UK BBQ Mag Summer 2016 - Page 82

So in this article, I would like to present the idea that we can and should approach whole beast cookery with less trepidation and maybe overcome some of the worries that people have, that I think are born more out of “big day nerves” than the actual challenges of the cooking itself.

Hogs

Starting with the noble pig, as it’s so close to my heart, there are a myriad of ways to cook a whole hog. Most common in catering terms, is probably spit or rotisserie cooked, and I would include within this, racked, hung or cross cooked pigs as they all involve turning next to a fire. But there are

also strong traditions in low and slow, whole hog smoking, which we do a lot of, looking to gently break everything down, rather than roasting, and also as I mentioned above the use of ‘Cajun Microwave’ style roasting boxes of one kind or another, which are generally a wood or charcoal

fueled reflective oven.

Looking at these methods, I generally steer clear of the first bunch, if I want a roasted pig, I prefer the box as, for me, it’s quicker, more fuel efficient, and I would say, generally more reliable in terms of results. Boxes also allow many other aspects of the feast to be prepared at the same time, either in the box, with the meat, or above the charcoal while your pig is busy cooking below.

There are many classic approaches to whole hog box roasting, from the ever popular Italian style roast pig, stuffed with garlic, and plenty of fresh herbs, to Asian and Pacific inspired dishes, with soy and chili featuring heavily in the bastes and marinades, to our ever popular Cuban style Lechon, with the pig having taken a bath in a citrus and herb marinade prior to cooking.

All these approaches will give you piles of tender meat and the all important full quota of crackling which comes to perfection thanks to the in-rush of air when you check it a couple of times during the cook.

I have run through my typical ‘Cajun Microwave’ roasting schedule in the box on the next page, which should provide you with pretty foolproof and stunning results every time.

In terms of hot smoking whole hogs, this is frankly even easier, as long as you know how to keep your fire low & stable if you are cooking in an offset or have a good source of coals on the go, if cooking in a pit.

Under this method, we just open the pig up flat and give it a generous coat of our favourite rub (generally our Classic Pork BBQ, Rib Tickler, or the Dark House Rub), then during the cook use a mop like our Old Charlotte, which was inspired by Rodney Scott, who I tend to look to as the king

of whole hog low and slow.

Like all hot smoking, this is a relaxing way to cook a pig, as it needs very little fussing with and just needs patience.

Taming the beast

There’s no doubt about it, cooking a whole animal makes a great centrepiece for celebratory feasts and special occasions. A whole lamb, or spit roast pig can be cooked and presented in so many ways, drawing on well known and much loved styles and ideas from around the world.

In terms of whole beasts, I cook a lot of lambs (especially a classic mechoui), smoked whole pigs and also am a big fan of a Cajun microwave style roasting box. It may be surprising to learn, however, that the majority of cases where we’re cooking a whole animal, is less to do with special occasions and more to do with practicality. I believe this is also true of many of the typical whole beast approaches around the world, where it is just a simple, practical and efficient way to cook for a lot of people, or to provide plenty of food with minimal labour.

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