What Should I Know About Cooking Pig?

Nychole Price

Cooking pig is a popular way to celebrate holidays, or other important events, in many countries. Luaus are the most well known of these celebrations. During a luau, pigs are barbecued whole, using a spit. There are other ways to go about cooking pig, but due to their size, barbecuing is done most often.

Pigs are barbecued whole on a spit during a Hawaiian luau.
Pigs are barbecued whole on a spit during a Hawaiian luau.

Locate an area free of flammable material such as leaves, dried brush, hanging trees, and combustible material. The area should be at least 6 feet (1.83 m) wide by 6 feet (1.832 m) tall to accommodate the size of the cooking pig. Sweep the area clean of rocks, pine cones and other debris.

In the southern United States, barbecue pork is the featured attraction at any event called a pig pickin'.
In the southern United States, barbecue pork is the featured attraction at any event called a pig pickin'.

Cover the swept area with multiple layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil. This will make the clean-up much easier, since the cooking pig will drip juices. Border the aluminum foil with rocks, or bricks, piled at least 18 inches (45.7 cm) high. This will be used to hold the charcoal when barbecuing.

Cooking pig requires a lot of heat and time. Place a large bag of charcoal, unopened, in the barbecue pit. Cover the charcoal bag with lighter fluid and stand back. Strike a match and toss it on the charcoal. After the coals are hot, smooth them out towards the edge of the bricks with a fireplace poker. Allow at least 20 minutes for the coals to heat thoroughly.

When the coals are hot, lay a grate over the barbecue pit. Place the pig, rib side down, on the grate. Sprinkle the entire pig with salt and allow it to cook. Cooking pig takes a long time, so you may want to bring a chair and a buddy. Keep an eye on the fire, because if the flames rise too high you will need to spray them down with a water bottle, or hose.

Turn the cooking pig over after 3 hours, or when the ribs loosen. If desired, add barbecue sauce at this time. Cover the top of the pig in foil to prevent it from overcooking and becoming tough. This will also keep flies away from the pig while it finished cooking. Allow it to barbecue for another 3 to 4 hours.

If using a spit to cook the pig, you will need to lay the pig on its side to insert the horizontal bar through its rear end. Guide the bar through until it exits out the mouth. The inside cavity of the pig is lined with foil and filled with stuffing, if desired. The cavity is then sewn closed with butcher's twine.

When cooking pig on a spit, you must tie up the legs. This prevents them from dangling in the fire and getting burned. The coals should be positioned below the pig's shoulders and legs, as they are the thickest area of the pig and require a majority of the heat to cook thoroughly. An 130 pound (58.96 kg) pig usually requires 6 hours to cook.

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Discussion Comments


When cooking a whole pig you should poke holes in the pig 40 minutes to an hour before you are planning to serve it. Pork can be loaded with grease and the punctures will allow some of the unhealthy liquid to drain from the meat.

This is also a good time to stick a thermometer into the center of the pig to make sure it has heated to at least 160 degrees on the inside.


I'm sure this will totally turn off vegetarians and those who prefer not to think of the meat they eat as once having been a living being, but for all others I recommend you do attend one of the traditional luaus if you are ever in Hawaii.

There are plenty of luau's staged for tourists, but if you can get invited to something held by locals for locals then you get a better feel for the whole tradition. The food is great, and Hawaiians have mastered the art of cooking whole pigs.

Honestly, when the meal was served, the pig looked like it might get up at any moment and walk away. And it tasted great.


I had heard people talk about pig pickin's since I was a kid, but I had never had the opportunity to attend one until recently. My girlfriend recently moved and one of her new neighbor's invited her to their annual pig pickin'. The neighbors cook a whole pig and invite family and friends for a day of socializing, swimming, game playing and eating.

So we went around two o'clock in the afternoon, and the pig had a couple hours to go before it was ready to eat. The guy who was cooking the pig said he had gotten up early in the morning to start the grill. I don't know exactly how much the pig weighed, but the cook said it took him 12 hours to get the pork fully cooked.

Everyone lined up when the main dish was ready, and when our turn came we simply picked pieces of the meat off. It was very tender and practically fell apart when you tried to get it off the grill and onto your plate.

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