking it slowly in a masonry pit over over low heat generated exclusively by wood coals.  The wood coals provide that much-beloved smoky flavor, and the fat dripping down on the coals creates pork fat smoke, and adds another delicious dimension to the flavor.

Now, cooking a whole pig is an art — and hard work.  Those who have not tried it before need to be aware of numerous pitfalls.  Where to turn?  My back yard isn’t level enough for a masonry pit, and I’m not about to suggest to Nancy that we build one in the front yard, and even less am I willing to do all that work.  My only related experience has been drinking beer while watching.

As it happens, the Barbecue Bros recently reposted on Facebook an excellent article based on their first experience smoking a whole hog.  Caution: Don’t read it if you have important appointments coming up, as you’re liable to hop in your car and head to a barbecue place, or out to buy a pig.

bbqbros1The article is well worth reading, and will save you from making lot of mistakes and perhaps burning down your neighborhood.

I will add one additional observation.  Pits usually are in enclosed spaces, either in a cookhouse, as shown here at Helen’s,

helens smoke

or, at places that cook shoulders, in a masonry pit, like that at the Southside Dreamland.

dreamland ss pit ribs

I think that the partially closed space helps speed the cooking somewhat, and helps with the smoke flavor.  For those who don’t wish to build a separate building — and I completely sympathize with that reluctance — here’s a tip from Ramey’s.  At Ramey’s, they loosely cover the pig with a large piece of industrial cardboard during the low and slow cooking.  The loose covering gras some heat and adds to the smokiness without either steaming or baking the meat — dangers of the metal offset smokers.

The Barbecue Bros pledge to cook another pig, and may have more useful suggestions.  I sure hope they will.  I’d be happy to cover that story.


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