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31 Lb Whole Pig on LBGE - Plan of Attack

Hey fellow Eggers. This my first post but not my first Eggsperience.   I've been Egging for ~1.5 years, and have done quite a bit of things.  I’ve learned a lot from this Forum and others – Thanks!  I'm now attempting something I've long wanted to do and thought I'd submit my plan for feedback, and post as it continues.  Pics, video are planned!

 

First, the specs:  Large BGE and a pig we named Napoleon (Know the source?).  31 lbs dressed.  Got him fresh from a local butcher here in Austin, TX with a 2-day turnaround!  

I've searched and researched here & elsewhere and put together a basic plan.  I've got some steps, but also have some things I'm not 100% sure about and request input from those more experienced than I.  Here it is:

  1. Target is Sunday @ 3pm
  2. Seasonings for this first one will be relatively simple.  Kosher salt, whole and ground peppercorns, fresh minced garlic, Mexican oregano, smoked paprika, onion powder, and a possible assortment of fresh herbs for the cavity.
  3. Friday pm or early Sat AM will be 'butchery' phase.  I first want to do everything I can to get good, crunchy skin.  From the butchery perspective I'm looking at carefully (since he's so young) scoring the skin at ~1" parallel strips perpendicular to the spine and/or using a coarse planer to 'roughen' up the skin to create more surface area and get that wonderful bubbling at the end (see below).  THOUGHTS HERE?
  4. I'm going for the 'sitting'/'racing'/'lotus' position and have developed what seems to be a common technique.  I'm planning to cut out a few vertebrae toward the back, maybe a rib or two, and see how far & down I can get him.  
  5. I'll then perform all of the seasoning/rub steps inside & out.
  6. Then, with a combination of skewers and either string or wire I'll get him there and ready to be put on.
  7. Egg Setup:  Removing the fire ring, and adding plate-setter legs up.  Drip pans with some apple juice on the plate setter to catch the drippings and hopefully prevent any nasty smoke-ups (which I've heard are NOT nice).  Basting bulb to pull off if/as necessary.
  8. Once properly trussed, Napoleon will be placed on a large roasting rack.  
  9. LBGE brought and stabilized at 250 F. with lump and a mixture of cherry & apple chunks (not too much wood).
  10. Napoleon will go on between 6-7am on Sunday.  Based on weight, the planned cook time is ~8 hours @ 250.  Temp monitored/controlled (possibly) with DigiQ DX2, along with ThermoPen at multiple sites.
  11. Once I get near or at target temp (170?) I will crank the Egg up to 400 for about 20-ish mins to try and get the skin nice and crispy.  This will be a "I'll see when I get there." thing and may or may not happen.  THOUGHTS ON THIS?
  12. Remove Napoleon and rest for 30-40 mins.
  13. Enjoy!

So, what do you all think?  Comments/suggestions/cautions of all kinds are encouraged.

Hook ‘Em!

Some Grills Are More Equal Than Others!
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Comments

  • JohnInCarolinaJohnInCarolina Posts: 4,256
    Dynamite!  
    If the world is something you accept rather than interpret, then you're susceptible to the influence of charismatic idiots.

    In Durham, NC, where I'm kicking ass every day, even without a basket.  
  • TjcoleyTjcoley Posts: 3,500
    Can't wait for pictures of this. My only concern is cook time. 8 hours for 31 pounds at 250 seems short to me, but I've never done a whole pig on the Egg, so I am certainly no expert
    __________________________________________
    It's not a science, it's an art. And it's flawed.
    - Camp Hill, PA
  • td66snrftd66snrf Posts: 903
    I think you're way more ambitious than I am. Can't wait to see the pictures. Good luck and keep us posted.
    XLBGE, LBGE, MBGE, MINI, 2 Kubs, Fire Magic Gasser
  • GaBGEGaBGE Posts: 308
    Seems a little short on time but like Tjcoley said, I've never done while pig. I just cooked 2 Boston butts and they took about 20 hours at 250F. Good luck!
  • TexanEggerTexanEgger Posts: 33
    Y
    Tjcoley said:
    Can't wait for pictures of this. My only concern is cook time. 8 hours for 31 pounds at 250 seems short to me, but I've never done a whole pig on the Egg, so I am certainly no expert
    Yes, I know.  That's one of the things I dug and dug and dug about (and would welcome more input on)  Based on what I found, with relatively close weights to mine (+/- 15 lbs) some people did 20-hrs, others had it done in 4-ish, but there were all variables with temps saying they'd do it lower/longer, shorter/higher, or some combination thereof.  My plan is a somewhat basic formula that I derived from others' results.  We'll see.  It's not a fully-grown hog.  He's a small guy (pigwise) just out of the true 'suckling' phase, so I also factored that in.  We'll see!
    Some Grills Are More Equal Than Others!
  • gdenbygdenby Posts: 5,235
    This is beyond my experience. But  I also have the same concern as Tjcoley. 8 hours seems too short. I suppose part of the issue is how bunched up the pig will be. The only whole hogs I've seen cooked were spread out flat, and flipped a couple of times during the cook. My guess is that you should take the temp in the thickest part of the ham. If that reaches 180, which is sliceable, thinner portions like the belly will be pullable.

    I've not had great skin so far. But basting with the fat from the drip pan has helped. I separated the skin, and finished it by itself. Got crispy, but not puffy.

    Check this out. Its just for a shoulder, but points the way.
  • in!
    Battle Ground, WA
    Large BGE,  MiniMax  and a Vision Kub.
    Could you call on Lady Day, could you call on John Coltrane?
  • TjcoleyTjcoley Posts: 3,500
    I think 8 hours for a pig that is splayed open and laid out would be fine. It sounds like you are wrapping yours into a ball to fit on the Egg. That's my concern with time.
    __________________________________________
    It's not a science, it's an art. And it's flawed.
    - Camp Hill, PA
  • TexanEggerTexanEgger Posts: 33
    Hmmm... I was originally thinking about a 12 hour cook, and I understand about the 'ball' issue.  I thought about that myself, but also thought that the insides tend to cook quicker than the rest and it might be a nice match.  Also, check out Napoleon when I brought him home fresh from the butcher...  He's pretty thin in the middle, and it may not be such an issue.  Nothing is yet cast in stone, and input like this is why I posted the plan in the first place.  

    Some Grills Are More Equal Than Others!
  • TexanEggerTexanEgger Posts: 33
    edited May 2014
    I took some inspiration from one of the greatest cooks ever - Julia Child.  She demonstrates great technique and tips, as well as some classic hilarious pithy comments (esp about the French!) in this episode on YouTube where she does a suckling pig.  While she's not grilling per se, what she recommends easily translates to the BGE.  I may stream this along with my early video during my cookout.


    Some Grills Are More Equal Than Others!
  • SGHSGH Posts: 21,319
    @TexanEgger‌
    Sir I wish I could give you more advice and detail than I'm about to offer but that being said I'm going to give a few details on how we cook whole hog in hope of it helping if only a little. First let me say that I have never attempted it on the egg. Also I have never cooked one running or racing style. I have always cooked them splayed and laid out open. I usually cook them on either a offset direct flow that has been tuned or on a direct fired unit that has been baffled from inlet to outlet specifically for this said purpose. I always use a massive water pan "8 gallon" when cooking a carcass of any kind. To aid in crisping the skin I always spray the carcass from head to tail with PAM cooking spray. This works like a charm. Also I always shield the spinal region with some cheap cut of meat to help prevent over cooking of the loins. I don't know if this step will help or not with one being cooked racing style on the egg. Rather I inject the hog or not I at least inject the jowl meat along the jaw bone due to the extreme dwell time in the smoker. Just for a point of reference we usually cook hogs in the 145-185 pound arena at 225 degrees for around 22 - 27 hours give or take a little depending on actual weight and several other factors. I'm hoping that you are successful with the up coming cook and sorry I couldn't give actual detail of cooking one on the egg but as I stated earlier I have never attempted
    it. I would like to say I'm kind of concerned how the outside of the carcass may cook. Why? That is a huge mass of meat you are trying to fit in a very limited space and if you encroach to high in the dome scorching can become a issue. This is something you may want to watch for and take the necessary steps to prevent scorching if you see the skin tightening and turning a dark hue to early on in the cook. Maybe others who have attempted this on the egg can give you more details. Good luck my friend and sorry again that I couldn't be more helpful.

    Location- Just "this side" of Biloxi, Ms.

    Status- Standing by.

    Arsenal-Just a small wore out and broken down Weber kettle. No other means to cook at all.
    Virtus Junxit Mors Non Separabit
  • SearatSearat Posts: 79
    @TexanEgger
    Wish you luck brother. You are definitely playing in the big leagues with this plan. I've never do anything of this size so just some items that came to mind: pull the dome temp prob. You're going to need every cubit inch up there. Time sounds way short. Being it sounds like your cooking for guest and finish time is important, I'd probably start Saturday at noon so you have 24 hours for the pig in the lotus position plus time for margin. Have you thought about where you're going to put your monitor temp probes in the pig? This much mass could be challenging. Others on the forum might have some good ideas for placement to make sure the meat is cooked. One question comes to mind, what temp are you planning to call the pig finish?

    Wishing you a great result. You're leading the way in a Large BGE.
  • tjosbornetjosborne Posts: 444
    Animal farm
    middle of nowhere- G.I. NE
  • TexanEggerTexanEgger Posts: 33

    Great feedback so far.  You nailed the name origin tjosborne.  "Hatching Napoleon" is the cookout name.  My subtitle WRT the BGE is this:  "Some Grills Are More Equal Than Others."

    Some Grills Are More Equal Than Others!
  • TexanEggerTexanEgger Posts: 33

    So far, I may pull the start time back, but not sure just yet.  At the very least several hours.  I just wonder if a pig this small/young (whose body doesn't have the hard bones, etc) will truly suffer from 'the stall'?  I've read posts where it has and others where it hasn't.  That's one thing that has seemed so tough about planning this.

    As for the space issue, I had to order a replacement Tru-Tel with a 5" probe, which I will pull back with maybe a cork or something else so I have plenty of circulation space and a 'real' read on the dome temp.  Not totally sure where I want to put my probes, but was thinking about one inside the rear ham and front shoulder to try and get an 'inside' reading.  <SUGGESTIONS WELCOME>  

    I'll use the Thermapen for the outside readings.  Plus, removing the Fire Ring gives me several more inches of vertical space vis a vis the top of the dome, and I've already tested that out, carrying Napoleon out and getting a general idea of what kind of space I'll have to work with.

    I'm planning on waiting until ~170, and if appropriate I'll crank it to ~400 to see if I can get more crispy skin.  I'll have to see what temp it gets to when, of course.  Then, it's resting time.

    Based on all of the research that I've done, 24hrs seems way too long for Napoleon.  However, I could be proven completely wrong, and that's part of this process.  Whatever happens, I will share because I think a lot of us are interested in coming up with a solid process for this.  Keep the comments coming!  Thanks.

    Some Grills Are More Equal Than Others!
  • cazzycazzy Posts: 8,808
    Someone needs to get that pig a sammich! :P
    Just a hack that makes some $hitty BBQ....
  • TjcoleyTjcoley Posts: 3,500
    edited May 2014
    Can't wait to see how it turns out. For serving, I see 2 possibilities. 1- Present the finished pig to the guests, then take it into the kitchen, pull off all the meat, skin and whatever (pigs feet, cheek) and just serve the finished product. 2- Put the whole thing in the middlle of the table, give everyone a fork, and have at it. I vote for 2.
    __________________________________________
    It's not a science, it's an art. And it's flawed.
    - Camp Hill, PA
  • GriffinGriffin Posts: 7,434
    Best of luck to you. I can't offer any advice, but I'll be paying close attention to this thread. I need to find me a source where I can get a suckling pig. Sounds like it would be fun to cook one.

    Richardson, Texas

    Griffin's Grub or you can find me on Facebook

    The Supreme Potentate, Sovereign Commander and Sultan of Wings

     

  • gdenbygdenby Posts: 5,235
    "At the very least several hours.  I just wonder if a pig this small/young (whose body doesn't have the hard bones, etc) will truly suffer from 'the stall'?"

    All meats can stall. The stall has been shown to be primarily cooling thru evaporative loss. Any thick piece of meat will have to sweat off quite a lot of water. The lower the ambient temperature, the lower the stall starts. Up around 350F, there is no stall.

    I found this article. It indicates that small pigs are so tender and full of collagen that its almost impossible to not have great results. The only hard part is skin crisping.

    Again, good luck.
  • fishlessmanfishlessman Posts: 19,457
    edited May 2014
    i also think the time is short but then again it looks like your shooting for sliced pork. this 61 pounder looks like it came in at 18 hours but cant be sure, someone had done a full writeup on this cook but it seems to be deleted from the forum, maybe some one saved it. if this one was done in 18 im thinking 12 to 14 for yours.

    https://eggheadforum.com/discussion/527843/whole-hog-setup

  • TexanEggerTexanEgger Posts: 33
    Definite consensus is my time is too short, so I think I'll pull it back and shoot for 12 hours. I could also possibly go to 275 on the temp.  Either way, I'll have to watch this.

    Gdenby, I saw that article too, which got me wondering about the time and led me toward the 8-ish hour cook time.  Thanks.

    Tjcoley - serving will likely be your #2 scenario.  Our friends want to dig into this (literally) when it comes off.  I'm claiming the cheeks for my wife & myself!

    Some Grills Are More Equal Than Others!
  • CharlesmaneriCharlesmaneri Posts: 1,295
    I did a 10 to 12 lb whole pig in my LBGE and it took between 6 to 7 hours at 300 for the 1st 1/2 hour to sear then down to 225 the rest of the way I seasoned the inside with salt & pepper and the outside with bad byrons butt rubb I'm looking foward to watch this keep the photos coming good luck and enjoy the cook
    2 Large Eggs and a Mini 2 Pit Bulls and a Pork shoulder or butt nearby and 100% SICILIAN
    Long Island N.Y.
  • TexanEggerTexanEgger Posts: 33
    I did a 10 to 12 lb whole pig in my LBGE and it took between 6 to 7 hours at 300 for the 1st 1/2 hour to sear then down to 225 the rest of the way I seasoned the inside with salt & pepper and the outside with bad byrons butt rubb I'm looking foward to watch this keep the photos coming good luck and enjoy the cook
    How did the skin come out with a sear at the beginning?  I was thinking of blasting it at the end.
    Some Grills Are More Equal Than Others!
  • HelmetHelmet Posts: 162
    This post made me go from 6 to 12 :)
    Medium BGE, Weber Q120 (The traveller)
    "I claim artistic license, it has a good beat, I can dance to it"
  • CharlesmaneriCharlesmaneri Posts: 1,295
    edited May 2014
    TexanEgger    I documented the whole cook here do a search suckling pig and you will see the cook from start to plate .In answer to your question the skin was very nice and crispy 

    2 Large Eggs and a Mini 2 Pit Bulls and a Pork shoulder or butt nearby and 100% SICILIAN
    Long Island N.Y.
  • fishlessmanfishlessman Posts: 19,457
    ive read a few tips on crisping up pig skin in the past- google -crispy pig skin baking soda.  ive seen a wheel covered with needles that pricks the skin, then you cover with baking soda over night, scrape it off in the morning and wash it with vinegar to neutralize the soda. supposed to make it fluff up like cracklings, i think the article i read was on pork belly
  • Egglegal_AlienEgglegal_Alien Posts: 113
    edited May 2014
    cazzy said:
    Someone needs to get that pig a sammich! :P
    No, no... Someone needs to get ME a piece of that pig in a sammish!  :D
    XL BGE + Large BGE @ Monterrey, Mexico
  • lousubcaplousubcap Posts: 10,005

    The following pig cook was done on the BGE earlier this year.  I did not read the entire post but it may have some insights:

    http://eggheadforum.com/discussion/1161440/super-bowl-whole-pig Gonna be quite the ride!

    Louisville;  L & S BGEs 
    Pit Barrel Cooker
    ABC- 
  • TexanEggerTexanEgger Posts: 33
    fishlessman I saw the 'crispy skin through chemistry' article, and it was with belly.  It's intriguing but a little too much for me to take on along with all the other unknowns I have.  I may get a belly myself and try it before branching out.  Looking forward to beginning the prep tomorrow.

    lousubcap - I also found the Super Bowl thread and it was helpful.  Loved the Peyton Peppercorns in the head.  Maybe I'll do some in 'USA' for Memorial day.
    Some Grills Are More Equal Than Others!
  • TexanEggerTexanEgger Posts: 33
    Here she is.  Freshly washed, and ready to be cut for her yoga cooking position.


    Some Grills Are More Equal Than Others!
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