How to remove the hair from a pig to roast

Written by hannah wahlig
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How to remove the hair from a pig to roast
Pigs are covered in coarse hair. (pig image by Leonid Nyshko from

Pig roasts are cultural traditions in the Philippines and Cuba, but families across the globe celebrate birthdays, holidays or weddings with whole-roasted pig. A roasted pig is a dramatic edible centrepiece to an outdoor party, and the success of the meal depends on adequate preparation and cooking. One of the most prized parts of a roasted pig is crispy, caramelised pig skin. To achieve the desirable crisp skin, the chef must first effectively remove the stiff hair that coats the hog. After the hog has been humanely slaughtered, remove the hair prior to roasting.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • 55-gallon drum
  • 2 sleepers, or 2 pieces 8-1/2-foot-long lumber, 7 inches thick by 9 inches wide
  • 2 heavy chains, each 15 feet long
  • Seasoned firewood
  • Lighter or matches
  • Instant read thermometer
  • 4 large kettles
  • 30- by 72-inch folding worktable
  • 36- by 78-inch piece plastic sheeting
  • Long-handled stiff bristle brush
  • 2 pairs heat-resistant work gloves
  • Hand-held blow torch with flame-spreader attachment
  • Bell scraper
  • Copper wool

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  1. 1

    Prepare your scalding station in an outdoor area. Set up the folding table on a flat surface and cover the table with clean plastic sheeting. Lay the two chains across the width of the table approximately two feet apart. Adjust the chains so that they hang one foot over the edge on one side.

  2. 2

    Measure to the location of your fire pit. Lay out the long end of the chains along the ground behind the table. The fire pit should be placed approximately one-third of the way in from the end of the chain between the table and the end of the chains.

  3. 3

    Arrange your fire pit. Spread the chains to create a space for the fire pit. Lay several large, flat stones in a circle or use an iron fire ring. Fill the centre of the ring with several pieces of seasoning firewood. Lay the two sleepers across the top of the fire ring perpendicular to the chain position.

  4. 4

    Light the fire with a lighter or matches and allow it to burn for an hour. Turn the fire with a poker to reveal the hot coals.

  5. 5

    Place the 55-gallon drum on top of the sleepers over the fire pit. Fill the drum two-thirds of the way with clean water; use hot or warm water if possible. Place the thermometer into the water.

  6. 6

    Place several filled kettles on a nearby stove to boil. The water will serve as replacement water to raise the temperature of the scalding drum water if the temperature drops during scalding.

  7. 7

    Use several strong people to place the drained pig carcase on the worktable atop the chains. Adjust the chains beneath the carcase so that the pig is evenly centred on the chains and will not roll off the chains when the carcase is lifted.

  8. 8

    Monitor the temperature of the water until the thermometer reads 68.3 degrees Celsius. Scalding requires temperatures between 65.5 and 71.1 degrees C. When the temperature reaches 155, prepare the pig for scalding.

  9. 9

    Lift the ends of the chain over the heated drum. Assign two strong people to hold the ends of the chains stationary as the pig is rolled into the drum.

  10. 10

    Roll the pig into the scalding drum. Assign two people to hold the short ends of the chain and lift the chains in unison to roll the pig toward the drum. An additional person may need to slightly turn the pig carcase to fit into the drum. Lower the pig into the drum so that it is completely submerged.

  11. 11

    Monitor the temperature of the water during the five-minute scald. Add heated kettle water if necessary. Do not exceed 71.1 degrees C, as excess heat will begin to cook the pig. Use a long-handled stiff bristle brush to loosen the hairs while the pig is submerged.

  12. 12

    Remove the pig after five minutes of scalding. Return the pig to the working table using a reverse of the rolling chain method outlined in Step 10. Bring the long end of the chain back over to the work table and assign two strong people to secure them. Roll the pig out of the pot by assigning two people wearing heat-resistant gloves to lift the short ends of the chains. Continue lifting the chain as you walk so that the carcase remains suspended on the chains until it reaches the work table.

  13. 13

    Scrape against the direction of the hair with a bell scraper to remove the hair. Roll the carcase over to remove hair on all sides. Use a piece of copper wool to remove stubborn hairs.

  14. 14

    Go over the carcase with a blow torch held several inches away from the skin of the pig. Move the flame quickly to avoid blistering the skin. Scrape away the burnt hair.

Tips and warnings

  • Pigs can also be moved using a pulley system and a hay hook, but you must have a strong enough tree branch or support system to hang to pig.
  • Large hogs may require drums larger than 55 gallons.
  • Some home hot water heaters can produce tap water that is 68.3 degrees C. If your tap is able to produce such high temperatures, you do not need a fire pit, but prepare additional kettles to keep the temperature high during scalding.
  • Pigs can also be shaved with a sharp razor and hot water, but the process is imprecise and time-consuming.
  • Pigs are heavy and difficult to move. Anyone with muscular or bone problems should not attempt to move the pig.
  • Monitor an open fire at all times.
  • Scalding water may spill over the edge of the drum when the pig is dipped into the water. Stand clear to avoid burns.
  • If you are uncomfortable scalding the pig, ask the butcher to remove the hair for you prior to roasting.

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