Smokin' the Whole Hog
Since I started my catering business, my favorite menu option is a whole smoked pig. This is the ultimate WOW factor! Even people who don't dig on swine are intrigued by the presentation a whole pig has to offer. The grill master and the pig become the stars of the show. Almost everyone starts snapping pics when the pig finally makes its debut. As a person who LOVES pork in every form, a whole smoked pig has the best results. The meat is so juicy and it doesn't need anything in terms of seasoning. The smoke dances with the hog long enough to develop the most amazing flavors.
For my 40th birthday, I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate than with a whole smoked pig!
To be fair, not everyone was super thrilled to have an actual visual of where their dinner comes from. My daughter started crying when she saw the pig and one young boy asked, "Is that a dog?" That didn't stop anyone from eating though. Once the initial shock wears off and people get a taste of the good stuff, all is forgotten. My daughter still eats pork even after her mini melt down.
Where does one get a whole pig? I got my 103 pound pig from CC Meats in Upper Marlboro. I spoke with Bobby, the sales guy.
C & C Meat Sales, Inc.
475 Commerce Drive
Upper Marlboro, MD
The pig comes wrapped in plastic and inside a box. I was toying around with the idea of posting a picture of what that looks like, but I have to admit it's a little too "Dexter" for my family friendly recipe blog.
To smoke a pig, you will need access to quite a large piece of smoking equipment. The smoker pictured was constructed by a buddy of my Grill Master. It's a piece of art!
The smoker has two drawers, one on either side of the smoker to hold the charcoal and wood chips. Speaking of charcoal and wood chips, for my plump pal porky, we had 6 large bags of charcoal on hand. We ended up using 5 1/2 bags. This would be one of those times where having too much of something is better than finding out you don't have enough. Charcoal will never go to waste around my house. When in doubt, buy more!
We use apple wood as our smoke of choice. Apple wood is mild and has a slightly sweet, fruity flavor. Soak the wood in water for several hours or overnight. This will keep keep the wood chips smoking longer.
Before you start that fire. You need to determine your pig smoking time frame. You're looking at 1 hour per 10 pounds. Our 103 pound pig took approximately 11-11 1/2 hours to smoke.
Our pig was scheduled for service at 6 PM. The pig smoking team got up around 5:30 AM. My Grill Master, L.J. had two little helpers on party day, his absolutely adorable son and my super cute hubby.
The boys had quite the commune set up, complete with a tent and fire pit. It just so happened to be 38 degrees that day and talk of 8-12 inches of snow/rain/hail up until the morning of the party. I thank Mother Nature for sparing us the frozen water.
Now, we had the pig, the smoker, the charcoal, soaked apple wood, the tent was up, the fire pit hot, breakfast had been eaten and coffee being consumed. Let's really get started.
The pig goes on the smoker right before you start your fire. If you want to preserve the head for presentation it's a good idea to cover the head in foil when you get him on the grill.
Fire up your charcoal in a chimney for the grill. See that contraption in L.J's hand, that's a chimney. Fill it with charcoal, place wadded up newspaper underneath and light it. When the charcoal starts smoking and turns gray, you are ready to transfer the heat to the smoker. L. J. adds a half of the chimney to each side of the smoker. Every time he adds fire to the smoker, he adds the soaked wood chips on top of the coals.
At the top of every hour, fire up some more charcoal in the chimney. The key is to maintain temperature.
The temperature of the smoker should stay between 225-250 degrees. Which means there should always be a person on duty monitoring the temperature. It was a pretty cold day and if it did snow or rain, their job of maintaining temp would have become increasingly more difficult. As it turned out, they had it pretty easy and enjoyed the great outdoors.
Keep the lid closed. There is no reason to say hello to your little friend. Every time you open the lid, heat escapes. If you want your pig done on time, let the pig smoke.
While the guys sat around to watch temperature gauges, I was working on the rest of the food and party set up with sister, her girls, mom, dad, and in-laws.
The party started at 4 PM and guests were greeted with appetizers and beverages.
While we all waited with great anticipation for our pal porky, we took pictures under the balloon arch with some fun prompts. If I don't mention the fact that my sister Tracy is the one who graciously built this balloon arch for me, she may murder me in my sleep. This balloon arch became the center of many distressing conversations. XOXO Love you, girl!
I only wish I had more balloon arch pics. Where does the time go when you are having fun?
PARTY TIP: If you are throwing a party and want to capture the memories without contracting a photographer, enlist your most outgoing friend to be the memory grabber. That person should be able to motivate folks to take funny selfies and epic group pics. My sister and I are usually those people. For more than a handful of parties/weddings we have involved the guests in random selfies. We've even had a paid photographer follow us around the room as we collected those photos. Then we share the fun shots with the hosts of the party. Unfortunately, my sister was on kitchen duty at this party and I was working the crowd.
I did get a collection of really cute Polaroids. Thanks to my Aunt Claudia for taking the photos. Also, thanks to my friend Lauren for collecting them. For the record, Lauren, you would've been the perfect person to enlist for the party tip!
Anyway, dinner is just about to be served.
Once the pig reaches the optimal temperature of 170-190 degrees, it's time to bring in our party pal, porky. To check the temperature of the pig stick an instant read thermometer in the ham (butt) or the shoulder.
My father-in-law built me an awesome wood platter to enhance the pig's presentation. You will need a spatula to help loosen your porky friend from the grill. You'll need rubber gloves and another person to help you get the pig from the smoker to the platter.
Before you start to dig in, porky needs his party outfit. I like a bed of flowers and kale for porky to rest on. My mother bought him a bandana.
To get to the meat, use a sharp knife to slice through the skin across the back of the pig.
Fold the pig's skin back and expose the meat. Then start picking. Be careful and use rubber gloves the pig will be blazing hot.
When you are done picking one side, give the pig a 180 degree turn and repeat. There really isn't much of the pig that you can't eat, take a look at my bro-in-law. A disclaimer: This is not for the faint of heart.
A HEARTY thank you to all the folks that showed up to my little shindig and helped me proclaim a new decade. A HUGE thank you to my handsome hubby, magnificent mom, my father the music man, superhero sister, incredible in-laws, crazy Kreiter girls, The Great Grill Master L.J. and last minute little helper Uncle Robert for all you of your hard work before and everything during the event. For everyone who stayed to help put away tables and chairs, I am truly grateful.