Ever wanted to cook a whole hog? Well, it ain’t that hard, says Resto’s young chef, Bobby Hellen. He recently took us to the backyard to show us how it’s done.
What’s the key to roasting a whole pig?
Time. It’s all about time. You have to brine [the pig] for 24 hours. I actually didn’t have a container big enough for this guy so I got a huge garbage pail and spent a little time on his head, then a little time on his ass. It looked like a pig in a jacuzzi in my walk-in. After that, it’s maybe another 24 hours of hanging it to dry out so that when you put it in to roast, it gets crispy quicker. And then, it’s all about the roasting. This pig (an 80 pounder) will take about six hours.
How would someone do this at home?
The kit that I have now is really inexpensive, less than a barbecue. It’s the Caja China, which is like a box that Chinese Cubans have used for generations to roast whole pigs. You can buy it online.
And how does one get a whole pig?
Hmm… I’m not sure. I guess if you have a butcher — not a lot of people have butchers anymore — go to your butcher. Or, go to a restaurant that you know that deals with good product. Like, I could definitely hook somebody up with a pig.
Be careful… you might end up with a thousand pig requests next week. So, what do you do with the pig once it’s done cooking?
I’m gonna take it out and let it rest a little while, let all the juices come together. Then, I’ll start breaking it down, debone all of it, try to see how many portions I’m gonna get, probably 50 or 60. I’ll separate it into legs, loins and ribs, arms and head, and try to give a bit of each to everyone. It’s gonna be a total mess. There’s gonna be juice everywhere. It’s gonna be fun.
Why do you think the idea of cooking a whole animal appeals to Joe BBQ at home?
I think people want to return to simple things. If I wasn’t cooking with the Caja China, I’d be taking the head off, using the legs for sausage, the loins to roast, the saddle to make a roulade or porchetta. It’s the oldest way of cooking, really. But a lot of people have forgotten how to get a whole animal, break it down and actually make something out of it. You know, butchering is one of the prettiest things to watch.
Resto roasted a whole hog recently for its second anniversary, but you can call ahead to order the Large Format Feast anytime. Just pick your animal and bring your friends.