Choosing the Right Pig Rotisserie
Pork provides a delicious and unforgettable centerpiece to any gathering, and a whole hog rotisserie / pig rotisserie is a great alternative to traditional BBQ and smoked preparation. Traditional cooking brings out the flavor and tenderness that makes pork so popular, but a pig rotisserie not only roasts the meat thoroughly, it also provides some unique cooking options that other methods of preparation lack. Understanding the components of the rotisserie is key to choosing just the right setup for an unbelievable feast.
Whole roast pig comes in many sizes, based on weight; as the weight of the pig increases, the needs of the pig rotisserie increases. The complete rotisserie consists of several parts: the spit, a long metal bar on which the pig is skewered; the forks, a pair of rests that support the spit; the fire pit, an enclosure for the heat source; and the turn, either a handle or rotisserie motor that rotates the spit.
The spit is the simplest part of the rotisserie, and has the simplest requirements. The spit must be strong enough to support the entire weight of the roast without buckling or significant deflection. The needs of a 20 pound suckling pig are much less stringent than a 200 pound beast. Roasting a pig on a spit rated for a higher weight has no drawbacks, but trying to force a larger pig on an inadequate spit is a bad idea. Overloaded spits run the risk of buckling and dropping the roast into the fire. Deflection happens when the weighted spit bends in the center towards the heat, cooking the pig unevenly.
The forks are metal spikes thrust into the ground on either side of the fire pit. They are braced or fastened to provide a firm support for the spit. The spit should extend far enough beyond the forks to allow for some degree of movement. Forks are not always actual forks; rings are often used, and the “forks” are occasionally suspended from a frame above the fire pit instead of thrust into the ground. Forks need to support the entire weight of the roast as well as the spit, and should be rated according to the anticipated weight. Forks with an adjustable height allow for a greater variety of roasts, as the height of the pig controls the rate at which it cooks. A-frame forks provide a great deal of stability, but spikes can be driven into the ground anywhere.
Fire pits are made from a great many different materials, but all of them have some common features. The base of the bit needs to support the fuel for the fire, whether that is coal or firewood. Gas is not commonly used with this kind of rotisserie. The fire pit needs proper ventilation to continue burning, and a catch for the removal of ash in an oven-style pit. The heat needs to extend at least the entire length of the roast; extending the fire a bit beyond the roast will help ensure even cooking. Ovens make excellent fire pits, but nothing beats the convenience of a dugout or stone ringed campfire.
Rotisseries cook slowly over coals, and must be rotated constantly to ensure thorough cooking and prevent burning. The turn for the rotisserie controls the speed of rotation; if it turns too quickly, the pig will cook very slowly or not at all, too slowly, and the roast will burn. Hand cranks are common, and must be monitored or checked periodically. Electric motors provide an excellent alternative for steady rotation, but are seldom easily portable. Putting a brace on a hand crank will allow partial rotation of the roast, cooking it a side at a time instead of continual rotation.
The final component of the whole hog rotisserie is a proper set of safety gear. Fire pits put out intense and continual heat; the spit and forks will get extremely hot during cooking. Coals and firewood can spit ash and embers. In addition to long handled tongs, a fork, basting brush and other utensils, the cook will need heavy, heat resistant gloves and a fire retardant apron for their pig rotisserie. Matching the right pig rotisserie to the needs of roast weight and portability are the best way to make a cookout into a feast.