Everybody loves a traditional British hog roast, but when hosting one (or any spit roast) yourself, having the right preparation is vital for it to be a success. If you intend on hosting a DIY (do it yourself) hog roast, everything you need to know to keep your guests happy, is right here in this guide!
Sourcing your pig
The number of people coming to your event will affect the size of the pig you need to buy. It is always surprising just how much meat is on a whole pig, so make sure you have enough hungry people to help you eat it. Pigs are bought by weight and on average you will be expected to pay around £4.00 per Kg.
50 kg (£200.00) = 80 guests
55 kg(£220.00) = 100 guests
60(£240.00) kg = 120 guests
65(£260.00) kg = 150 guests
(this takes into account an average sized bread bun with each serving. )
You will be able to simply place an order with your local butcher. Make sure you give the butcher at least a full week notice prior to the event and check if your pig will be fresh or frozen. Fresh is preferable, however frozen is also perfectly fine. It is important to remember that you will need to fully defrost a frozen pig before cooking,which will take at least 48 hours. You will also need an additional 24 hours to allow the pig to fully marinade for the best flavour.
Ask the butcher if the pig will come prepped for cooking. This means the hog has been cleansed with its hair and innards removed. It is conventional that the pig is already partially prepared and will make your life a lot easier, unless you have the expertise to do it yourself.
Choosing the right cooking equipment
Generally speaking pigs are fairly large animals. This means that you are not going to be able to cook them on your average household stove, you are going to need to make, or hire some large scale roasting equipment. The equipment you choose will depend partially on the size of the pig, and how much DIY you are willing to do.
A suckling pig is the smallest pig you can purchase, and typically weighs around 11kg. It would be feasible with this size pig to use a small makeshift rotisserie propped over a medium sized barbeque. Anything larger though, and you should consider getting hold of industrial equipment that will do the job properly and safely.
There are a range of commercial hog roasters available, which are very easy to get hold of. Your local butcher usually will be able to rent one to you, or there are plenty of specialist companies online that will sort out the entire thing for you and bring it to your door, including the pig itself if required. If you want a traditional spit roast make sure you specifically ask for it, as many of the more modern high tech cookers, have now moved away from this design. Before you set up, check that the pig has been weight tested on the rotisserie, so you can be certain it will hold, and can be rotated easily.
You can hire a rotisserie for around £250, however this may increase slightly depending on the size and model. Renting is recommended unless you are planning a lot of hog roasts, as buying one is expensive, and will cost you between £1500 and £3000.
If you have a larger pig and you are dead set on making your own rotisserie, you do of course have that option.You can build a fire pit out of breeze blocks or fireproof bricks, fill it with coals and cover with a fire rack. Many people have tried to make rotisseries for large pigs at home, but this is usually a recipe for disaster. You run a likely risk of your pig being unevenly cooked with some parts burnt and crispy, while other parts remain completely raw; which defeats the entire purpose of you fantastic hog. On top of this turning the pig can be a big and dangerous job – *hint* – it’s not like flipping a burger.
My advice is if you are going to do it properly and want the event to be a success, it is worth the investment of hiring some quality professional equipment for the job.
Choosing the right recipe for your pig
If you cook the pig as it comes, you will find the large cuts of pork will taste relatively dull. Introduce some passion and flavour with brining and marinating!
There are literally hundreds of different recipes for prepping your pig, and of course everybody has their own favourite. However, from our extensive experience, brining is always the winner and can be combined with the marinating process. This involves placing the pig in salty water, which will help to tenderise the meat, which which can then retain more moisture. This leads to succulent pork which will melt in your mouth.
Introduce the apple: A favourite marinade among experts
Pork has been paired with apple for generations, and for good reason (we like to think apple sauce was created for a hog roast). This brine marinade works incredibly well, as pork and apple offer a sweet and salty contrast which is capable of exciting the entire palette. You will be able to pick out the the sweetness of the apple cider, and experience the aromatic smells and flavours from the citrus and herbs.
- The Hog
- Olive oil
- Unfiltered apple cider
- packed brown sugar
- sea salt
- coarsely ground black pepper
- Herbes de Provence – A mix of herbs native to the south of France (easy to get hold of)
- dried rubbed sage
- ground cinnamon
You can find the ratios here in this apple cider brine recipe
To make the brine/ marinade mixture, mix cinnamon, sage, pepper, salt, sugar and the cider with some water. Continue to stir until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Dice the lemons, oranges and onions into small chunks and add to the mixture.
Preparing your pig
You will need:
- Industrial twine
- Empty spray bottle,
- Deep and wide plastic tub
- Industrial rotisserie
- Thermal gloves
- Sharp knife
- Score the meat – This is easier done with a scalpel, although a sharp knife will do the job. Run long linear, lengthway cuts from head to bottom in a striped formation across the hog, 1.5 centimetres apart.
- Lay hog in large deep tub, submerge the hog in the brine you prepared earlier.Cover the tub, and leave in a cool place for at least 24 hours.
- After soaking the hog, additionally inject the marinade with a hypodermic needle (can buy online very cheaply) so flavour and moisture reaches into the deeper meat which can be hard to flavour with traditional marinating.
- Drain and dry the hog with paper towels
- Finally rub olive oil, pepper and herbs,into the meat. You will not need any additional salt.
Trussing your pig
Trussing is the process of tying up your pig for cooking, so that it can be mounted on the spit effectively. Proper trussing of your pig is essential. As the pig cooks it will become more fragile, the muscle will loosen, and it will be prone to moving around on the spit. When the muscle loosens, the weight of the pig itself will pull it away from the bone, this means there is a risk that the whole pig may fall off the rotisserie if not trussed correctly.
The spit should penetrate through the thighs, along the inside of the entire pig, just beneath the spine, and through the mouth. Pierce thick holes, every 6 inches, either side of the spine in order to thread twine through. Then securely tie the pig to the spit. The aim is for everything to be tight and secure, so the pig remains held tightly for the duration of cooking.
Cooking your pig
It is imperative the the pig is cooked slowly. This is a process that cannot be rushed. With such a large meat, slow cooking allows the heat to evenly penetrate to the centre of the meat without drying the outer portions. Getting the centre of the meat fully cooked is important not only for the taste of the pig, but also to avoid food poisoning; additionally it will give more time for your herbs and spices to infuse into the meat during cooking.
Below are estimated cooking times for different sized pigs.
50 kg : 6-7 hrs
55 kg : 7-8 hrs
60 kg : 7-8 hrs
70 kg : 8-9 hrs
75 kg : 9-10hrs
(this assumes cooking at an optimum temperature of 75oC )
When you think the hog is done, test the deepest part of the meat with a thermometer. The temperature must reach 160-165 degrees to ensure it is thoroughly cooked through.
Basting your pig
Basting simply involves pouring fat and juices over your hog while it is cooking, and serves the dual purpose of keeping the meat moist and adding even more flavour. We recommend using our special basting mix, outlined below, but simply pouring over any fats and juices you collect will do the job.
- Take 2 cups of apple cider and the juice of 2 lemons.
- Add a generous squeeze of honey
- Mix the ingredients in a jug until all the honey dissolves
Expert tip: Pour the basting mixture into an empty spray bottle, for a convenient way to spray over the pig. Make sure to spray regularly (roughly every 20-30 minutes) throughout the cooking process. This will help prevent the pig from drying out and burning. Furthermore, the honey will create a mouthwatering, caramelized finish. Extra care must be taken not to let the honey (or the hog) to burn.
Perfect side dishes
Now your pig is slowly roasting you have plenty of time to start getting your accompanying dishes prepared. The right side dishes will contribute much to your event’s success. You can have nearly any side dish with a hog roast, but you have to be sure to match your dishes with the flavours of the marinade you used on the pig.
Even though we all know most guests are here for the meat, don’t miss this opportunity to cater for any vegetarian guests; this consideration will go a long way and really make you a star host.
Below are some recipes which are all capable of perfectly complementing the marinade we described:
After you have put so much love and care into your hog, don’t let it go to waste by having too few garnishes. Remember to provide copious amounts of sauces including ketchup, mustard and the good old apple sauce. If you want hog roast butties don’t forget some medium sized buns.
For a sweet end to the meal, toffee apples are a tried and tested hog roast dessert. They are aesthetically pleasing, easy, cheap, and delicious; not to mention being the perfect fit for the hog roast theme.
Fun and easy activities to add more flair to your hog roast
No hog roast is complete without some fun activities to keep the event lively and fun. We will leave you with a few great ideas for some added fun at your hog roast; hopefully they will get your creative juices flowing:
- Bobbing for apples; of course with prizes
- Water slide for the kids
- Coconut shy
- Fancy dress is always a fun one. A medieval theme would suit your hog roast perfectly!
- Hat party – involve as many funny hats as possible, and force your guests to wear them all night. After people have settled, and had a few drinks and good music, this will only become more fun. Why not add to the comedy by including some lampshades in the mix!
Finally, relax. As you are hosting, you may find yourself running around too much, and forget about yourself! Remember to find the time to grab a few cold ones, kick back with your friends and enjoy!