How to cook a whole pig
The guys over at Relishing Food have kindly shared their experience on this.
Cooked all at once, you can feed up to 200 people, and when you are doing a party on a large scale, it makes for a very delicious and economical way of feeding everyone.
You are going to need a large oven, or preferably one of these. In fact, you are going to need one of these.
Hog roast or spit roast
Believe it or not there is a difference and it is to do with the cooking style. A hog roast is where you sit the entire pig inside a unit and cook it, a spit roast is where you essentially have a pole or spit threaded through two ends of the pig, one in the style of Edward II, and the other through the head or neck. The meat is turned over a heat source either by a slow rotating electric motor or a child on less than minimum wage.
In the guide we will discuss the hog roast approach.
Firstly, you need a sharp knife, and you need to score the outer skin taking care not to cross the slashes. If you do cross the slashes, when the meat cooks you may find the skin falling off where the slashes cross. This will be no good as the crackling will end up at the bottom of your oven.
Lay the pig out inside your oven with the top of the oven, i.e. the lids off. It’s not essential, but we oil the meat with a vegetable based oil. Smother the entire pig in oil and then cover and rub the skin in salt making sure you rub the salt into the slashes. You need a lot of salt for a whole pig so never be concerned with thinking you have too much on the outside.
Light the oven and turn to maximum heat. Cover the oven with the lids and leave the oven on high for at least an hour checking periodically. What you are looking for is the skin to have started to split where you have slashed it, and some colour to appear on the skin.
Once you have reached this phase, turn the oven down to low and leave it for another two hours. Check the oven periodically to ensure it is still lit at you will no doubt be cooking the pig outdoors and a gust or breeze could potentially blow the flame out. If indoors you will notice the room temperature has gone up to about 40-50 degrees by now but still check the oven periodically.
There is no need to baste the meat. The fat in the skin will do this for you. You just need to be patient and keep an eye on the crackling colour. The whole pig, assuming it is around 135lbs is going to take around 8 hours to cook, so we know we are in it for the long haul. Patience is the secret ingredient required in this rather large dish.
When you have the crackling colour you want, i.e. a deep golden brown, you may be concerned that to cook the pig any longer will cause it to burn. Don’t worry. Simply lift the lids and cover the crackling in tin foil. This will stop the crackling colouring any further and will allow the meat to still continue to cook.
Time is important when cooking a whole pig as you have essentially four areas of the pig’s anatomy which are going to take a long time to cook. Namely the two hams (rear buttocks) and the two shoulders (no need to explain where they are). These are large pieces of meat and require extensive cooking to get the core temperature up to 71 plus degrees centigrade for at least 40 minutes, so the meat thermometer is going to be useful here.
After a total of six hours have passed, lift the lid of the oven and insert your meat thermometer into the deepest part of the pig’s flesh, either the shoulder or the ham and leave it in there for about 3 minutes to allow the temperature to register. If you have a digital thermometer, this may only take a few seconds, but if you have one of the more traditional mechanical thermometers, this will take a few minutes.
If the temperature is below 71 degrees C, remove the thermometer and continue cooking the pig for another hour if between 5 and 10 degrees lower, or 30 minutes if less than 5 degrees lower.
Continue the steps above, checking the core temperature until the 71 degrees centigrade is reached. Once this temperature has been achieved, time the cooking for another 40 minutes. After 40 minutes, the pig is cooked.
Turn off the oven and allow the pork to rest inside the oven for half an hour before beginning to carve.
If after 6 hours of cooking the crackling is soft, don’t panic. Pour a pint of cold water over the skin and replace the oven lids. The action of the cold water hitting the skin will shock the skin causing it to shrink, and it will soon crackle afterwards.
Food hygiene is very important. It is essential to ensure your pig is cooked. Because of the large number of people this dish can feed, getting it wrong or infecting people is like mass genocide. Always ensure the food is cooked properly before serving.