When you have a “mass” of people to feed, are hosting the neighborhood party, want to really show off at your next tailgate, or just want to take part in an age-old tradition, try your hand at cooking a whole hog. Depending on the size of the hog you choose to cook, you can feed a lot of people. For any social function you may have coming up, cooking a whole hog is the way to go.
Keep in mind that this is no small task, and certainly not something you simply do “on a whim”. There is a lot of planning that goes in to doing something like this, and many people refer to it as more of an event than a task. Regardless of your reason for wanting to undertake this endeavor, roll up your sleeves and get ready. Realize that most hogs will take quite some time to cook (12-24 hours) and require constant attention. Once you are mentally prepared for such an undertaking, you can begin the process of planning your meal.
The first order of business is finding a spot suitable for cooking. You’ll need a spot that is clean, easily accessible, provides a barrier for the fire and one that you can occupy for an extended period of time.
Next, you’ll need to secure a hog. Finding a reputable source to obtain the hog is vital to ensuring everyone’s safety and to make sure the hog is viable for human consumption. If you have a meat market in your community, that is the best place to start. Even if they don’t sell them, chances are they can point you in the direction of someone who does. Many universities that have a veterinarian school also often sell such animals. Wherever you purchase it, ask them to prepare the carcass for cooking. One important thing they can do is to butterfly the hog so that is ready to go on your grill / in your pit. A properly dressed hog will offer about 70% of its live weight; smaller animals have bones that are about the same size and weight as larger hogs, therefore yielding less actual meat. A rough rule of thumb: a hog that weighs 100lbs on the hoof will provide about 30lbs of meat once cooked.
After locating a hog, finding a grill or constructing a pit large enough to handle the cooking duties is the next order of business. Most people will tell you that cooking a whole hog is done with low heat and lots of time. While there are many large cookers on the market to help you with the cooking process, not everyone has access to a large enough grill to handle cooking a whole hog. Many people choose to create a fire pit, either in the ground or above ground, to cook their hog. Cinder blocks and a large mesh grate cooking surface are all you need to construct a pit / grill above ground. The idea of cooking a hog “in the ground” is much more involved and requires a number of additional items.
Once all of your preparatory work is complete, you can actually think about cooking the hog. This entails an entirely different set of instructions and list of things to do. With that in mind, the actual cooking will be covered in another blog post. Be sure to check back soon for the remainder of your instructions on how to cook a whole hog.