Going Whole Hog with Carolina BBQ
with Suzanne Klein
Chief Yummy Officer
BBQ Carolina BBQ Chasing BBQ Whole Hog
We’ve been creating regional barbecue recipes all summer long while following Savory founder Mike Johnston’s Chasing BBQ road trip. Of all the BBQ regions Mike visited, it's the Carolinas I was most excited about. Being a Carolina girl myself (I graduated high school and college in North Carolina) I was thrilled to have a chance to recreate some of my favorite Carolina food memories in the test kitchen—especially hush puppies and boiled peanuts!
We knew that to do right by Carolina BBQ, we’d have to roast a whole hog. I’ve been to many a “pig picking”—an all day hog roast where everyone gathers to pull off all parts of the barbecued pork to enjoy—but I’ve never been behind the scenes of one.
Here’s what it took to create our own whole hog adventure
Build a pit: First, you need to make sure you have a place you can roast a whole hog…anywhere between a 25 to 200 pound pig depending on how adventurous you are and how many people you want to feed. Mike built a pretty easy, basic smoking pit in his back yard with some instructions from the guys at AmazingRibs.com in their post Building a Hog Pit from Cinderblock Bricks.
Find a hog: We had to call around to several butchers to find a whole hog. We chose a small one for our first attempt, about 30 pounds. Make sure to ask your butcher for one that’s already cleaned and split so you don’t have to do a lot of extra work. Get one with the feet and head intact if you really want to use the whole hog, nose to tail. For more detailed information about what to look for when purchasing a hog, check out the AmazingRibs.com post about how to do a Whole Hog Pig Picking.
Prep your workspaces: You’ll need a large work surface to prep and season the hog; we lined an outdoor patio table with craft paper for this. You’ll also need a space for chopping the hog once its done; we used an indoor kitchen table lined with paper and outfitted with cutting boards for our chopping space. You’ll also need a hog stretcher; it holds the hog in place, making it easier to get it in and out of the smoking pit as well as be able to turn it while its on the pit. Mike built a simple one with chicken wire and steel rods. The AmazingRibs.com guys have tips for making one in their post about building a hog pit.
Get some ‘Cue Glue: Savory’s new ‘Cue Glue is a direct result of Mike’s Chasing BBQ adventures. He learned from barbecue pros how to make a mustard and pickle juice condiment that you brush on proteins to make your seasoning stick better. It not only maximizes the flavor of your BBQ rub but it also helps tenderize and keep the meat moist as it smokes. The flavor of the ‘Cue Glue cooks off, so you’re left with just the full flavor of the BBQ rub. We used a pastry brush to brush about half of a 12 fl. oz. jar of ‘Cue Glue all over our 30 pound hog.
Season generously: Everything we smoked this summer started with a layer of salt and pepper before applying a BBQ rub. Grab a 12 fl. oz. bottle of our Salt & Pepper Tableside Seasoning so you have enough on hand for all your smoking projects. We sprinkled the Salt & Pepper Tableside over the entire hog, using about ½ tsp. per pound of meat. You can use your favorite BBQ rub for a whole hog, but (naturally) Carolina High Country BBQ Rub was our first choice. You’ll need at least 1 tsp. per pound to cover the whole hog, so you might want to stock up with a large 12 fl. oz. bottle of this one as well. Sprinkle it generously over all sides of the hog, on top of the salt and pepper.
Monitor the temp…and wait: Mike says, of all the smoking he’s done this summer, this pit experience really taught him the importance of building a good fire and monitoring it appropriately. Make sure you have a reliable thermometer to monitor both your pit temperature and the internal temperature of the hog. You want to build a fire to get the pit temp to between 250 and 275 degrees, and then you want keep it there. Check the temp and adjust your fire as necessary as the hog smokes. (The AmazingRibs.com post about smoking a whole hog has more detailed instructions for this.) You’ll want to smoke the hog until it reaches an internal temp of 200 degrees. Once we got our 30-pound hog on the smoker, it took about 4 to 5 hours to get to temp.
Chop and enjoy: Transfer the hog to your prepped chopping table. Carefully snip away the hog stretcher to get it out of the way; use work gloves if it’s still really hot. Once the hog is cool enough to touch, start by separating skin from meat. Mike was trying to emulate Sam Jones’ method (from Skylight Inn BBQ in Ayden, NC), where he chops up the crispy pork skin to mix back in with the chopped pork meat that gets served. Any skin bits that weren’t crisped from smoking, Mike tossed in a frying pan for a few minutes to get them crispy enough to add to the chopped pork. We pulled some of the pork by shredding it with two forks. We finely chopped the remaining with a cleaver, which is the most traditional way to enjoy a whole hog.
Use up the leftovers: Six of us sat down to the mini pig pickin’ the day we smoked the hog. Even roasting a small hog, we still had tons of leftovers. Both the pulled and chopped pork froze well. We used some of it to make Brunswick Stew, some made its way between two buns for BBQ sandwiches, a bunch ended up in tacos, and I turned the remaining into filling for homemade pot stickers. One of our staff even made bone broth with the barbecued hog’s head!
Check out our recipe for Whole Hog BBQ. And don’t pass up some of my favorite Carolina inspired sides for the rest of your feast:
Hungry for more southern barbecue? You can explore all of our favorite Carolina inspired BBQ recipes here.
Do you have a favorite regional BBQ recipe? Submit your original recipe to our test kitchen so we can share it with our Savory friends and family.