Roasting a pig is as exciting as it is delicious, but it is also a serious undertaking. If done incorrectly, people can get sick. It is critical that you safely handle and prepare the pig and choose the roasting method—grilling, rotisserie cooking, or roasting in a rock-lined pit—you are most comfortable with.
If you are unsure of the method or process for pig roasting, you may want to consider hiring a professional or breaking the animal down into individual cuts for easier cooking.
The first step before roasting the pig is food safety. That begins when the pig is picked up and ends when the last piece of pork is eaten or safely refrigerated. By following these basic food handling and food safety tips, you can reduce your risk of Salmonellosis caused by cross-contamination or eating undercooked pork.
Ordering and Transporting
After choosing the roasting method, you need to determine the number of guests you plan to serve. Allow 1½ pounds of pre-cook weight per person; this will result in approximately six ounces of cooked meat per serving. You should buy the pig from a reputable supplier and order at least seven days in advance to ensure your pig is ready for pick-up. If your supplier also sells frozen swine, ask them to thaw the pig for you under refrigerated conditions at 40 ⁰F or less. It is not safe to roast a frozen or partially frozen pig.
Be sure to ask the supplier to wrap the pig in food grade plastic or a large good grade plastic bag to contain the juices. It is strongly recommended you pick the pig up just before you are ready to cook it. Otherwise, as soon as you get home you will need to put it in a cooler (be sure to check that you have one large enough before you order the pig) or in a food grade plastic-lined bathtub full of ice to keep it cold at 40 ˚F or below. Use an appliance thermometer to continuously monitor the temperature. If you do put your pig on ice, don’t forget to disinfect your tub afterward.
Preparing for the Big Event
In addition to whatever is required for your preferred roasting method, be sure to have the following items on hand: two food thermometers, a clean table for preparation and final carving, clean utensils and serving dishes, paper towels and disinfectant wipes, a clean apron, a box of disposable gloves, and most importantly, access to soap and warm water. Be sure to use clean utensils to remove and carve the roasted pig and not the dirty utensils you used during the cooking process to prevent cross-contamination.
The station where you prepare and carve the pig must be clean at all times. Anything that comes into contact with the raw pig should be washed with warm water and soap immediately. Be sure to dispose of gloves after each use. It is important to prepare the pig for roasting completely separately from other food items—such as vegetables for salads and fruits that won’t be cooked—to prevent cross contamination.
If you plan to stuff the pig, keep the stuffing to a minimum to reduce risk. The more stuffing you put inside the pig, the longer it will take to cook and the more difficult it will be to use your thermometer to check the internal temperature. It is important that to cook the stuffing be to at least 165 ˚F to destroy bacteria that may be present.
Roasting the Pig
Take your time and follow the roasting instructions carefully. Your pig can take anywhere from 4 to 12 hours to cook depending on the size and roasting method. It could take even longer if stuffed. Check the temperature in the deepest part of each shoulder and leg, several places along the loin area, and stuffed areas.
For best flavor and quality, cook the meat to at least 195 ˚F. It will ensure that the meat near the joints is fully cooked since there may be parts that you can’t reach to measure with a thermometer. Meat should be fork-tender, and falling off the bone. Replenish wood or coals often to make sure the fire stays hot.
Feeding your Group and Packing Leftovers
Now that the pig is fully cooked, take extra care when transporting the pig from the heat source to the table using freshly cleaned utensils. You should expect to spend an hour or so on carving so be mindful of the 2-Hour Rule to refrigerate perishable food within 2 hours after cooking (or 1 hour if the weather is 90 ˚F or above).
Serve meat on clean serving dishes as you carve. While serving, keep trays of the cooked pig on the heat to keep it warm.
Pack leftovers in shallow containers and refrigerate within 1-2 hours. It is not necessary to cool before you refrigerate it. Freeze for 4-12 months for optimal quality.
Follow these basic food safety tips and have fun roasting the pig!