Spit-Roasted Pig on the Barbecue

Our Spit-Barbecued Pig, With an Apple in its Mouth

Behold the browned and crispy head of a suckling pig, after a six-hour roast.
Behold the browned and crispy head of a suckling pig, after a six-hour roast.

Barbecuing a Suckling Pig

If you are looking to learn how to spit roast or barbecue a young pig, you've come to the right place. I set out to learn how to do it and didn’t find much information; so I hope you enjoy this Hub.

The first thing you need to decide when planning a pig roast is how large a pig you want to cook. Plan on four to six ounces of meat per person, and assume about 60% of the pig’s weight will be edible. Four to six ounces may not seem like much, but a young pig is pretty rich and gelatinous and has a stronger pork flavor than pork tenderloins and baby back ribs.

How Many People Will a Whole Pig Feed?

Size of pig
Number of guests it will feed
Serving size per guest
30 pounds (suckling)
50
4-6 ounces
80 pounds
120
5-8 ounces
160 pounds
240
5-8 ounces

The Pig I Purchased to Barbecue

It came in a box with ice.
It came in a box with ice.

Where Do You Buy a Whole Pig?

If you just show up at the butcher, he's not likely to have any whole pigs available: whole pigs aren’t in high demand. Call seven days in advance and order the pig, to make sure your butcher can find you one.

I started by calling butcher shops in the San Francisco Bay Area. Pape Meat Company in Millbrae would order me a 50- to 100-pound pig, but that was too big for what I was planning. I was looking for a suckling pig. Another option was Marsh and Sons’ farm in Half Moon Bay, who offered to slaughter a pig for me. I ended up ordering a 25-pound pig from the Golden Gate Meat Company for $165. They let me pick it up at their retail outlet at the Ferry Building, wrapped and in a box with ice, which was very convenient.

I picked the sucking pig up the day before we planned to roast her. I put her in some ice in a cooler in the garage, until we were ready to start preparing her to be cooked.

Your Barbecue Equipment

Most barbecues’ rotisserie motors aren't strong enough to turn even a small pig. You need some torque. Rent a barbecue from a local party supply store. We used Action Rentals in San Francisco. Cost: $40 a day.

Injecting the Pig to Keep it Moist

The first step in preparing the pig for spit roasting is pumping the pig full of a salty solution (an internal marinade) that keeps it moist as it barbecues. You'll need a meat injector. I purchased one from Williams-Sonoma for $20 that worked great.

Internal Marinade For Injecting Barbecued Meat

  • 1/2 gallon of water (per 25 pounds of pig)
  • 1/2 cup of seasoned salt (per 25 pounds of pig)

For seasoned salt, you can use Penzeys 4/S seasoned salt, or Lawry’s, both work great.

When you use the injector, poke it into a spot in the body cavity and point it towards the outside (skin side) of the pig. Insert it a few inches deep and inject the fluid. As you inject, you can feel the flesh and skin expanding, filling up with the solution.

Go all around the legs, ribs, and shoulders injecting the fluid and pumping up the pig.

Tying the Pig to the Barbecue Spit

After the pig is pumped, it's time to tie it to the spit. This is the hardest part. The pig is heavy and unwieldy and you don’t want it slipping. Run the spit through the mouth and out the butt of the pig. Next, place the clamps on the spit and ram the head and butt into the forked clamps. As the pig rotates on the rotisserie, the clamps hold the pig in place. Once the pig is on the spit and clamped, stitch the pig up with wire. We used a Phillips screwdriver to punch holes in the pig’s skin, and then we used the meat injector needle to run through the holes with the wire, using it like a needle and thread.

Barbecue For Hours, Basting Once An Hour

Barbecue at 250 degrees on a rotisserie barbecue.

Grilling time: Approximately one hour for every five pounds of pig. Yes, a 100-pound pig will take nearly 20 hours! Baste every hour with the vinegar-based mop sauce below.

Mop sauce.
Mop sauce.
Preparing to cut up the cooked pig.
Preparing to cut up the cooked pig.

Mop Sauce Recipe

For a 25-40 pound pig

  • 4 cups of white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons coarse kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, sliced

Whisk the sauce together so the salt is dissolved and let it sit for two hours before applying. Baste meat every hour once the meat has started to brown.

Cutting up the Finished Pig

After six hours, the skin was a deep golden brown, and when I stuck my meat thermometer into the pig, it read 180 degrees. I was a little worried that it would be overcooked, but it wasn't. It was the richest, most melt-in-your-mouth pork I've ever eaten.

The last step is cutting the whole pig up for serving. With a pair of cooking gloves and a sharp knife ready, start by pulling off the legs and butt; the meat should be very tender and the legs should come off without much cutting. Next remove the front legs and shoulders. Then slice off the ribs from the spine; I just pulled the ribs off individually, with a little help from the knife. Lastly, the pig cheeks have rich tender meat; just slice it off the head. That's all there is to it. From there you can slice the meat into serving-size chunks, with attached skin if possible though you won’t get neat slices from this tender, falling-apart meat. Or you can put the chunks of meat in serving trays, with a knife and fork, and let people haggle it up for themselves.

All in all, after pumping up the pig, slow roasting it, and cutting it up, the pork turned out delicious and a great way to feed a crowd of people.

Rate This Recipe For Spit-Roasted Suckling Pig

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Comments 25 comments

SteveoMc profile image

SteveoMc 5 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

Something seems so wrong about this, LOL. I have been to a couple of pig roasts though and boy is it ever good. The serving tray of meat makes me drool, but the preparation is something that takes a little mental toughness. I will send the instructions to my son, and maybe he will do it. I want some roasted pig right now, but I better stick to my oatmeal for breakfast.


djbraman 5 years ago

This was very interesting, an enjoyable read, I live in pit barbeque country down here in Eastern NC and the preparation looks daunting but yummy in the tummy!


thewayeyeseeit profile image

thewayeyeseeit 5 years ago from Woodstock, GA

This looks interesting. I love pig roasts. But I had no idea how much they cost. It sure sounds expensive.. 25lbs at $165 is almost $7/lb, and when only 60% is edible... I guess when you factor in how much fun you had, it softens the financial blow, huh?


Paul Edmondson profile image

Paul Edmondson 5 years ago from Burlingame, CA Author

it definitely feels over priced in pure price per lbs way, but the experience and the party was priceless:)


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

The taste is out of this world. In Germany it is done a lot in the summer.


Jonathan 5 years ago

Paul, thanks for sharing this awesome experience - fantastic!!


Jonathan 5 years ago

Over here in England and your guys really look like you know how to have a party... Wish I was there!!! What a great BBQ set up you have there Paul looks like a fantastic back yard... Great BBQ but especially love the beer fridge but just a bit worried if this is connected to the photos getting a bit blurred later in the night - glad you enjoyed it!!


steve woods 5 years ago

i got a company called spitting pig yorkshire to do a party for me . It was an absolutely amazing meal they put on . Highly recommend


bbqsmokersite profile image

bbqsmokersite 5 years ago from Winter Haven, Florida

Awesome job with this. I've not got the space to do this type of hog roast, but would in a second. I love that CookingChannel commercial where the couple talks about marinating a whole hog in their bathtub before a roast!


AElegantSoul 4 years ago

I have been all over the internet gathering information in regard to how to roast a whole pig for the first time and gathered a lot of information and your blog I found to be the most informative.

I am looking to roast a small pig 20 lbs or less. No more than 25 and I have a charbroil smoker grill and was wondering if 1280 sq ft would be big enough and how much cooking time is needed for this size.

The link shows what kind of grill I have. Looking to do this July 13. So a answer soon would be great.

http://www.charbroil.com/cb-american-gourmet-delux...


Paul Edmondson profile image

Paul Edmondson 4 years ago from Burlingame, CA Author

@AElegantSoul - that barbecue will work fine, but since you don't have a spit, butterfly the pig so that the legs will go out to the side and it will lie flat on the grill. Flip it every 20 to 30 minutes. A 20 lbs suckling will likely take 2.5 hours (but give yourself extra time - it's fine if the pig is done early) to cook. Use a meat thermometer to make sure it's done. Also, be sure to use a mop sauce on it.

Try and get a small as pig as possible. If you are over 20 lbs, you'll likely have to stretch the pig out length wise to fit it on the grill. It might take a little creativity, but it will work:)

It will be delicious!


AElegantSoul 4 years ago

Great!! Good to know. Now do I put coal in the smoker box as well as in the bottom of the chamber? Or both?

The grill has a place to put a rotissirie and now I have to figure out what kind will hold. I don't want to grill it whole.


Paul Edmondson profile image

Paul Edmondson 4 years ago from Burlingame, CA Author

I'm not real familiar with your grill, but many grills have a place to put wood chips for smoking and charcoal for the primary heat, but the chips are over the primary coal so they will create smoke.


AElegantSoul 4 years ago

Thanks for your help Paul.


travel_man1971 profile image

travel_man1971 3 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

We used to do it, on board ship during weekends or if the ship is on its long voyage (usually from Texas, USA down to Venezuela).

Sailors are always getting giddy with the thought of having a makeshift long table at the poopa (aft) of the vessel every Saturday afternoon or as the good weather permits us to do so.

My Greek officers usually like roasted lamb carcass. Filipinos, like me, is getting used to it.

But for Christmas, we usually have that roasted suckling pig.

Awesome hub. Thanks for sharing! :)


Kathryn Stratford profile image

Kathryn Stratford 3 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

I would have a very hard time doing that myself. And what is a suckling pig, is that a baby pig? Or just a term for a smaller pig?

Even though it would be too disturbing for me to do that myself, I remember that one of the tastiest pigs I ever had was from a farmer we knew. It came straight from the butcher, although they cut it for us. I have never had part of a whole roasted pig.

Interesting post, and I'm sure it is useful to many.


Thomas 3 years ago

I am looking to do this on my smoker using smoke and charcoal. What is the length if the pig on the spit? I have to do some modifications and have not built this yet. How much distance between the pig and charcoal?


Paul Edmondson profile image

Paul Edmondson 3 years ago from Burlingame, CA Author

On the spits I've used they are about two feet from the fire box. You could also make the side poles adjustable so the spit could be raised or lowered.


Collin 3 years ago

Hey Paul, I'm having a hard time finding wire to support the pig on the spit. I'm just finding galvanized metal or steel that is oily. Do you have any suggestions?


Paul Edmondson profile image

Paul Edmondson 3 years ago from Burlingame, CA Author

Hi Collin, Most hardware stores have galvanized steel that isn't oily. We used 15 lb test for a 50 lbs pig this weekend. We used a modified technique of using a spiral stitch that went around the spit and spine to keep it tight to the spit. This worked well.


chateaudumer profile image

chateaudumer 2 years ago from Northern California and the Philippines

Hi Paul, I enjoyed reading this hub very much. It is very informative and well researched. I am planning to order a roasted pig in a couple of months for a big party( my 80th birthday) for around 80 guests here in the Sacramento area. I have no idea where to order it. My plan is to look up in the yellow pages or go to the Internet or perhaps inquire at our local Filipino store. Do You have any suggestion?


Paul Edmondson profile image

Paul Edmondson 2 years ago from Burlingame, CA Author

I'd call your local butcher. Usually with some notice they can get you a pig. Happy 80th!


chateaudumer profile image

chateaudumer 2 years ago from Northern California and the Philippines

Thanks!


bro jesse 11 months ago

how many people did the 20 lb pig feed after it was all said & done?


Paul Edmondson profile image

Paul Edmondson 11 months ago from Burlingame, CA Author

It depends how you are serving it and if the crowd eats heavily. 20lbs pig should feed 30 to 40 good eaters.

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