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Home » Food » Dinner » Big Pig - Spitted Fire Roasted Pig
Big Pig - Spitted Fire Roasted Pig
By Burgermeister Sean Donnelly (Written up by Drew Beechum)
Photos of the Pig Project (Courtesy of Jerry Macala and others)

One night sitting at Lucky Baldwin's, thinking about the upcoming 2005 Sunfest, President Drew decided that if he was going to go skydiving that day, he wanted a big honking roasted whole pig.

Fortunately, for this President, I have a great resource in Burgermeister Sean "The Chef" Donnelly, who's capable of stepping up and pulling off a stupid idea. What does it take? 400 lbs of charcoal briquettes and another 160 lbs of mesquite chunk charcoal, a genius mechanical motorized spit rig built by Kent Fletcher, a roll of chicken wire and about 9 hours of beer drinking time. (It should be noted for the record, other than initial "Wouldn't it be cool?", Drew had nothing to do with the execution of the actual piggery. He's smart enough to leave that to the experts, but not smart enough to avoid jumping out of airplanes.)

Spit roasting a whole pig is part cooking science and part voodoo. Plan ahead and bring more of everything than you'd think you'd need. More charcoal, more wood, more basting materials and most importantly, more time. This shouldn't be a rush rush project.

Time: ~9 hours (Internal Temp of 163F; Carryover to 169F)
Yield: Enough Pig for 70 hungry beer drinkers
The Star
125-150 lbs Whole Pig, cleaned, shaved and washed out with brine.
40 lbs Pork Butt (or Shoulder)
Stuffing Ingredients
 Celery, chopped
 Onions, chopped
 Carrots, chopped
Dry Rub Ingredients
"Mop" Basting Ingredients
 Hoppy Beer
 Red Wine Vinegar
 Apple Cider Vinegar
 "Crappy" BBQ Sauce


Procure a whole, cleaned hog from your local butcher, meat supplier or friendly rancher. Make sure the pig has been shaved, etc unless you'd like to learn the art of being a porcine barber. Either procure a hog that has had a few days rest from slaughter and butchering or plan about 3 days of cold storage to allow your pig to age properly. Make sure the cavity has been cleaned out with a brine solution and dried to inhibit bacterial growth.

Cooking Day
Make a blazing fire of coals, spread evenly in the fire pit and approximately 36" underneath the spit (the pig itself should be 30" away from the coals). Keep this fire stoked through the day.

Prepare the hog by slashing through the hams to fold the rear legs against the body. Liberally coat the pig (inside and out) with the dry rub, mixed to your favorite proportions (largely salt).

Place the hog, cavity side up on a section of chicken wire. Stuff the cavity with the pork butts, chopped vegetables and other aromatics of your choice. Holding the pig, cavity up, wrap the whole thing with chicken wire. Secure the chicken wire by twisting the overlapping sections shut with wire. (Chicken wire will prevent the pig from falling apart prematurely)

Spit the pig through the rear to the mouth. Use a stout solid rod of metal (steel, stainless or carbon) to spit your pig. It must be able to withstand 150lbs bending it over a blazing fire for ~9 hours.

Mount the spit above the fire and set the spit to turn at approximately 1 RPM. You can go old school and use the services of spit boys throughout the day (Finally, a use for those children you've been feeding!) or you can hook up a motor and chain drive the spit throughout the day. (Alternately, per Brewgyver, you can mount the pig on a spit and turn it 90° every 15 minutes.)

Baste the pig constantly with the mop, mixed from the ingredients above.

Once the pig has reached an internal temperature of 163F in the deepest section, remove the spit from the fire and tent the pig with foil to allow the meat to rest for ~90 minutes. Carryover should bring the pork to a temperature of 169F and ready for juicy eating.

Remove the chicken wire, carefully! As the wire comes off, a good portion of the skin should come with it, exposing the lovely meaty goodness below. Serve with your favorite accompaniments, drain a beer and recharge with the accolades of your fans.

Notes Direct From the Chef
Portise was bought from a local ranch and allowed to age 3 days before cooking to relax the beast after death. Gut was washed with a brine and rinsed. Cooking day we rubbed him with a spice and herb mix of: Salt, pepper, paprika, thyme, basil, oh and did I say SALT. Pig cooked approx 30" above the fire for 9 hours whilst being basted constantly with: Oil, hoppy ass beer, red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, crappy bar-b-que sauce and sugar. So mop this crap on CONSTANTLY to keep your roasting pig MOIST. Pig was wrapped in chicken wire to hold the carcass together while cooking as meat is prone to falling off the bone after it is cooked to a certain point. After reaching an internal temp of 163 I removed the pig from the roasting mechanism and allowed it to rest 90 minutes, this was a little long but allowed for 6 degrees of carry-over cooking and was this a godsend as I thought some parts might have been undercooked. Not to worry, the pig was PERFECT (not something I usually will attest to on my own food as I am my own harshest critic) could it have been better, well possibly but for a first timer on a rig that I had NEVER seen, and perfection was to be expected!!!
Notes Direct From the Brewgyver on a Spit Setup

We were using the existing fire pit at the campground, which had a crank adjustable grate, with pulleys and wire rope attached to square tube steel posts. The posts, etc, could not be removed, so I designed the spit gear to complement it. I used a 5/8" diameter solid Stainless Steel rod for the spit, and it still bowed significantly in the middle, due to carrying a weight of over 100 pounds with the supports over four feet apart. Inexpensive pillow block bearings (bronze bushing type) were bolted to three foot lengths of Unistrut. The strut sections were simply placed in the pit and clamped to the existing posts. The AC gearmotor, mounted on a short piece of strut, was attached and the chain installed, then the motor was plugged into an inverter power supply. I used a 4 RPM gearmotor with a 48 tooth sprocket on the spit and a 12 on the motor, resulting in 1 PRMP (Pig Revolution per Minute).

As you can see in the accompanying photo, I spitted the pig with the drive side bearing,Unistrut and fork already in place on the shaft, near the chain sprocket. Once the spit was run through the chicked-wire-wrapped pig, the second fork was locked into position, followed by the second bearing and strut. Locking shaft collars were placed on the outboard side of the bearings at the proper width to align the struts with the fire pit posts. Then, with a man on each end of the spit, the assembly was carried to the pit, struts positioned and clamped in place.

A couple of practical notes: It's not really necessary to use Stainless for the spit, this was just a convenient scrap yard find. Ordinary carbon steel shaft is cheaper and actually sturdier. I used size 40 chain and sprockets, because I got the works for $3 at the local scrap yard, but bicycle chain would be fine. The bronze bushing pillow blocks are about $4 each at Grainger. Lastly, it's not really necessary to motorize the spit. Many people successfully roast a spitted pig manually, simlply turning the spit 90 degrees every fifteen minutes.

Safety notes: You'll have to use a sharp knife to pierce the skin for your fork locations. The tines on the forks are purposely left with slightly rounded points, as it takes several hands and some exertion to get the pig secured on the spit, and running one of those forks through somebody's arm will ruing the whole day! It would also be safer to spit the pig and mount it BEFORE starting your coals. We mounted it with the fire ready for cooking, due to time constraints, and had several people ready to assist if needed.

Want to make your own beer at home? Get started on the right foot. Check out the Falcon's sponsoring shop, The Home Beer, Wine, Cheesemaking Shop. John Daume, proprietor, has been serving the home brewing and winemaking needs of Angelenos since 1972, over 30 years! (Falcon Members receive a 10% discount on supplies)
Looking for older Falcons' information?, The Westval Maltose Falcons Webpage (Locally cached) (The Original Falcon's Roost, prior to 1999)
Looking for a home wine making club in the Los Angeles area? Check out our sister club, The Cellarmasters, over 30 and still stomping grapes.