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Thread: Whole Hog Cinder block pit

  1. #1
    TVWBB Fan
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Looking for some advice on cooking a pig in this style. While I would love to get some first hand experience helping out someone else, i don't have that luxury being up here in CT a long way from my SC roots wherein I failed to take advantage of my geography....

    That being said I am pretty set on building a cinder block pit and getting a smallish 40-60 pound pig, butterflied and trying my hand at cooking a whole hog.

    After several nights of reading and more reading I am a bit confused as I see various comments (from known and unknown sources of authority, including TVWBB) ranging from 6-10 hours of cooking to 24 hours of cooking using this method. Lean down for 1/2-3/4 to Skin down for the entire cook...

    Anyway if you have cooked on a cinder block pit (expecting about 24 inches above the coals) I would love to mine your input/advice/experience.

    Thanks folks....was thinking I would do this next spring but I can't shake the idea and have to get a "small" test run in this fall apparently.

  2. #2
    New Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    I can tell you what I know and seen and sometimes participated in. Its not complete but hope it helps.
    Last time I put a whole pig in a red brick (not cinder block) pit was ~10 years ago in S. FL. (side note, can cinder block hold up to heat extremes, I'm not sure, specifically repeatively over years) We got a 60-70lb pig from a cuban farmer who prepped it ready for cooking. That is cleaned and splayed open with some sticks. If you ever gutted and cleaned anything, no problem, the hardest part is getting the hairs off, usually by scalding water poured over the top and use a scraping tool, piece of plywood, butter knife, spoon so on. If possible, I've seen the pig put down in a large cane pot that was had boiling water in it. Let it sit and pulll it up and start dehairing. repeat with boiling water until most of hair is off.
    We started cooking the fire with charcoal and some oak from the adjacent area. The pit dimensions 4ft high, ~3' wide and 14' in length. Coals were on a elevated grate that could be pulled out for reading fuel. It was ~1' off the ground. This was a very large pit, bc it was an old 50 plus year old hunt camp on the everglade/big cypress area near Naples off of alligator alley. The other end was the typical chimney that made it so effective. Now I think about it they even had the forethought of aligning it towards the prominent wind direction, ie into the wind. This was important since no real hard wind flowed in the dense canopy of the everglades, only in the sawgrass flats. Top grate was with metal and held in place by L frame bars bolted to the brick about two bricks from the top level. The grate was in 4' sizes that were easily removable for adding wood and such deep in the pit. There was a lid again in 4' sizes that fit over the pit and pig and captured the heat/smoke and funneled it down towards the chimney. The other lids had their open ends to permit the flow down the chimney. I think these where made by some aluminum artisan bc it all looked specialty on of a kind. I mean really who would want a 14' long pit in their back yard, only at a hunt camp! Where you could put multiple pigs on and such. Enough on the description of the pit.
    The pig was wrapped in foil loosely after we did poured Mojo on it with other salts and seasoning. So in a way it was a cuban pig pulling, done by a bunch of rednecks.haha. We started the day before work so it would be ready the following day for supper at 5pm. It did take 20 hours. I was not the pitmaster, but the guy who was wanted it to cook that long and did so many times on that pit. There was multiple times throughout that the pig was doused with more seasoning and Mojo, i guest that would be called basting. By the time we ate the pig was at proper eatible temp at the thickest place. I think the last few hours he unwrapped the foil for a few hours so the pig could be browned up. I had to work, and the guy Mike, the pitmaster worked for me so that was his job for 1/2 day while I held down the office.

    Probably the nicest feature of this pit is that the pig pulling can be done from both sides of the pit, ie no long lines. Just stick a few knives and large forks/tongs in the pig and let them go to town pickin/pullin what they want off the swine.

    I would diffinetly use a temp therm during this whole process just so you can stoke the fire if needed. Also it give a good record for repeatability for next time.

    I've also done a Hawaiian style Banana pit and lava rock dug pit and it was really simple, but who has banana leaves???!!! Its been so many years ago, I would have to ask my family what spices we used.
    That's it! And God Bless!

  3. #3
    TVWBB Super Fan
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Chandler, Arizona
    I read this not too long ago, and if I ever try a whole hog this is what I want to do....

    Also, there's a reputable farm in my area that ships hogs nationwide, ready for roasting.

    Good luck! And make sure to share your experience with the rest of us!
    You can trust this skinny cook!

  4. #4
    TVWBB Pro
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Redbird Country, Illinois
    There was a lengthy couple discussions on whole hog here a month or so ago. They would be worth checking out, including someone's thread who went to a roast that turned our very badly....
    When I die, I'll know where I wound up- even before I open my eyes- by whether it smells of burning sulfur, or burning charcoal.

  5. #5
    TVWBB 1-Star Olympian
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Las Vegas, Nev
    I have built three pits and cooked pigs in all of them just like this. The pig is cooked indirectly skin-side down for half the time, then flipped to skin up till done, also indirect. Then the pig is removed, the coals are spread, the pig is flipped to skin down, and the pig finished direct, about 5-8 min for the skin to crisp.

  6. #6
    TVWBB Fan
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Jason, thanks for taking the time. Regarding the cinder blocks, I am not going to mortar them just stack them and as I understand it exploding bricks isn't really a concern as the fire is (a) low and (b) on the ground not on the bricks. Makes for a temporary BBQ pit, easily moved and adjusted for fun and learning. Long term I intend to build myself a nice permanent brick oven/pit but anyway back to the issue at hand. I will be buying a pig already butterflied and ready to throw on the fire, I am not that committed yet...Thanks for the input.

    Ethan, Thanks for the link I think I have perused that site in my searching but there's been so many and as previously mentioned a lot of contradictions (as is to be expected in the controversial topic of BBQ and "the right way" [whatever that means]). I am hoping that someone on this board has direct experience with this specific approach as I don't know who to trust out on the wild internets....But I can usually trust TVWBB.

    Matt, yes there were several lengthy discussions, but they all wandered into other methods (La Caja China, Rotisserre, Gas Smoker, Modified Drum Smokers etc.) I couldn't really find any (perhaps my "fu" was off) pertinent information around this approach. And some, what I considered educated (i.e. TVWBB members) opinions around cook time and the approach.

    Thanks Kevin, I don't think I came across that link, will surely give a read through.

    I read in one of your threads on here the Skin-down then up the down approach before which seems to be one of the "counter" to the more prelevant to skin-up for 1/2 to 3/4 then skin down for the last "push". Any insight behind your approach vs. (apparent?) convential wisdom?

    Also perhaps you can shed some light as to how a whole hog (50-70 lbs) can cook to done in 6-8 hours (which is what i have read in my travels) whereas the shoulders I do on my Weber bullet are 12-14 hours...seems counter intuitive to me as the Shoulder is part of the whole hog of course....

    Like I said I am looking to soak up as much as I can on this before I get started so I am less likely to end up like that disaster thread that Matt referred to YIKES!

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