Tips for spit roasting whole animals

Discussion in 'Q&A With Steven Raichlen' started by nicko, May 27, 2011.

  1. nicko

    nicko Founder of Cheftalk.com Staff Member

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    Saw your episode when you spit roasted a whole pig for your tv crew. Great great episode! I would love to trade roasting tips with you.
    • Cault Fat - The last lamb I roasted I tried a technique I had read about in which we wrapped the lamb with caul fat. I did not plan it out very well and we tried toothpicks but eventually went with just tied string around the fat and it worked just find. After a while the fat melted into the meat and stuck on its own. The flavor of the meat and skin was incredible.
    • Zip Ties not string or wire - I also learned a trick from the guy I bought my spit from to use heavy duty zip ties to tie the legs to the spit. Since no one ever eats that area they work great. The plastic is so think it does not even melt. This cuts the prep down way down.
    • Brining? - One technique I throw around in my mind from time to time but have never tried is brining a whole pig as you would with pork chops. I think what stops me dead in my tracks every time is just that the skin would become so moist. While you may end up with tender meat you would lose out on the crispy skin. I am curious if you have ever tried this technique.
    • Coleman Air Mattress pump - A while back I saw my neighbor using a hair dryer to fan his coals to a hotter fan. I remembered I had a coleman air pump for an air mattress and it works great. I keep it own hand and it is battery powered. One flick of the switch and I can get the coals nice and hot.
    Lastly I have some neighbors from Serbia who regularly spit roast a pig or lamb for friends and family. They actually prefer to roast the animal the day before and then server it the following day. I have not tried it but they say the flavor is better.

    Do you stuff the belly? I am trying to remember from the episode you did the pig but I don't recall that you did. I have read about people stuffing it with rice and vegetables but it does increase the cooking time.

    Love to hear some of your tips that you have learned through the years.
     
  2. steven raichlen

    steven raichlen

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    Nicko, those are great tips! I especially like the idea of using caul fat on the outside of the animal. For holding it on, my assistant, Nancy,  suggested

    using either long T- or U-shaped pins that you can buy at craft stores. Or a staple gun with 5/8-inch staples. (Of course, you'd have to keep track of where they were and how many you'd used so you could account for them before serving time.)

    Would never have thought of using zip ties to secure the legs to the spit. It is always a challenge to secure the animal, and to make sure the weight is well-balanced. Always takes more time and energy, the prep work, than you think it will.

    I have never brined a whole pig. Not only would it take a container as large as a bathtub, but like you, I would be afraid of losing that crackling crisp skin I prize so much. Will never forget a pig roast I attended in Greece: The skin was so crisp the pit master shattered it by hitting it with the edge of a plate. (Since you are Greek, you can imagine the plate ended up in shards at the height of the evening, anyway, after too many "opas" and glasses of ouzo.)  Rather than brining, I would either put a salty rub on the pig (to be rinsed off before cooking) overnight, or I would inject it with a briny solution several hours before barbecuing. That way, you wouldn't compromise the skin.

    Using the air pump on the coals is a brilliant idea, too--much better than my method, which is to fan the coals with a copy of the New York Times.
     
    jb bannister likes this.
  3. pete

    pete Moderator Staff Member

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    Still better than my method of blowing on it until I almost pass out! /img/vbsmilies/smilies/smile.gif
     
  4. nicko

    nicko Founder of Cheftalk.com Staff Member

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    This is what I use. It is rechargeable and last a long time on one charge.

    [​IMG]

    I usually put the one attachment on  (not the pointy one) so I have a more focused flame. You can get it at amazon.

     
  5. amorphesis

    amorphesis

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    how do you get crispy skin on a whole spit roasted pig? 
     
  6. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

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    It's common to stuff lambs in certain parts of Greece with rice I believe.  When we do our spit roasted lamb I stuff the belly with lemons, garlic, and herbs and then sew it up.  Sometimes the belly explodes when the lamb is almost done and people rush up to grab the garlic that's fallen out and eat it with bread.  It's pretty funny. 
     
  7. steven raichlen

    steven raichlen

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    Great story. Love it!