Whole Pig on a Spit

Process: Involved
Cooking: Pork
Preparation: Long Cook (Over 2 hours)

One 120-pound pig, dressed, skin on


2 gallons (32 cups) water
1 cup kosher salt
1 cup granulated sugar
30 unpeeled garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper flakes
1 gallon (16 cups) apple juice

Basting Butter
4 pounds unsalted butter
1 sweet white onion, coarsely chopped
5 heads of garlic, cut in half horizontally
6 thyme sprigs 4 sage sprigs
2 rosemary sprigs
About 2 cups canola or vegetable oil

Seasoning Blend
1 cup garlic salt
1 cup lemon pepper
1 cup mild chile powder, preferably Chimayo, Ancho, or Hatch
1 cup coarsely ground fresh black pepper

Herb Bundle
1 bunch thyme
1 bunch sage
1 bunch marjoram
1 bunch rosemary

1 cup honey
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1⁄4 cup coarsely chopped flat- leaf parsley
4 garlic cloves, peeled, and grated on a Microplane grater

1 recipe Herb Sauce

Coarsely ground fresh black pepper

Techniques Used

Glisten With Oil

Scoring Deeply


Optional Savory Herb Brush

Press and Dab

Season "Like Rain"

Season Soak Saturate

Super Agressive Seasoning

Tighten With Glaze

Watch Coarseness Spice


Before you start…
You'll need:
40-quart-capacity cooler
Large injecting needle
Ice, enough to fill the cooler (or make friends with a restaurateur and ask to keep the pig in their refrigerator)
125 to 150 pounds brick charcoal (depending on preferred doneness; see recipe)
Fire starters
Large ash can
Fireproof gloves
Fire extinguisher
One six- foot table you aren’t afraid to get dirty, or one large, thick piece of plywood set on two sawhorses to create a work surface that can be hosed down.
Large roll of food- safe plastic wrap (the kind that you buy at a warehouse store)

1. Combine all of the injection ingredients, and ideally let sit for 24 hours, allowing the flavors to develop. Strain.

2. Remove the pig’s trotters and reserve for another use, if desired. Place the pig, feet side up, in the cooler. Inject the shoulders, hams, loins, and belly, going through the flesh side (as opposed to the skin side) in a grid- like pattern. If using a cooler to store, pack with ice and close the top, or if you have the means, refrigerate. Let sit for 12 hours.

3. Set up your spit.

4. Position the pig on the spit according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

5. Combine all of the basting butter ingredients in a baking dish or disposable pan and place in the center under the animal to catch the majority of drippings. Combine the seasoning blend ingredients. Tie together all of the herbs using kitchen twine and attach to a dowel, about 3 feet long and 1⁄2 inch in diameter. Place all of the glaze ingredients in a large jar (a juice jar is a good size) with a tight- fitting lid and shake to combine. Set aside.

6. Spread about 18 pounds of charcoal about 21⁄2 feet away from, but parallel to, the pig. The coals should be in a mound next to the pig. Using anything but lighter fluid, light the coals.

Cooking Method

7. To know that the coals are properly placed to cook the pig, watch the pig. The skin should begin to sweat very lightly and start to render fat. If the sweating or rendering is too aggressive, using a rake, move the coals about 6 inches away from the pig. Conversely if the pig is not sweating, use the rake to move the pile closer to the pig.

8. During the cooking time, you will be adding about 9 pounds of coals per hour, but the time frame will vary based on weather conditions. Coals should be added when the charcoal is almost completely ashed over and is not letting off as much heat. Do not wait too long to add new coals.

9. After 2 hours, using an industrial- size roll of food- safe plastic wrap, tie the wrap to one end of the spit. Guide the wrap and let the natural movement of the spit help with the wrapping. Continue to unroll and wrap until the pig is covered by and completely encased in plastic wrap. The pig will be injected with water between its skin and the wrap, so it will need to be watertight. If in doubt, add an extra layer. Using 1 to 2 gallons of water, inject water, using an injecting needle, between the wrap and the skin of the pig.

10. Continue cooking for 4 hours.

11. Carefully, because excess liquid will have built up, cut the plastic wrap. Slowly remove to avoid tearing the skin. Using your hands (protected with heat- proof gloves), smear the seasoning blend over the meat, covering all areas as best you can.

12. Cook for 1 hour and then brush with the butter every 30 minutes, using the herb bundle. Continue to cook until the internal temperature in the shoulder is 165°F, for slicing, about 4 hours. Or cook to 195°F, for pulling, about 7 hours.

13. Give the glaze a quick shake and brush the pig using the herb brush. Continue to cook for 30 minutes to tighten the glaze.

14. Cut the meat directly from the spit and serve. Or give knives to all of your guests. The meat can be served directly from the pig or transferred to serving platters, dressed with herb sauce, and sprinkled with pepper.