How To Roast A Whole Pig Over An Open Fire

By Indefinitely Wild on at

This weekend, we roasted an entire pig at my house for a BBQ. Not only was it fun and visually-impressive to cook, but it was darn tasty too. You should try it! This is our method.

Step One: Acquire Pig

You can’t buy a whole pig at the supermarket, so you’ll need to go directly to a farmer. Our pig’s hanging weight was 60lbs, which fed 25 people, two dogs and created plenty of leftovers.

Yelp and Google are your tools for finding a quality pig raised on natural food.

Keep in mind that the pig will need to be stored in a cool fridge or cooler, which can be difficult for such a large hunk o’ meat. We picked ours up the morning of the barbecue to avoid having to store it. We just brought it home, prepped it, and put it on the fire. Bonus points if you can visit the farm itself and see how the pigs are raised.

How To Roast A Whole Pig Over An Open Fire

Step Two: Assemble Supplies

  • 3 x 8ft 2x4s
  • 3-inch wood screws
  • Wood saw
  • Electric drill
  • 4 x 12-inch rebar
  • Bailing wire
  • Large bag hardwood lump charcoal
  • 5 bundles hardwood firewood (not pine)
  • An apple
  • Sharp knife
  • Shovel

How To Roast A Whole Pig Over An Open Fire

Step Three: Build A Fire

Home Depot was sold out of fire pits the morning we visited, so we bought a cheap clamshell grill and broke it down to create two metal canisters to build a fire in. If you’re able to build a fire directly on the ground where you plan to cook, you don’t need to worry about this.

Build a medium-size campfire and let it burn for an hour or so, feeding it new wood until you develop a solid bed of coals. You’ll want to add charcoal and wood to this throughout the day to keep it going.

One advantage of using some sort of metal fire container is that it allows you to slide the fire out of the way.

How To Roast A Whole Pig Over An Open Fire

Step Four: Prep The Pig

The pig will come to you with its guts removed and a large slit in its belly. Lie it on its back and use a large, sharp knife to cut down from its neck to that slit, through the rib cage, splitting it apart. Do the same from the slit to the anus, splitting the pelvis.

This is hard work and there is a potential to injure yourself if the knife slips. Hold your hand out in front of you in a vertical fist. The knife should face downwards, with the edge facing your forearm, in line with it. When using it, pull with your shoulder and keep your torso, face and friends out of its direction of travel.

How To Roast A Whole Pig Over An Open Fire

Next, cut the ribs away from the spine, where they meet. You’ll be able to find the joint line, split through there.

All this enables you to splay the pig out flat so that heat from the fire can reach throughout it evenly.

Pry the mouth open with a pry bar, sturdy serving fork, shovel or similar. Insert the apple in its mouth to hold it open. This looks cool and allows heat to permeate the pig’s head.

How To Roast A Whole Pig Over An Open Fire

Step Five: Construct Frame

Use the 2x4s to construct a rectangle that is 24 inches longer than the pig and a few inches narrower than the outstretched width of its feet, when splayed flat post-prepping. Locate the cross members a foot from the ends.

Drive two your rebar stakes into the ground about a foot from the fire on each corner. These should be the same width as your frame as they support it.

Locate your frame on these stakes and lean it across the fire somewhere between 45 and 60 degrees. Measure the distance from bottom of the top cross member to the ground on the other side of the fire at the same angle and cut your remaining 2x4s to size to support it. Drive the two remaining rebar stakes into the ground to support those feet.

You’ll be turning and flipping the frame with the pig on it to cook it evenly. So it can help to drive a single screw into each corner of the frame, on both sides, to serve as a chock for the frame’s feet as you switch orientations.

How To Roast A Whole Pig Over An Open Fire

Step Five: Frame The Pig

Wrap the pig’s feet securely in bailing wire, then pull it taught across the frame, wrapping the wire around the 2x4s to secure it.

Add an additional loop of wire around the pig’s mid-section and the frame to keep the body from collapsing as it cooks.

You’ll need at least two big guys to manoeuvre the pig onto the fire. Again, it helps if you can slide the metal pan containing the fire out of the way while you do this.

How To Roast A Whole Pig Over An Open Fire

Step Six: Cook The Pig

Start slow, over a bed of coals with minimal flame. The idea is to heat the flesh up evenly and throughout without browning the outside. Pigs are fatty animals and you want to slowly melt that fat so it bastes the meat. So you need to get a low, even heat throughout the animal to get that fat melted and distributed.

There’s also a lot of water in the meat. This will need to steam off before the meat can really begin cooking.

For the first three hours, flip the pig every 30 minutes or so to get that heat evenly distributed. You’ll want to flip across both axis; vertical and horizontal.

During this time, if you see the skin burning or bubbling, that’s an indication that you’re cooking it too fast. Flip the pig, reduce the size of your fire or move it further away.

Pay careful attention to the neck, shoulders and hind-quarters. These are the thickest parts of the animal and need more heat for longer to cook through.

Depending on the size of your pig, you’ll be getting close after six to eight hours. You’ll know you’re there when fat begins continually dripping from the meat and the body becomes so soft it threatens to collapse every time you turn it.

If you’re using a meat thermometer, you’re looking for 62 degrees C throughout. You can cut into thick section of the pig to examine its readiness.

How To Roast A Whole Pig Over An Open Fire

Step Seven: Serve The Pig

Remove the pig from the fire and allow it to rest between 30 minutes and an hour.

Use this time to make a barbecue sauce:

  • 1 Cup Vinegar
  • 1 Cup sweet garlic chili sauce (May Ploy is the most common. TJs also has a good one)
  • 8 gloves minced garlic
  • 1/4 Cup sugar
  • 1/2 Cup fish sauce*
  • 1-2 Tablespoons red chili flake (for desired hotness) or 1 Diced red chili
  • Crushed black pepper
  • *You can substitute salt or soy sauce. Just make sure to taste to confirm desired saltiness.

Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan and heat until the sugar disolves and the the concoction is close to boiling. Let cool to room temperature.

You can cut the pig up any way you want. You may want to remove specific cuts of meat and serve those — legs for instance — or slice it, like a turkey. It’ll be so soft at this point that you can just use your hands to pull the meat from the bones, too.

Make sure you remove the cheeks from the head, they’re one of the tastiest cuts of meat. Then remove the ears and serve those to your dogs.

How To Roast A Whole Pig Over An Open Fire

How To Roast A Whole Pig Over An Open Fire

Knife used was the new DPx Aculus.


This article originally appeared on Indefinitely Wild, Gizmodo's blog on adventure travel and the gear that gets us there