In planning to cook a pig, you will need to decide how large a pig you need to buy. A good rule of thumb is to allow 2 pounds per person. This will yield approximately 1 pound of succulent, juicy meat per person. Actual edible meat will yield about 40 to 50% of the delivered weight. The leftovers freeze very well.
You will need to find a grocery store or meat market that can provide a whole pig. Most suppliers will be able to provide you a pig in a couple of days. It’s always best to line up your source several days ahead. Be certain you inform your supplier that you do not want it frozen. Also inform your supplier that you want the head, tail, and feet removed. That’s only because some people are squeamish about the head.
While most suppliers will know what you are doing with a whole pig, it would be wise to ask your butcher to separate the shin and hip socket and split the spine and remove the spinal cord so you can lay the pig out flat.
PREPARATION (on how to cook a pig):
If you do not plan to cook your pig right away be sure you have a cooler large enough to keep the pig cool until you place it on your cooker. Now it’s time to fire up your cooker. Preheat your cooker to 200 degrees. If you are cooking with charcoal you must be careful that you do not get the cooker too hot. Cooking with charcoal adds tremendous flavor to the meat, however if you are a novice always remember, you cannot damage the pig by too low a temperature, but you can ruin it by too high a temperature. The amount of charcoal density is not the same as cooking steaks. So, as a rule of thumb, if you are using charcoal, start out with 10-15 pounds of charcoal and add about 8-10 pounds per hour. Make certain that the temperature does not exceed 200 degrees during the first 3 hours.
You will receive the pig from your supplier with it split down the middle. Place the pig on the grill in a spread fashion with the skin side down. After a couple of hours increase the temperature to 225 to 250 degrees. Continue to cook the pig skin side up for approximately 6-7 hours. Cooking time will vary with the size of your pig. The following table should be used as a guideline. Note, that the hours shown includes total time including the last 1-2 hours skin side down.
60 to 100 pound 7 to 9 hours
100 to 120 pound 8 to 10 hours
120 -130 pound 9 to 11 hours
Most people prefer the smaller size pigs to cook. Do not allow the temperature of the cooker to exceed 250 degrees. If you are using a meat thermometer continue to cook until the internal temperature of the pig reaches 170 degrees.
The first 6 to 7 hours of cooking is with the belly side down. After this period of time flip the pig over with the skin side down for an additional 1 to 2 hours of cooking. Flipping the pig requires the efforts of at least two people. Before flipping make sure the meat is free of sticking to the grill.
Once you have the pig flipped with the skin side down you can now add your favorite sauce. Be very generous with your sauce and apply often during the remaining cook time. Do not cook longer than 2 hours with the pig on its back. You do not want to burn the skin but it should be crisp.
An easy test to determine if the pig is done, is to by grasping the foot with a towel and twist the leg bone. If the leg will rotate, then you are ready to eat.