Southern Traditions: The Pig Pickin', with Videos

Do you love Southern food? One of our favorite pastimes here in the Deep South is to get together and have a pig pickin’. You’ve heard of cooking a pig in the ground, right? Well, this is a similar but better way to cook a hog. In the traditional manner, the pig is wrapped in aluminum foil and placed in the ground over hot coals. Then dirt or rocks are scattered on the pig, and more coals are added. A luau pig is cooked much the same way, but instead of foil, the pig is wrapped in banana leaves.

For a South Georgia pig pickin’, a shallow hole is dug in the ground, and cinder blocks are place in the hole. Heavy wire mesh is then placed over the blocks. The pig is placed on the mesh. Around the edge of the hole, more blocks are placed, and sections of tin are placed on the blocks, over the pig.

Most folks use a 150-160-pound hog for this type of cooking. After the head, the hair, and the entrails are removed, you’ll end up with a dressed carcass of about 75-80 pounds. Before the pig is placed on the grill, it has to be opened up or butterflied so that it lies flat. The hide side should be up, away from the grill.

Meanwhile, the men have built a big fire of oak, often with some pecan wood thrown in for extra flavor. Using a shovel, the guys place hot coals all around the edges of the pig. Then they grab a beer or a glass of iced tea and “visit” while the pig cooks. They check the meat every so often to see if more coals are needed. When the hide begins to pull away from the meat, they turn the pig over to allow the other side to cook. In all, a pig this size generally takes around eighteen hours to fully cook.

Why is this method superior to the other methods mentioned above? Because the exposed meat gets more of the smoke, so you end up with a much smokier flavor. Also, the skin gets crunchy, and any meat exposed to the high heat will form what’s known as “bark.” This is my favorite part of the pork!

When the meat is done, it’s usually placed on a table, and it’s subsequently attacked by all humans within the range of smell. According to my Uncle Jack, at his hunting camp, the hunters often refer to the pig pickin’ as a buzzard pickin’. Since no women folk are around to observe their lack of manners, the men usually just grab a handful of meat off the carcass. No forks required.

At a mixed-company, the ladies have all made side dishes to go with the barbecue. Usual dishes include potato salad, slaw, garlic bread, biscuits, and all kinds of casseroles and desserts. If we’re lucky, my Aunt Mildred makes her famous fifteen-layer chocolate cake, which will definitely make you slap your grandma! If the season is right, there’ll be two or three watermelons cooling in a huge tub of ice, too. All this is washed down with gallons of sweet iced tea.

Oops! I almost forgot the sauce. Everyone has his own favorite barbecue sauce, and a lot of the men bring their own concoctions, with each swearing his is best. These range from thin hot sauces to mustard-based sauces to tomato sauce and molasses-based sauces.

The eating is normally done outside, on picnic tables. If it’s in the summer, ancient pecan trees provide welcomed shade. Before the meal, someone says grace. After everyone is stuffed, there’s usually a guitar player or two in the crowd, and maybe a banjo picker. They play a few tunes, and folks join in the singing. If it’s still daylight, the kids choose teams and play a game of baseball. If night has fallen, they’ll catch fireflies or engage in a few rounds of “ain’t no boogers out tonight.”

After their dinner settles, folks will start moseying back to the food table for another taste or two. They want to make sure they didn’t miss anything on their first round.

After a few hours, everyone’s tired and sleepy and ready to sleep off their “barbecue drunk.” This doesn’t involve alcohol – it’s being so full of vittles that all the blood rushes to your belly. The food is put away, and all the guests return to their own homes to dream happily about the best things in life: faith, family, friends, and simple pleasures.

To learn how to cook a luau pig or to cook a pig on a rotisserie, watch the videos below.

How to cook a whole pig.

How to cook a pig in the ground.

More by this Author


Comments 30 comments

Putz Ballard profile image

Putz Ballard 6 years ago

Whole hog Pig Pickin, Sysco foods had one of these at one of their food show several years ago when Jane and I were attending in /Charlotte NC, it was super good.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Nothin' like it, Rob!


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 6 years ago from Southern Georgia

Wait a minute, isn't that Grindel on the spit?


Mama Sez profile image

Mama Sez 6 years ago from Canada

In the Philippines, we call this 'Lechon'. We put lemon grass inside for added flavor and aroma. Yummy indeed specially the crunchy rind.


carolina muscle profile image

carolina muscle 6 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

Man, it just dont get any better than that, YUM!!


nancy_30 profile image

nancy_30 6 years ago from Georgia

Sound good you made my mouth water.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Nah, Randy, Grendel is too tough, but he's a sweet little dog!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Mmm...I'll bet that's really tasty, Mama!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Hi, Chris! And what kind of BBQ sauce do you like? Don't all you Carolinians prefer the vinegar base?


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

In the south of Germany we roast piglets on a spit at beerfestivals. The meat is absolutely lovely. Yours must be great and a lovely time. Thanks for sharing.


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 6 years ago

There is a place near my home within walking distance. They roast a pig every Sunday, and I try not to look at it!


mdlawyer profile image

mdlawyer 6 years ago

it is really fascinating to know how the southern traditions


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Hi, HH. I'm sure it's much the same. So is the beer drinking! lol


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Why you no look, Bpop? It's delish!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Thanks, MDlawyer. We're an interesting bunch, for sure!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Nancy, thanks so much for stopping by!


Actioncameron profile image

Actioncameron 6 years ago from Prince George, BC

I'll be watching for my invite in the mail...Oh does that look yummy. I'll bet you can't beat the aroma around that backyard. Old fashioned potato salad, some buttered okra..I'm off to the fridge!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Howdy, Cam! My uncle told me last night he's planning a pig pickin'! Look for your invite!


akirchner profile image

akirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon

Oh my - I'm such a baby I had to scroll past all the pictures....I eat it but I try not to think about how they got there....how juvenile is that? I know - some farmer! Great hub though. One of our favorite meals is salmon roasted in pits the old Indian way - I've never tasted anything as wonderful. Great info and it's making me hungry - isn't it lunch time already?


peacenhim 6 years ago

Wow!! I'm READY!! When I saw the title "Pig Pickin' with videos....I couldn't pass up this Hub!! Sounds like scrumptious southern charm, when do I get to eat at your house?? Can't wait!!


Tammy Lochmann profile image

Tammy Lochmann 6 years ago

Here piggy piggy piggy...like my pig call...LOL...Grew up around pigs so I usually pass up the pork unless its bacon, or ham (cured enough where it doesn't actually smell like a hog). Thanks for sharing another southern tradition!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

I don't like salmon. I've tried it every which way because I WANT to like it, but I just can't eat it.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Hey, Peace - come on down! I'll set an extra plate!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Hey, Peace - come on down! I'll set an extra plate!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Tams, when my ex raised hogs he said they smelled like money! Did you walk Scooby today???


Tammy Lochmann profile image

Tammy Lochmann 6 years ago

I had to work and it was raining so poor Scoob didn't get walked today LOL. Hogs smell stinky.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Hi, Lockerman! Our dogs HATE going out when it's wet. They'll hold it as long as they can before going to the potty.


Michael Shane profile image

Michael Shane 6 years ago from Gadsden, Alabama

Darn! These are similar....I like your hub better than mine. You got videos too! I'm going to bookmark yours....Thanks


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

but you have recipes!!


Irene 4 years ago

Wondering if anyone can help me.......my cousin is expecting a baby soon. I would like to throw them a baby shower but would love to learn about some deep south traditions that I can incorporate into the baby shower. Any religious facts, traditions etc.....The only thing I have been able to find on the web is the tradtional Sip n See ( which I love and think is a great idea...any others????

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