How Do I Roast a Suckling Pig on an Outdoor Spit?

cochinillo image by Pablo Armelles from

Nothing says "feast" like a whole roast pig to mark a special occasion. While a whole hog weighs 45.4kg. or more and requires special equipment and long cooking, a suckling pig can be handled by a moderately sturdy rotisserie on a large barbecue or backyard fire pit, and can be cooked in two to three hours. The natural tenderness and juiciness of a suckling pig will provide a meal your guests will remember for a long time.

Purchase a suckling pig from a butcher, local farmer or Internet vendor (see Resources). Cuban or other speciality meat markets may be able to order one for you. If possible, have the pig prepared in advance by cleaning it and removing the hair from the skin.

Slide the spit through the mouth of the pig to the rear, staying close to the backbone. Attach the spit fork tightly to the rear of the pig. Using a trussing needle and kitchen twine, pierce through the back of the pig and thread the twine around the spit and back through the skin on the other side of the backbone. Tie the twine tightly to securely attach the backbone to the spit. Repeat this along the back of the pig about every 6 inches. Attach the legs securely to the spit with twine.

Turn the pig over to reveal the cavity. Add any seasonings, garlic, rosemary sprigs or other ingredients to the cavity. Roast suckling pig has a wonderful flavour on its own; you may wish to simply salt and pepper the meat and add nothing else. Using the trussing needle and twine, sew the cavity of the pig closed.

Build a fire with charcoal or wood in your fire pit or barbecue. Arrange the fire so that the coals will provide indirect heat, off to one side of the rotisserie. On a gas grill, this can be done by lighting only one burner, leaving the burner directly below the spit unlit. Adjust the fire so that it provides a fairly low temperature; 107 to 121 degrees C is ideal.

Place the pig on the rotisserie and start the motor. Basting is optional, as a pig contains enough fat to stay moist without basting. Cooking time will depend on the size of your pig and the heat of the fire. A good rule of thumb would be 1 hour for every 4.54kg. Use an instant-read thermometer; the pig is done when the internal temperature reaches 62.8 degrees C.

Allow the pig to rest for 30 minutes before carving. Cut the twine and remove the spit. Peel off the skin, carve the meat and serve.

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