Hosting a whole pig roast is an amazing way to feed a crowd and the presentation of a beautifully smoked pig can’t be beat. The meat in this pig is incredibly tender and smoky from the low and slow cooking process, tangy from a simple injection, and sweet from a delicious seasoning.
Whole Pig Roast
A whole pig roast is the pinnacle for those who love to make and eat great BBQ. However, most home BBQ enthusiasts seem intimidated by the undertaking. I totally get it! I was intimidated my first time too. After smoking whole pigs in my own backyard pellet smoker AND on the finale of a Food Network show called BBQ Brawl (with Michael Symon and Bobby Flay) in a cinder block pit, I’ve compiled all the info I think you’ll need to know on whole hog cooking.
I’m all about creating recipes to help you become a backyard BBQ Hero, and this fairly simple process for tackling your own smoked whole pig roast is no different. Following my simple methods and tips will have you smoking a whole pig in your own backyard like you’re a seasoned pro.
Buying a Whole Pig for Roasting
This is the first step that often creates a stumbling block for most average BBQ enthusiasts. It’s not common to find a whole pig in your average grocery store butcher. Finding a pig for roasting is definitely something you need to plan a little bit in advance. If you live in a rural area, your best bet may be to reach out to local farmers and livestock owners to see when they are harvesting.
If you live in a more urban area, there are actually great options online to have a pig shipped straight to you. These pigs range in size from 10-50 pounds, come from great breeds like Duroc or Yorkshire and come cleaned and ready to roast. (I’ve use D’Artagnan for other meat products in the past and the quality has been amazing).
How Big of a Pig Should You Buy?
The size of pig you need to buy depends on several factors:
- How big is your pit or smoker?
- How many people do you want to feed?
- How long do you want to be cooking your pig?
For the average backyard BBQ, I recommend starting with a pig between 35 and 50 pounds. This size of pig fits easily on my Camp Chef SmokePro SGX smoker. It has about 663 square inches of space on the grates (which are around 36 inches long and 18 inches wide. You may need to make some adjustments to your pig based on the size of your smoker.
I plan on 1 pound of uncooked pig per person. This helps to account for weight lost during cooking, bones, and skin and ensures each person will have as much meat as they would like.
For a 35 pound pig, I plan on 7-8 hours of cooking at 275 degrees F. I usually plan about an hour for every 5 pounds of pig (and then give myself an additional hour as a buffer). The size and preparation of your pig will determine how long it takes to cook through. I split the breastbone of my pigs and flatten them out as much as possible (instructions for that in the next section) before cooking to reduce the overall cook time. If you have a bigger pig, you will definitely experience longer cook times.
Preparing Your Pig
The steps you take during this prep process are crucial because they will dictate how your whole cook goes and how that finished pig tastes! My preferred method for preparing my pig is to butterfly it open. I use a sharp knife or kitchen shears to split the breastbone of the pig. From there I have access to the interior cavity of the pig. I run a sharp knife along both sides of the backbone and through the collarbones. This allows me to press the pig flat.
Once the pig is pressed open, it’s time to trim back some of the skin of the pig. I use a sharp filet knife to remove a majority of the skin along the hams and shoulders. This creates more opportunity for the smoke to influence the meat itself and really develop flavor on those thick cuts of meat.
Next, I head to the interior of the pig. I use my shears or knife to remove the excess flap of meat and silver skin along the ribs. I also remove the membrane from the ribs on either side. Then, I clean out any excess pieces of silver skin, tendons, and glands from the tip of the head down to the tail. Finally, wipe down the inside of the pig with a paper towel to take out any extra liquid or bone fragments.
**Optional step** Based on the depth of your smoker, you may need to remove the feet from your pig. I do this with my kitchen shears. By getting between the knuckle bones, I can simply snip the connective tissues with my shears. It takes a couple of minutes to do, but by being precise with the shears you’ll save some energy and some time versus hacking the feet off with a cleaver.
Injecting a Whole Pig
Injecting your pig is optional, but I think it is a great way to introduce flavor and moisture to your meat. Especially in a whole hog roast, you will be cooking multiple pieces of pork at the same temperature for a long period of time. Not all cuts of the pig are going to have the same fat content or texture, so injecting can ensure you get your flavor profiles AND extra moisture into all areas of your pig. My pig injection is super simple and made up of just a few ingredients to bring sweetness and acidity to the flavor profile:
- Apple Juice
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Brown Sugar
Whole Hog Seasoning
Your pig is trimmed and injected, it’s time to season! I try to keep it simple and stick with flavor profiles my family likes. My signature Sweet Rub seasoning is perfect to generously coat the interior cavity and exposed hams/shoulders of the pig. I have a homemade version of this recipe online, or you can save yourself a step in the preparation process and pick up a big bottle of it pre-made with a shaker lid from my store.
Smoking a Whole Pig
Now that the prep is finished, it’s time to cook this pig! My process for a whole pig roast is fairly simple and only really takes a few steps. I smoke roast my pigs at 275 degrees F on my Camp Chef SmokePro SGX Pellet Smoker. This allows me to add in smoke flavor while also cooking the pig in a timely fashion. After trimming my pig and preheating my smoker, I carefully move my pig and place it directly on the grill grates.
Close the lid and smoke the pig for at least an hour before peeking into your smoker. At this point, you can introduce a mopping liquid. Mop your pig every hour for the next several hours until the internal temperature of your pig (in the thickest part of the hams and shoulders) reaches 165 degrees F.
Once we hit that magic internal temperature, it’s time to wrap our pig to retain moisture and also help speed along the cooking process. I use heavy duty 18 inch foil to wrap the top portion of my pig and tuck the edges of the foil around the bottom of the pig. Close the lid on your smoker and keep it cooking.
Whole Hog Temperatures
Since the pig has several different cuts, I take my temperatures in several different places. Target temperatures are at least 195 degrees F in the shoulders for pulled pork, 170-180 degrees F in the thicker hams for slicing, and 165-175 F in the loins.
If you want to be able to shred your whole pig, you can take those temperatures higher and push the shoulders up above 200 degrees F and the hams to at least 195 degrees F.
I use a remote probe thermometer with 4 different probes so I can track the internal temperatures of each part of my pig and make adjustments as needed during the cook time. Most smokers have hot spots, so tracking multiple locations on the pig and being able to move or adjust it makes a big difference in hitting your target final temperatures.
How Long to Roast a Whole Pig
The cook time of your pig will vary based on the size of your pig and the temperatures of your pit. I typically plan 1 hour for every 5 pounds of pig. I do add at least an additional hour to the cook time so my meat can rest and also to compensate for any variation in the cooking process. So using that math, I would plan 7 hours for a 35 pound pig to cook at 275 degrees F, plus an additional hour of rest/buffer time.
Pig Pickin’ (Serving Your Whole Roasted Pig)
You’re going to need a friend (or two) for this part! You can serve directly out of the smoker, but with these smaller pigs it isn’t too difficult to transfer it to a large flat surface for serving. To make clean up easier and have everything look really nice, roll out two large sheets of butcher paper on a counter or table. With a few people holding legs, carefully remove the pig to the flat table.
From there, you can start shredding, slicing, and serving! I usually share with slicing the hams, then shredding the shoulders and the cheeks. I then work my way to the ribs, carefully cutting out 3-4 bone segments. Once the ribs are out, you can shred the belly meat. Finally, remove the loins and slice into medallions. Serve your pig with an extra sprinkle of the Sweet Rub seasoning and some of our signature BBQ sauces on the side.
More Smoked Pork Recipes
If you love smoked pork, check out these other delicious recipes!
Smoked Whole Pig Roast Recipe
Making some epic BBQ should be easy, and Hey Grill Hey is here to help! I’m all about helping you make better BBQ, feed the people you love, and become a backyard BBQ hero. If you want to see more of my recipes, tips, and behind the scenes action, follow along on my social channels. You can find me on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube!
Smoked Whole Pig
- 1 35 pound whole pig cleaned
- 4 cups apple juice
- 2 cups apple cider vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons Kosher salt
- 2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
- 2 cups apple cider vinegar
- 1 1/2 cups apple juice
- 1/4 cup brown sugar 1
- 2 Tablespoons Kosher salt
- 1 Tablespoon black pepper
- 1 Tablespoon red pepper flakes
- Prepare your pig for smoking by cutting through the backbone, cutting the ribs away from the backbone, and removing any excess silver skin from the ribs and interior cavity. Use a sharp knife to trim away some of the skin away from the hams and shoulders.
- Preheat your smoker to 275 degrees F for indirect cooking. Use a mild hard wood like apple or hickory.
- Combine all of the injection ingredients in a large bowl. Using a syringe injector, inject the liquid into all areas of the pig.
- Place the pig on your smoker and close the lid. Smoke for 1 hour before opening the lid.
- Make the mop sauce by combining all of the ingredients. Mop the sauce on the pig once very hour until the internal temperature of the hams reach 165 degrees F.
- Use heavy duty foil the tightly wrap the pig and tuck the ends of the foil around the edges of your pig.
- Close the lid of your smoker and continue cooking until the internal temperatures of your shoulders read at least 195 degrees F and your hams are about 185 degrees F if you want some sliced/chopped pork. If you want to be able to shred your whole pig, cook until your temperatures in the shoulder read at least 200 degrees F and your hams read 195 degrees F.
- Turn off your smoker and allow your pig to rest for at least an hour (still wrapped in the foil) before slicing, pulling, and serving.