Party in a parking lot
A pig, a spit, lots of patience, a few side dishes. You game?
The smell of pork slow-cooking over an outdoor fire will entice friends, neighbors, and most everyone else within a mile radius. Where there is a pig roast, there is a party. With our second annual pig roast party under our belts, we are just inching out of the amateur category. The learning curve was not even that steep.
Collaborative pig roasts are a fine idea. For a party behind our urban apartment building, we bought the pig, and our neighbors rented an electric rotisserie spit. They also brought a couple of kegs of their own home-brewed beer. One friend brought a shade tent, and others some lawn games. OK, in our case they were parking lot games. The point is, whether you have a sprawling manicured backyard, or a postage stamp of concrete, you can make a pig roast happen, and have a great time doing it. (Check your local fire regulations.)
Roasting a whole pig is not hard, but it’s not cheap, and it takes planning. You need to order the beast (it will cost you anywhere from $99 for a small, conventionally raised hog, to $300 for a heritage breed). Plus, you need side dishes: big salads, a pot of beans, slaws, condiments. And of course, this being New England in the summer, you also need a rain date.
Cooking such a large cut over hot coals is not an exact science, and you have to do the math in advance so you know when to start cooking. We recommend a pig under 40 pounds for the most tender, flavorful meat. You should plan on about 1 pound of whole pig weight per person (a 40-pound pig serves 40 guests). Roasting time is about 1 hour and 15 minutes of cooking time per 10 pounds of meat, but it may take you a bit longer (or shorter) depending on the heat of the coals. (That 40-pounder will take about 5 hours.)
The roasting pig guide on Seriouseats
.com is especially helpful; you’ll see a slideshow and instructions on how to fasten the pig to the spit — not a job for the faint of heart.
Our spit came from Taylor Rental (other companies also have them) and cost about $150. If you aren’t up for dragging your kitchen furniture outdoors, like we did (we moved our table and chairs downstairs), you may also want to rent something to sit on.
Add to your list plenty of charcoal, and enough cold drinks to last the afternoon. We also put out a basket with rolls of paper towels, hand sanitizer, and sunblock. Citronella candles or tiki torches to keep away pesky flies are also a good idea.
As for the other cooking, don’t go crazy. Make a couple of simple sides, like baked beans and a good slaw. Add small bakery buns, and good store-bought barbecue sauce for pulled pork sliders. Use disposable plates, cups, and flatware; during an afternoon with a keg of beer, best to keep your china indoors.
For dessert, slice watermelon and set out a “s’moresgasbord,” an assortment of s’mores ingredients for people to assemble over the last of the coals.
This is not a perfectly orchestrated dinner, it’s a pig party. The first year we did it, we built the coals too high, too soon, and sort of scorched the belly. Extra-crispy bacon anyone?
This year we were patient, we went low and slow, but when we cut into the pig many hours later, the skin was still not quite as crackling crisp as we would have liked, and we had to throw a few pieces back on the fire. Next time, we’ll build up the flame for the last half hour.
But none of our friends and neighbors were thinking about that as they wolfed down juicy pork sliders and gulped cold beer. Crispier skin will come. Third time’s the charm.
Catherine Smart can be reached at cathj