On Suckling Pig: An Introduction to Going Whole Hog
While the idea of cooking an entire pig may sound daunting, and to be fair, it can be an involved process; the old adage that “you get what you give” is true of cooking a suckling pig. Put simply, your hard work will pay off in a delicious centerpiece to a feast for a large gathering.
Once again, the work involved in executing such a delectable meal is going to be work.
A Step-By-Step Guide on Cooking Whole Pig
Acquisition Of The Pig
One of the most notable issues when it comes to cooking a suckling pig is acquiring the pig, finding a whole roasting pig for sale can be a challenge in and of itself. While things are easy if you happen to know a pig farmer, you might consider making a special order for “suckling pig” from a butcher shop or even an online vendor. While the term can vary from person to person, you are looking for a pig that was still nursing on its mother’s milk, hence the “suckling” aspect, and ranges between 9 to 20 pounds in weight.
Roasting a suckling pig takes up considerably less space than is needed with an adult pig. While some may espouse the use of a grill or BBQ when it comes to knowing how to cook a whole pig on a grill, roasting a whole piglet requires low, indirect heat; grilling the carcass on high heat runs a high risk of burning the skin and uneven cooking. There is also the matter that most grills are ill-suited to grilling a whole pig on indirect heat. Even if you happen to have a grill large enough to house the body, you will need to constantly be turning the animal over during the process just to give an even, thorough cook; if you want to spare yourself some singed arm hairs or even the risk of flipping over your grill, consider the oven or a rotisserie rig.
While digging up a fire pit and lining it with charcoal or firewood can take some effort, the taste of your roast suckling pig will be something truly memorable. Once you feel confident in cooking pig with a rotisserie, you are easily equipped to roast other things, like lamb, goat and poultry. While cooking a pig rotisserie-style calls for a spit, anyone who lacks their own spit should check with a local pig farm to see if they will rent one out. It also would not be a bad idea to enlist help from some friends if you plan on cooking the suckling pig on a rotisserie spit, mainly to set up the posts that will hold the pig on the spit and rotate.
Preparation Of The Pig
While it is a common practice to brine or marinate large pigs before cooking them, the innate succulence and tenderness of suckling pig means that you should only bother with the step if you want to give some extra flavor to the meat-there is already plenty of collagen and under-worked muscle to satisfy the tenderness quotient of the meat. When it comes to brining the body, use whatever your prefer. At a minimal level, you should rub coarse salt over the pig’s body and inside of that body a day before you intend to cook it. Remember to brush all of the salt off right before you plan to cook it.
A Brief Note on Safety Concerns
Be mindful that you are technically handling raw meat, even if the skin is on. Make sure that any cooking surfaces you use during the preparation or cooking of your pig are thoroughly cleaned afterward to avoid any sort of foodborne illnesses.
Pig Roast Recipe
- Suckling pig, one, 20 lbs.
- Salt, kosher
- Pepper, black, freshly ground
- Cloves, garlic, whole, 20
- Ginger, fresh, half-inch-long slivers, 12
- Preheat the oven to 300°F.
- Season the interior and exterior of the pig with lots of salt and pepper, then fill the cavity with garlic and ginger. If your pig can fit on a single-rimmed baking sheet or pan, go ahead and place it on such a device with its backside facing upward, and move it to the oven; if your pig is to big for this approach, take out the oven’s rack and place it atop your oven’s range.
- Place two overlapping baking sheets so that they fit over the oven rack and line everything with foil. Transfer the pig to the sheets, lift the rack and return it to the oven so that the pig lays square in the center.
- Roast until you get a minimum internal temperature of 160°F when gauging the thickest portion of the shoulder blade; roughly 4 hours. If either the ears or tail begin to burn during the cooking process, cover these sensitive portions with foil and continue.
- Raise the temperature to 500°F and cook until the skin thoroughly crisps over; roughly 30 minutes.
- Remove the pig from your oven, tent it with foil and give the meat half an hour to rest.
- Serve by tearing the skin off in serving sizes, using your fingers to pull the cooked pork off the carcass and pile onto a serving dish.
Suckling Pig Recipe
- Suckling pig, one, 12-18 lbs.
- Water, 15 quarts
- Salt, kosher, 6.5 cups
- Sugar, granulated, 4.5 cups
- Oil, vegetable, 1/2 cup
- Rinse the pig with cold water and set it aside. Line a 32-gallon size garbage bag with two more bags of the same size. Pour the water, sugar and salt into the bag and stir the whole mixture up until it dissolves, making sure not to poke through any of the bags. Put the pig into the bags, push out as much air as you can and tie the whole mess up as tight and snug as you can. Place the triple-bag rig into a 15-quart container, move the container to the fridge and let the mixture sit anywhere from 12 to 24 hours. Make sure to turn the animal over at least once, ideally halfway into the time you plan to let the brine do its job.
- Heat your oven to 250°F and arrange a rack on your lowest level. Extract the pig from the bring bag and pat it dry with towels. Lay the body on its side and fill it with between 15 and 20 20″ pieces of aluminum foil. This helps prevent the body from caving in during the cooking process.
- Move the body to a baking sheet equipped with a roasting rack. Position the body with its backside facing up and its legs tucked underneath the body, with the rear legs pointing ahead and the front legs pointing to the sides. Feel free to use more foil to reach a proper configuration. Use either foil or a large ramekin to keep the head propped up and the back aligned. Cover closely with foil and transfer everything to the oven.
- Roast the animal, giving a single rotation, until its thigh meat reaches an internal temperature of 130°F; this will take around 2.5-3 hours.
- Remove the foil from the carcass, give it a basting of oil and then raise the oven’s temperature to 400°F.
- Roast the animal, giving it an oil basting every quarter hour and at least one more rotation, until the internal temperature rises to 160°F; this should take between 45 minutes to an hour. Note: If either the ears or snout start to reach a disturbingly dark shade of brown, cover them with foil to give them some protection.
- Remove the pig from the oven and give the meat 20 minutes to rest prior to carving.
While roasting a suckling pig is an easy thing to do in theory, the execution involves a modest amount of physical labor, or even calls for multiple hands in the case of a proper rotisserie roasting. If you pay attention to the advice presented in this article, you should have little difficulty in roasting a suckling pig-regardless of how you choose to cook it. While the two recipes presented above are examples, they are not the only approach; some people will roast their pigs with Coca-Cola to give the crispy skin an amazingly unique and delicious character.