WHOLE HOG Challenge
Goin’ Hog-Wild in 2019 Whole Hog Smoking
A lot of people take a look at their grill or smoker and wonder if it’s big enough to take on a whole hog. The answer is yes! This is where having a reliable butcher comes in handy. A good butcher can help you determine the right size of pig or hog for your smoker. You tell them how much space you have to work with, and they’ll tell you what size of pig you need. Call this another reason why it’s good to become friends with your butcher! You can get small pigs around 15–20 pounds, which will do for a smaller cooking space. Your standard pig will be anywhere between 20–90 pounds. Anything over 90 pounds is going to be a hog and will need quite a bit of space. On top of figuring out the size of your pig, you can also ask your butcher to butterfly the animal. They’ll open it up down the center, which can make it easier to get a more even cook. Or you can go with the whole pig. It’s up to you! I tend to buy the whole pig and butterfly it myself, but it’s something I’m used to doing. I learned a lot about butchering on the farm and while working in a packing house when I was younger. The packing house would hire FFA kids with high grades to work there for the summer. I was picked a few times and got a lot of hands-on experience I’m still using today. If I’m working with a 65-pounder, I’ll need a full day for the prep work and the smoking. That’s the thing about smoking a whole pig — you’re going to want to set aside 10 hours with about seven of them just for smoking. When it comes to the prep work, unless you’re doing it outdoors in a near-freezing-cold climate or a industrial refrigerator, you’re going to want to work quickly here to avoid spoilage and minimize contamination of your meat while it’s exposed. To butterfly your hog, you’ll need to dislocate the hips so you can tuck them up underneath the pig while it’s smoking. You can also ask your butcher to do this for you. Butterflying your hog will flatten it and spread it out. This is good because it will allow your hog to cook faster, avoiding spoilage and resulting in a more even cook. However, when butterflied, your hog will
also take up more surface area in your cooker, so be sure to take this into account when purchasing your whole hog or pig. If you need help to determine if a pig or hog will fit in your cooker, again, just ask your butcher. They should be able to give you a good approximation of how much cooking space is required to fit your butterflied hog. When I’m prepping my pig, I often remove the ribs from the belly to cook them separately. You can cut them out easily after the pig’s been butterflied. This also allows me to remove the silver skin from the ribs, allowing the spice to penetrate meat inside the cavity of your hog. Once you have your pig laid out nice and flat skin-side up, you can salt it. There’s no reason to season the skin side with anything more than salt. The skin isn’t going to absorb those flavors, so it’s best to take a simple approach. Just wet the skin with a little water, and put down a heavy sprinkle of salt. The salt helps draw out moisture, allowing the skin to crisp up nicely as it cooks. After you have the salt down, let it rest for about 15 minutes to ensure the salt is caked on nicely. Then, flip it over and season the meat inside the cavity with your favorite seasonings or the rub I include in my recipe. Here’s where it can be a little tricky. You want to cage the pig. Get some chicken wire — enough to wrap around the pig. With the wire laid out, move the pig onto the wire, then wrap it around the pig and lace the two edges together. This will keep everything in place as you cook it and when you take it out of the cooker. You don’t want to reach for a leg only to pull it right off! As you cage the pig, you may need an extra hand. You will also want someone to help you move the pig to the smoker if you have a larger animal. I start my whole-hog cook skin-side up; this means the opened cavity is facing down. I do this because I want to quickly heat the bones of the hog, which will heat the meat faster than if you start it skin-side down. Plus, the skin acts as a shell to hold in the heat. This is important: If you live in a warmer climate and you’re cooking a larger hog, then be sure to get your internal, meat temperature up quickly. If it takes too long to come up, your hog could spoil before it’s cooked.
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... Cover article continued I normally keep my hog skin-side up for 3–4 hours before turning it to skin-side down. Once you have it skin-side down, get your mop sauce ready to go, and be prepared to cover it with foil. Mop sauce helps keep the meat moist and flavorful. Just like the seasoning, you only want to mop the meat, not the skin. After this initial mop, immediately after flipping the hog, I cover the top of the pig with foil to help hold the moisture in the cavity. Just lay the foil over your chicken-wire cage and lightly tuck the ends under the bottom of the cage on all sides. This foil method will help keep the moisture in the cavity. As the moisture from the hog evaporates, it will build up on the foil and then drop back down into your cavity and onto your meat. From there, you’ll want to remove the foil to mop every 1 1/2 hours until your internal temps are met in the hams and shoulders.
As the skin continues to cook and harden while skin-side down, it will help keep that moisture in, and you’ll notice juices pooling in the cavity of the pig. That’s pure flavor. The total cook time will vary depending on the size of the pig. With a butterflied 65-pounder, I’d expect it to stay in the smoker for about 6–7 hours. As for the temperature of the smoker, you’ll want it set at about 225 degrees Fahrenheit for the first half, then 285 F to finish it out. You’ll know it’s getting close to done when you tap the skin with a spoon and hear a hollow sound. Of course, don’t forget to have a high-quality meat thermometer handy. You’re looking for an internal temp of 165 F. Find a thick piece of ham in the rear, and stick your thermometer there. Be sure to avoid contacting any bone, which can throw your temperature reading off. Once your pig hits 165 F, you can lower the temp of your cooker to finish off with a smoke. Now, when it comes to wood for smoking, I tend to go with oak and apple or oak and peach, but you can go with hickory. I know they do mesquite wood in Texas. You want something that’s a good, hot- burning wood that’ll burn long, as well. Maple, for instance, tends to burn hot and fast, so you can go with maple, but you’re going to go through a lot of it. That’s why I use oak, because it’s a hot-burning wood that burns long. What I like to do is burn the oak down to coals in a separate firebox outside of my hog smoker, and then I scoop those coals into trays in my smoker. I’ll put a few sticks of apple on top of those coals — just enough to avoid a flare-up. By using oak coals, you get rid of the oaky flavor that people tend to find bitter while keeping the good heat and flavor that comes with burning oak. You also want to pay special attention to where you position your coals or wood. You want more fuel under the hindquarters than under the front of the pig. For example, I might start out with 5 gallons of oak coals near the hindquarters end of the hog and 2 1/2 gallons under the front. You can put some coals in the middle, but be careful, as you can easily dry out the middle where the meat is the thinnest — especially if you butterflied your pig and removed the ribs. If you’re cooking on an offset smoker, then be sure to place the
rear-end of your hog toward your firebox. Again, having your mop sauce handy at all times can help balance things out.
After your pig is done and out of the smoker, let it set for about 20–30 minutes. You want the meat hot but not too hot! Get in there with your hands, and pull the tender meat way from the bones. The skin should pull away, too, and act like a bowl as you pull the meat way. Then, add more mop sauce or your favorite barbecue sauce and enjoy — you earned it! Dan ’ s Mop Sauce
• • • • • • • • • •
1 gallon white distilled vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup hot sauce (Louisiana hot sauce)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cupWorcestershire sauce 5 tablespoons crushed red pepper
3 tablespoons black pepper 2 tablespoons celery seeds 3 tablespoons minced garlic
1 cup water
Combine, heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Let cool then apply to meat. Dan ’ s Whole Hog Rub
• • • • • • • •
1/4 cup kosher salt 1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup paprika
1/4 cup onion powder 1/4 cup chili powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin 2 tablespoons dried basil 2 tablespoons parsley flakes
12 Tips for Easy Winter Smoking Smoking meat during the winter months can be a challenge for a lot of people, both newbies and old-timers alike. With low temperatures, changing weather conditions, wind, and precipitation, it can really wear on you — not to mention make it hard to maintain good heat and smoke. • Bring your meat up to room temperature before taking it to the heat. Frozen or freshly refrigerated meat will take much longer to thaw and start cooking in cold temperatures. •
While you want to protect your grill or smoker from the elements, never use it in an enclosed space, such as a shed or garage, because the CO2 from your exhaust vent can be toxic to people and animals. You need to choose a spot to cook with good ventilation!
Depending on what type of grill or smoker you have, those with thinner walls will let heat escape at a quicker rate. Maintaining these kinds of grills and smokers can be a huge chore. But there are steps you can take to make winter smoking easier than ever before. • You might be committed to one spot in the warmer months, but that doesn’t mean you need to stay there in the winter. Find a spot out of the wind that has a roof or canopy, or put up a makeshift canopy, if possible. • Invest in a welder’s blanket, if you don’t already have one. These are great to help insulate grills and smokers made with a thinner metal to keep that heat in. Close the lid, and wrap the blanket over the top. • If you need a windbreak, you can make one with four, large coffee cans filled with concrete, each with 4-foot PVC poles set in the center. Stretch tarp around the poles to create a little enclosure. This will allow you to set up a windbreak wherever you need it. You can also use a tarp as an overhead canopy to keep rain or snow off your smoker. • If you live in a higher elevation, a small fan aimed at your intake damper, pushing air directly into your heat source, will improve air flow into the smoker. This burst of oxygen will allow your wood and charcoal to burn hotter, allowing you to hold the temperatures you need for your cooks. • Give yourself more time to cook and let your cooker do its job. Because you’re dealing with the winter weather elements — low temperatures, rain, snow, and wind, etc — you are more likely to run into heat-management issues, which will leave you needing more time to complete your cooks. Be sure to allow for some extra time on each cook, 30–60 minutes, to account for these potential issues. Patience is very much a virtue when cooking outdoors in the winter! • Make sure you dress for the occasion. If you know you’re going to be outdoors for a while watching your grill or smoker, you need to protect yourself as much as you want to protect your smoker.
Always have your smoker at your desired
cooking temperature and ready to go beforehand. This leads back to the earlier tip of allowing yourself additional time to prepare and complete your cook. • When you peek inside your grill or smoker, you’re letting heat out! You may want to mop, baste, or spritz your meat less frequently in the winter because of the loss of heat that comes with opening your cooker. Again, patience goes a long way. Keep an eye on your meats and be sure to check on them, but try to restrict yourself from opening your cooker too often. • Once you are done grilling or smoking, clean up and store your smoker so it’s ready to rock-and-roll the next time you need it — rather than cleaning up when you need it. This will help preserve your cooker to last for years to come. Be kind to your future self! notebook or some sort of journal to log times, temperatures, weather, seasonings, and woods, etc. This will allow you to refer to your past cooks, both good and bad, so you can better plan for future cooks! Listen to your weather forecast regularly to see what Mother Nature is fixing to throw at you! • And, finally, always log your cooks! Use a composition
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Are You Ready to Go Hog-Wild?
12 Tips for EasyWinter Smoking
Grill Giveaway and Live Session Dates
“Ask a PRO” LIVE Sessions • LIVE“Ask a PRO”Session #1 TOPIC:Whole HogQ&A Sunday 1/6/19, 5 p.m. Central • LIVE“Ask a PRO”Session #2 TOPIC:Winter SmokingTips Sunday 1/20/ 19, 5 p.m. Central Go to gsa.life/2019january for instructions on how to access these LIVE sessions.
WHOLE HOG Challenge
Are you ready to put your grilling and smoking skills to the test? Take theWhole Hog Challenge and you could WIN up to $500 in grilling and meat-smoking prizes! Wanna knowmore? Head over to gsa.life/2019january for all the details on how to enter. Good luck, and we look forward to seeing what you cook up!
Win a FREE Char-Broil Offset Smoker. Details at gsa.life/2019january .
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