We get a lot of questions about how we roast a pig. Hopefully this will help. Feel free to comment on the article to help clarify anything. We plan on posting some pictures later.
The two most important things (probably obvious) is getting a fresh pig and having the right cooker. We buy our pigs from Mars Supermarket, a Baltimore based food market. They are fresh from a supplier in the Lancaster, PA area. We have tried other area butchers, but they were coming frozen from various areas of the country. The cookers we use are from Meadowcreek in New Holland, PA called Pig Roasters and they come in various sizes. We like these cookers because we get 20+ hours of wood and charcoal in them which is great for a long cook.
Once we get the pig (they come already dressed), we prepare the cooker with the right amount of wood and charcoal. This is trial and error and we learned from experience. Generally it takes about 1 hour for each 10 pounds plus two hours at about 250 degrees. So a 50 lb pig will take about 7 hours to roast. If you aren’t at about 140 degrees internal temperature for the pig (we use two probes, one in the shoulder and one in the ham) by about 1/2 way through the cooking time (about 3.5 hours for that 50 lb pig), then you’ll need to increase the pit temperature. Once we start reaching about 175 degrees internal temperature, we will reduce the pit temperature depending on the time we need that pig ready by. Time is critical to us as we must have that pig ready at the time our customer requested it by. The pig should be at 185 degrees and hold it steady for about 1/2 hour to insure that the pig is pig pickin’.
When we prep the pig (on the cooker’s grate) we first wash it out with warm salt water, inside and out. We then add our rub to the inside cavity, everywhere that there is meat showing. Don’t bother putting the rub on the skin, it will never get through that tough skin. A lot of people ask if we inject. We will if the customer requests it (at an extra cost), but we just don’t think it adds that much to the flavor to these fresh pigs.
Once we have the fire going and the pig ready (we already have it prepped and positioned on the grate), we place a foil pan with apple juice and our BBQ rub on the grease catch pan of the Meadowcreek. and place the grate over top of the catch pan. This keeps moisture inside the cooker. In the summer time, we add fresh basil from the garden with that pan and on the grease catch pan. This enhances the smoke flavor. The pig (and grate) go into the cooker . We insert the probes into the shoulder and ham, close the lid and let it cook until ready. We don’t open the lid unless there is a reason. The most common reason is that the two temperature probes may be showing different temperatures as one end of the cooker may be hotter then the other end so we will move the pig around to allow the temperatures to regulate.