In “A Pit, A Pig, A Party,” the author, Mike Fox, recounts his first experience barbecuing a whole pig. After researching and gathering the necessary materials, including cinder blocks and steel shelving for a rectangular pit, Mike and his friends embarked on this culinary adventure. Despite a few mishaps and learning experiences, like encountering flare-ups and a near-disaster with cardboard sheets, the pig was successfully cooked and the backyard barbecue with friends was a hit. This article serves as both an entertaining story and a guide for those interested in trying their hand at cooking a whole pig.

A Pit, A Pig, A Party

A Pit, A Pig, A Party


Are you ready to throw the ultimate backyard barbecue party? Imagine the delicious aroma of a whole pig slowly cooking on a pit, enticing your friends and family to gather around for an unforgettable feast. In this comprehensive article, we will guide you through the process of building a pit, preparing the pig, cooking it to perfection, and throwing an amazing party. With our friendly tone and step-by-step instructions, you will feel confident and well-prepared to take on this culinary adventure.

Building the Pit

Researching and Planning

Before embarking on your barbecue journey, it is crucial to conduct thorough research and planning. Take the time to consider factors such as location, size, and materials for your pit. By gathering knowledge and inspiration from trusted sources, such as Steven Raichlen’s “How to Grill” book, you’ll be equipped with the necessary information to build a pit that suits your needs.

Choosing Materials

When it comes to the materials for your pit, one popular and cost-effective option is using cinder blocks. These blocks can be easily assembled and dismantled, allowing for convenient storage during the winter months or relocation if needed. While you have the choice of using mortar or mud to seal the gaps, it is not necessary as the pit can still function without them.

Building the Rectangular Pit

With your materials chosen, it’s time to construct the rectangular pit. Place the cinder blocks in a rectangular shape, leaving gaps for air circulation. Ensure the pit is sturdy and level before proceeding. Remember, safety is paramount, so take the necessary precautions to prevent any accidents during the construction process.

Dismantling for Storage

If you plan to store your pit during the offseason or need to relocate it, ensure that it is easily dismantled. You can disassemble the cinder blocks carefully and store them in a safe place until you’re ready to use the pit again. This flexibility allows you to maintain your backyard’s aesthetics while still having the option to barbecue a whole pig whenever desired.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Using cinder blocks as the primary material for your pit offers several advantages. They are affordable, readily available, and easy to work with, making them an ideal choice for DIY projects. However, it’s important to note that cinder blocks may not provide the same insulation as other materials like steel sheets. Consider the climate and weather conditions in your area when deciding on the materials for your pit.

Preparing the Pig

Gathering the Necessary Equipment

Before you start seasoning and cooking the pig, it’s essential to gather all the necessary equipment. The list may include gloves, knives, a meat injector, a brush, and a large cutting board. Ensuring that you have all your tools ready beforehand will make the preparation process much smoother and more enjoyable.

Seasoning the Pig

To infuse the pig with flavor, it’s important to season it properly. Use a combination of spices, herbs, salt, and pepper to create a flavorful rub or marinade. Consider factors such as personal taste preferences and regional barbecue traditions when choosing your seasoning. Apply the seasoning generously to all parts of the pig, ensuring it is evenly coated.

Temperature Probes and Oven Thermometer

To achieve the perfect internal temperature of the pig while cooking, it is essential to use temperature probes and an oven thermometer. Place the probes in different parts of the pig to monitor its internal temperature throughout the cooking process. Additionally, hang an oven thermometer upside down from the grate near the mid-section of the pig to accurately gauge the cooking temperature.

Preventing Flare-Ups

One challenge you may face while cooking a whole pig is preventing flare-ups. Grease from the pig can drip onto the coals, causing sudden bursts of flames. To minimize this risk, ensure that the pit is covered and that you have chosen a suitable material to cover it. Steel sheets are commonly used in professional pits to prevent flare-ups.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Follow these step-by-step instructions to prepare the pig for cooking:

  1. Gather all necessary equipment, including gloves, knives, and a large cutting board.
  2. Season the pig generously with a flavor-packed rub or marinade.
  3. Insert temperature probes into different parts of the pig to monitor its internal temperature.
  4. Hang an oven thermometer upside down near the pig’s mid-section to accurately measure the cooking temperature.
  5. Ensure the pit is adequately covered to minimize the risk of flare-ups.

Cooking the Pig

Building and Igniting the Coals

Building the right fire is essential for cooking a whole pig to perfection. Start by arranging your chosen fuel, whether it’s charcoal or wood, in a pile at the base of the pit. Use kindling or fire starters to ignite the coals. Once the fire has started, carefully monitor and adjust the airflow to maintain the desired temperature throughout the cooking process.

Placing the Pig on the Pit

With the coals burning evenly, it’s time to place the pig on the pit. Ensure the pig is securely positioned on the grate, with the skin side facing up. By doing this, you allow the fat to render and keep the meat moist and juicy during the cooking process. Take extra care when placing the pig on top of the pit to prevent any accidents.

Covering the Pit

To create an optimal cooking environment, cover the pit with a suitable material. While steel sheets are often used in professional pits to prevent flare-ups, you can also utilize other materials such as large, soaked cardboard sheets. Ensure that the covering is several feet above the coals to prevent any potential hazards.

Initial Flare-Ups

During the cooking process, be prepared for initial flare-ups caused by the pig’s grease dripping onto the coals. These flare-ups can be dangerous and may jeopardize the success of your barbecue. However, by maintaining proper temperature control and having a suitable covering, you can minimize the risk of flare-ups.

Maintaining the Proper Temperature

Temperature control is key to cooking a whole pig slowly and evenly. Regularly monitor the temperature inside the pit using the oven thermometer and adjust the airflow accordingly. The ideal temperature for cooking a pig is around 225 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Maintaining this temperature throughout the cooking process will result in tender, succulent meat.

Regularly Re-Soaking the Cardboard

If you’re using cardboard sheets as a cover, it’s crucial to regularly re-soak them. Soaked cardboard helps prevent flare-ups and provides a moist cooking environment. Keep a water source nearby to quickly and safely douse any potential flare-ups. By regularly re-soaking the cardboard, you can maintain a stable cooking temperature and ensure the pig cooks evenly.

Duration of the Cooking Process

Cooking a whole pig is a labor of love that requires patience. The cooking time will vary depending on the size of the pig and the cooking temperature. As a general guideline, a 40 to 50-pound pig may take around four to four and a half hours to cook. Remember to continuously monitor the pig’s internal temperature to ensure it reaches a safe cooking temperature.

Monitoring the Pig’s Progress

Throughout the cooking process, it’s essential to monitor the progress of the pig. Keep an eye on the internal temperature using the temperature probes inserted into different parts of the pig. Aim for an internal temperature of around 190 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit for perfectly cooked, fall-off-the-bone meat. Adjust the cooking time and temperature as needed to achieve this desired result.

A Pit, A Pig, A Party

Learning Experiences

Flare-Up Incident

While barbecuing a whole pig, it’s not uncommon to encounter some learning experiences. One such incident might involve flare-ups caused by the pig’s grease. These flare-ups can be dangerous and may require quick thinking and decisive action to prevent accidents. Always have safety measures in place, such as a garden hose or fire extinguisher, to address any potential flare-ups promptly.

Choosing the Right Covering

The choice of material to cover your pit plays a significant role in the success of your barbecue. While cardboard sheets may seem convenient, they can pose a fire hazard if not handled properly. Consider using steel sheets or other fire-resistant materials to prevent potential flare-ups and ensure the safety of your cooking environment.

Managing Hickory Chunks

When using hickory chunks as a fuel source, it’s important to understand its characteristics and manage them effectively. Hickory wood can contribute to the smoky flavor and aroma of your barbecue. However, be cautious not to overload the pit with too many chunks, as this can lead to excessive smoke production and potential flare-ups. Practice moderation to achieve the perfect balance of flavor.

Lessons Learned

The process of barbecuing a whole pig is a learning experience in itself. From building the pit to managing the temperature and handling potential flare-ups, each step provides valuable lessons for future barbecues. Embrace the opportunity to learn from any challenges or mistakes encountered, as they will contribute to your growth as a pitmaster.

Maintaining the Temperature

Importance of Temperature Control

Temperature control is crucial when barbecuing a whole pig. It directly affects the texture, tenderness, and overall taste of the meat. Maintaining a consistent cooking temperature allows the collagen in the pig’s connective tissues to break down slowly, resulting in tender, juicy meat. Proper temperature control ensures that the pig cooks evenly and prevents any undesirable outcomes.

Adjusting the Coals

To regulate the cooking temperature, it may be necessary to adjust the coals periodically. This can be achieved by adding more fuel, spreading out the existing coals, or adjusting the airflow. Properly managing the coals allows you to maintain the desired temperature throughout the cooking process and ensures a successful outcome.

Avoiding Flare-Ups

Flare-ups can occur when the pig’s grease drips onto the coals, causing sudden bursts of flames. Preventing these flare-ups is essential to ensure food safety and the smooth progression of your barbecue. Proper temperature control, suitable covering material, and regular re-soaking of the cardboard can significantly reduce the risk of flare-ups.

Monitoring and Adjusting the Thermometer

Throughout the cooking process, regularly monitor and adjust the thermometer to maintain the desired temperature. Use the temperature probes inserted into different parts of the pig as a guide to understanding its progress. Make necessary adjustments to the airflow, fuel, or positioning to achieve the desired cooking temperature and ensure a beautifully cooked pig.

Tips and Tricks

Here are a few additional tips and tricks to help you maintain the temperature of your pit:

  • Use a water pan to create a moist cooking environment, which helps regulate the temperature and prevents the meat from drying out.
  • Preheat the pit before placing the pig to ensure the cooking temperature remains stable from the beginning.
  • Use a digital thermometer to get accurate readings of the pig’s internal temperature.
  • Keep a logbook of your cooking experiences to track temperature adjustments, cooking times, and any lessons learned for future reference.

A Pit, A Pig, A Party

Taking the Pig Off the Smoker

Determining Readiness

Determining when the pig is ready to be removed from the smoker requires attention to detail. Use a combination of internal temperature readings, visual inspection, and texture to assess its readiness. Aim for an internal temperature of around 190 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, ensuring the meat is tender and easily pulls away from the bones.

Handling and Removing the Pig

Once you’ve determined that the pig is ready, it’s time to carefully handle and remove it from the smoker. Use heat-resistant gloves and sturdy utensils to maneuver the pig without damaging the meat or risking burns. Have a suitable surface ready for the pig to rest on while you prepare for the party. Remember, safety should always be a top priority when handling hot objects.

Safety Precautions

When handling hot objects like a whole roasted pig, it is essential to take safety precautions. Use heat-resistant gloves to protect your hands from burns. Always have a clear and stable area to place the pig once removed from the smoker. Ensure that the surface can withstand the heat and weight of the pig without posing a safety risk.

Resting Period

Allow the pig to rest for at least 20 to 30 minutes after removing it from the smoker. This resting period allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, resulting in moist and tender final product. During this time, use the opportunity to prepare the party area and gather your guests, as the delicious aroma of the cooked pig will undoubtedly stir their appetites.

The Beginning of the Party

First Match and First Beer Can

As the pig rests, it’s time to kick off the party! Light the first match, igniting the sense of excitement and anticipation. As the flames twinkle, reach for the first can of beer and celebrate the start of a memorable barbecue experience. The combination of good food, great company, and a joyful atmosphere is what makes these parties truly special.

Celebrating the Successful Cooking

Gather your friends and family around the pit to celebrate the successful cooking of the whole pig. Share stories, laughter, and cheers as you revel in the accomplishment of creating a feast to remember. Take a moment to appreciate the hard work, dedication, and culinary skills that went into bringing this event to life.

Enjoying the Food

With the pig cooked to perfection, it’s time to indulge in the mouthwatering flavors and tender meat. Slice the pig into portions and let everyone savor the delicious barbecue. Encourage your guests to try different cuts and pairs of sauces for a truly customizable dining experience. Nothing brings people together quite like sharing a scrumptious meal.

Impressions and Reactions

Observe the impressions and reactions of your guests as they take their first bite of the barbecue. The combination of anticipation, aroma, and the expertise poured into the cooking process can elicit a range of emotions and expressions. Enjoy witnessing the joy on their faces and the compliments that pour in as the flavors of your barbecued pig leave a lasting impression.

A Pit, A Pig, A Party


Reflecting on the whole journey, cooking a pig on a pit is an adventure that combines passion, skill, and a sense of community. Building the pit, preparing the pig, and successfully cooking it requires careful planning and attention to detail. The party that ensues becomes a celebration of shared experiences and delicious food. With the knowledge gained from this comprehensive article, you are ready to embark on your own unforgettable pig barbecue adventure.


  • Steven Raichlen’s How to Grill
  • Barbecue Bible
  • BBQ 500 Club
  • Barbecue University
  • Online Resources

A Pit, A Pig, A Party


I'm Cooking Master, your culinary guide on Cooking Planet! With a passion for cooking and a deep appreciation for the diverse flavors and techniques scattered across the globe, this website is where I share my knowledge and experiences. From baking delectable treats to grilling mouthwatering dishes, I aim to inspire your cooking endeavors. Join me as we embark on a gastronomic expedition, exploring the realms of roasting, boiling, frying, and more. From Asian delicacies to European classics, African delights to American favorites, let's unlock the secrets of cooking around the world together. Discover the vast and appetizing world of Cooking Planet!