Project PIG

I am a big lover of barbecue. And to be a bit of a ponse I mean US style southern barbecue as opposed to the stuff we call barbecue. In the south, what we call barbecue is just called grilling. So whats this all got to do with Project PIG? Well, Project PIG is my endeavour to construct a Southern US style open-pit barbecue and then to use said barbecue to cook an entire pig. 

pig
This is a pig

Why do it?

Good question! I’m glad you asked. When you go to a barbecue, 9 times out of 10 you’re not there for the food, its just a way to get fed and an excuse to have a party. You’re there because its an event. So why shouldn’t the food Be the event. So far, everyone I’ve mentioned this project to has been intrigued just to see the thing being cooked. So am I. It is also about the food though and there is also the taste. Based on some calcs (and by that I mean rough estimates) it should take between 20 and 24 hours to cook the thing. Can you imagine what that meat will taste like after 24 hours of slow smoking? I have to know. That’s why I’m doing it.

When is this happening?

The May bank holiday weekend (5th – 7th May) as it will take not only the cooking time but also the setup for the event. Basically, this will take two full days to prep and cook.

How?

In terms of technique and barbecue construction, I’ve looked at several guides and spoken to a few people in the know about size of pig, cooking times and any special technique I should know. As my main guide I will be taking the advise of a man called Tim Russell. To hear Tim’s words of wisdom on the subject, watch the video below. A wise guide through barbecue which I’ve found has an odd re-watch value to it (seen it 4 times now already)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPSAQLIUCmo]

In terms of the work. I’ll be prepping the design over the next two weeks and working out the logistics of pig transport and manoeuvering. I’ll also be looking to draft in some help for the construction and cooking process as well because¬† Remember kids: There’s no ‘I’ in ‘Barbeque’

What’s next?

During the build up to the day, I’ll be putting up the design, construction, planning, prep and everything I end up doing to make this happen. This will by the end, either be a ‘How To’ guide or a warning from history. Sod it, Project PIG is a GO. OINK, OINK!!

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23 April 2012 – Drawing up the designs

The last few days have been largely taken up with design. How big does the barbeque need to be? How big will the pig be? How much space will I need? Is there a risk of setting the neighbours shed on fire? These are all pressing questions so I had to break out the sketch book and do some calculations. Here’s how I’m getting on so far.

The plan is to build a two block wall and installed an expanded metal grate to make up the grill. A useful tip I picked up here was to avoid galvanised steel. This will make the food taste wrong and probably have you spewing the best part of your pig into the rose bushes.

(As a side note, the TOP SECRET block here is hiding an idea I came up with as a bit of a special gift for my guests on the day. I can’t really brag about something I haven’t done yet, but I’m fairly excited about whats behind that black square.)

A final layer of block on top with either a sheet metal or timber board on top will then seal it up. As well as the blocks and grate though, I need to work out the base. I’ll be doing this on a paved surface, so to protect the paving, I will either need some sacrificial paving slabs to go under the bbq or a timber sheet covered in tin foil and sand (to protect it from the heat). Whichever option I choose, there are more calculations to be done.

All of this though is just ideas. The next thing I need to determine is the exact size of the pig. I’ve been working on load calculations based on a 20kg pig (gutted), but this may alter depending on what I can get.

On to the fun stuff tomorrow. I’m off to the butchers…

THE EVENT

The Pig Picking: Them’s rich pickin’s

You may notice at the top of this blog is a tab called Project PIG. If you haven’t been there first, Id suggest you do. This will give you all of the background and shortly will contain much more about the day and the build-up. This post is to give you some highlights from one of the tastiest days of the year.

Project PIG had one aim: Could a man with zero pit barbecue experience, take a 30kg pig, a pile of building materials and a sack of ingredients and turn them into succulent, salty, juice-ladened pork. The answer was unreservedly: Yes! The feedback was insane. Everyone loved it and I mean loved it.

I am going to post a ‘How To’ guide from the event. In total it took use three days to construct, test and cook with the pit that we built and I managed a full three hours sleep on the day that we cooked the thing. But this post is about the food not the build. So let’s see the stats on how this little piggy was made into a prize-winning hog.

Firstly the pig. We got ourselves a half pig because I couldn’t physically fit enough people into my house to eat a full size boar. The pig was dressed and provided by W.H. Frost in Chorlton, a top-quality butchers if ever there was one. The also scored the meat before it was dropped off at my car. Once the pig was home, that’s when me and the boys (and girl) went to work on it. Step one was an all-over olive oil rub to crisp up the skin. The low cook temperature of the pit meant we couldn’t just rely on the heat of the flame like you would with a hog roast. Once that was done, next came the injections.

The meat injections – very important

The meat was injected with a sweet marinade made up of apple, white grape, lost of sugar and salt. This was to keep the meat sweet to go with the smoky flavour from the barbeque. This took a while and by the end we were injecting marinade through one hole just to have it pop out of the other (weird). The final step to this process was the dry rub for the inside. A mix of cayenne, garlic powder, paprika and several other sugars and spices went into the inside cavity for extra flavour onve the fat started to melt.

The last thing to do was fire up the pit (which took about 40 minutes), wrap the pig in foil to keep in the heat and then wait. The cooking process took 15 hours and as we were using an indirect heat method, the coals needed to be added to regularly, so we sat down, opened up a bottle of Jack Daniels and babysat that pig right through till morning…

Shhh! We’re putting the pig to bed

The next day, we had to strip the foil off the top of the pig. It had turned a glorious red and there were clear signs aroung the exposed meat of where a smoke ring had started to form (a ring of colour showing the depth of penetration of smoke into the meat).

Half an hour before serving the pig needed to be flipped. Being either brave or sleep deprived, I climbed up onto the grill to flip the pig. As we flipped, we realised how soft and juicy the meat had gone as it almost felt apart on the flip. Just about holding it intact, we gave it a glaze with a secret barbeque sauce using ketchup, garlic, spices and sugar to give it some extra zing. It then got covered for 30 minutes to finish.

“Spiderman, Spiderman.
Flipping a pig, it’s Spiderman”

When it finally came out, it was epic. The glistening glaze on top of that thick, succulent pork was captivating. So being a good host, I encouraged the guests to engage in the time-honoured tradition of ‘pig picking’: Pulling the pork of the pig with your fingers. There was trepidation at first but soon there was jostling at the grill as more and more hands dived in to tear tender meat from this awesome grill.

The carnage was immense, the flavours were epic but most importantly the diners were happy. Very happy in fact, and while the day is over, my house still smells like a Texan barbecue hut and my fridge is full of crackling and pulled pork. Despite this, the best part of the whole thing was the event it made. The meal had a certain pageantry to it, with the exposing of the pig, the flipping of the meat, the glazing of the skin and the devouring of a masterpiece nearly three full days in the making. My only regret is that I’m not cooking another one right now….

 

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