Deciding to roast a whole pig is a huge feat, and requires a lot of planning for a successful outcome. It may sound like a glorified barbecue, but the details that go into the execution and the time and effort involved in proper cooking are no minor venture.
Pig roasting traditionally has its roots in Pacific Islander and Caribbean cultures, specifically Hawaii, the Philippines, and Cuba. It is even known to be practiced in some Southern Chinese areas. It is a very common practice for New Year’s celebrations, and has extended to include Christmas, Christmas Eve, and even Thanksgiving. Now, pig roasting has trickled down into common American culture and is often called a pig pickin’ in the Deep South.
As a result, there are several traditional styles to dress and spice your pig, each providing a unique cooking style and flavor. Cooking options and methods should be thoroughly researched before attempting a pig roast of your own, and having an experienced roaster with you can be a huge help!
So, what major things should be taken into consideration?
- Who & When? – With an entire pig to roast, you better be planning to have a lot of guests. Events that large require enough time in advance for people to clear the time on their schedules. Decide on a date and start compiling your guest list right away. Send out invitations as soon as possible so your friends and family know what date to save.
- How Big of a Pig? – The common hog will range upwards of 100 pounds, which translates to a lot of meat to serve and eat. However, hogs are available in ranges of weights, and you can even order a younger and smaller pig to suit smaller occasions. If you are uncertain about how big of an animal you need, be sure to ask for an estimate for your guest count when placing your order.
- Extra Help – Having an experienced chef as help is a great idea. But more than just that, cooking a hog takes hours. Be sure to collect enough volunteers so that the roast can be watched in shifts the entire time. Leaving your cooking unattended could result in disastrous results, to both your meal and your location.
- Roasting Tools/Kit – When looking through the ways to roast a pig, the options may seem as varied as the stars in the sky. Try taking a look first at the seasoning you want before finalizing on a cooking method. Different styles can have different methods of cooking, so that may help steer you in the right direction. Also, see what method might be most practical for the space you will be using for your celebration.
- Seasoning – Each culture that has a pig roast tradition has created its own unique flavoring styles. Further, these styles have been modified and blended over time to create unique offshoots. You will find Hawaiian style, Cuban style, Caja China, Puerto Rican, and even Filipino to start. You can even buy your hog professionally seasoned and 100% ready to start roasting!
- Venue Location – A large meal and a large number of guests is likely not going to fit into the average person’s backyard. Start early checking out large venues such as park grounds and community centers. Keep in mind that not all venues will accommodate this style of cooking, so do some thorough research before selecting a location.
- Tackle the Timing – Because such a large animal takes so long to cook, timing is perhaps the most important point to make your event a success. Take into account the weight of the pig and the estimated cooking times based on your specific cooking method. Some cooking styles require upwards of 24 hours of cooking while others need only 4-6. Get a firm understanding of how much time your hog is going to require, and plan to have all of your roasting helpers ready to begin well in advance.
- Equipment Rentals – Not all available venues will come equipped with tables and chairs. Be sure to secure enough rentals for all of your guests, as well as purchasing cutlery needs in bulk. Plates, cups, napkins, and silverware (or plasticware) will all need to be bought in heavy excess of your total number of guests.
- Extra Entertainment – While waiting for the big meal to commence, your guests will have a lot of time on their hands. Adults will be happy to mix and mingle, but recreational activities will help the evening go smoothly. If there will be children at your event, they will need plenty to keep them occupied.
- Side Dishes & Drinks – While your amazing roast is the main event, no meal is complete with just one dish! Be sure to include a variety of sides and drinks for your guests to choose from, and do not forget to get enough to go around. If you want to home-cook these dishes as well, be sure you have enough support and hands to get everything accomplished.
When in doubt, the best advice you can get is from an experienced roaster. Check out some books from your local bookstore or library. Put in enough time planning, and your event will run without a hitch. Enjoy!
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