Whole Hog Smoking

Whether suckling pig or boar-sized beast, smoking a whole hog is the iconic, pièce de résistance of barbecue.

| July 2016

While it used to be true that high-quality smoked cuisine was available only at smokehouses or barbecue joints, now new fuels, tools, and technology have made it possible for home cooks to turn out professional-grade smoked foods in their own backyards and kitchens. Project Smoke by Steven Raichlen is your guide to doing the same. More than a cookbook, Project Smoke is also a step-by-step handbook through a huge variety of smoking techniques. It includes a rundown of the smokers available for purchase, of essential brines, rubs, marinades, and sauces, and of different smoking fuels, all while finding room for 100 new, mouthwatering recipes. These recipes—from classics like brisket to vegetables, cocktails, and desserts—were created after extensive research spanning 60 different countries. Raichlen traveled and studied the smoky flavors of foreign cuisines, and here he translates them to his American audience. From low-and-slow techniques in a homemade smokehouse to accessible, 10-minute infusions of flavor on a stovetop, Raichlen can show you how to smoke every mouthwatering food imaginable.

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Project Smoke.

How to Smoke a Whole Hog

A whole hog is the apex of barbecue. As you climb the ladder of smoking enlightenment, at some point you’ll want to try one. There are too many variables (hog size, smoker design, weather, wood, and so on) to cover in a single recipe. Here are the basic guidelines.

The hog: Hogs range in size from 20-pound suckling pigs to 225-pound monsters. The first time you smoke a hog, I recommend a 50-pounder (that’s gutted weight, by the way, but with the head on). It’s small enough to handle by yourself, and it’ll cook in half a day—yet, it’s large enough to establish your smoking bona fides. You’ll need to order your hog ahead of time. As always, look for organic or heritage breeds from small farms. Ideally, you’ll pick it up the morning you plan to smoke it. (The butcher’s refrigerator is bigger than yours.) In a pinch, you can keep your hog chilled in a large insulated cooler or in a bathtub filled with ice. (When using the latter, do warn your spouse.)

The cut: Hogs smoked whole with legs tucked under the body are what you often see at barbecue competitions. But I prefer a butterflied hog—split through the belly to the backbone and opened up like a book. Why? When you smoke a whole hog, in effect you stew the meat in the skin. Yes, it comes out juicy and tender— but sometimes with a stewed quality. I like my pork with some crust and chew to it. When you smoke a butterflied hog, you expose more of the meat to the smoke and fire.

The smoker: You’ll need a serious smoker—especially for jumbo hogs. That puts you in competition rig territory: respected brands include Horizon, Yoder, Klose, Lang, Pitmaker, Pitt’s & Spitt’s, Backwoods, and Cookshack. One interesting alternative for pig roasting is the “Cajun microwave” or its Cuban analogue, the caja china (Chinese box). Picture a wooden or steel box with an indented metal top.

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