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Cooking a whole pig - The Cowgirl Way :-)

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
Was a friends 65th birthday party last weekend, she decided to have a big party on a friends property and her son and I decided we'd cook a whole pig.

I've been wanting to build one of cowgirl's cinderblock ovens for a while so it seemed a natural progression.
I spent a week or two bugging jeanie about every tiny detail till I was confident I knew what I was doing.
And jeanie if you ever make it to england or I ever make it to oklahoma - the drinks are very definitely on me !

So here we go:-

The property was nestled in the warwickshire countryside, the sort of place with narrow winding lanes where you occasionally meet flocks of sheep:

We'd decided to build the pit from breeze blocks - mainly because Ian knew where we could borrow some for free :-)

The rest of the oven was also free. I scrounged the steel grills and the corrugated iron sheeting was already on the property :-)
Set up my awning over the cooking area, laid out foil for the base and built the first two layers. 4 blocks long by two wide.

After testing the grills we came to the conclusion that it just wouldn't hold the pig. So I built a support structure in the centre that also held the water/drip pan. After that it was stable as anything.
For heat source we were using the foil trays from two large disposable bbq grills. Modified jeanies design slightly so that there was a gap at either end between the pit wall and the grill - reloading with charcoal was a simple matter of sliding the roof across tipping charcoal in and stirring it up a bit. Worked like a charm.
Took about 30 mins to build the pit and then put a temp probe in the centre and fired it up.
Hit 215 after 40 mins and held steady - result !

The pig was bigger than we'd asked for and probably weighed in at around 100lbs.
It was wrapped in a thick plastic bag and packed round with bags of ice overnight.

We topped the charcoal up at about 00:30 and retired to bed.
We were camping in the big marquee near the oven and aimed to get up about 04:30.

Now when two blokes share a tent it's a race to see who falls asleep first and gets to keep the other awake with their snoring - I lost lol
Although ian swears blind I kept him awake with my snoring I swear I never fell asleep at all lol

04:30 and up and at 'em.

Coals were still sufficiently lit that I just had to top with fresh charcoal and mix in the glowing coals - back up to temp in no time.

Next to the pig.
Hadn't stayed as cool as I would have liked but wasn't in any danger.
However once unwrapped it became obvious that there was just no way the two of us could carry it easily (just no hand grips) or turn it over at half time without demolishing the oven. So we decided to chop it in half - good job ian bought the axe :-)
Result - easy to handle and better for turning and cooking.

Got the halves on the grill, probes in ham and shoulder, apple juice in the drip tray, and covered up.

After 5 1/2 hours we turned it over and switched end to end as the constant wind on the left hand side was having an obvious effect on temp at the end.

This worked perfectly as both halves hit 190 at the same time.
I added beech chips every now and then to give a little smoke.
Pulled the first half after 10 1/2 hours.
The shoulder and ham just fell apart, while the ribs and loin were firmer and even slightly pink. Cooked but pink.
I think the central mass of the support blocks stopped the heat from being totally even. I'll modify it for next time.

Party went great and I left the second half on for another six hours at slightly lower temp.
00:30 we were too knackered to do anything but cut it in half and foil and stick in the fridge.

After some welcome sleep in a local hotel and much packing and tidying up of party stuff. Went home with one of the pig 1/4s.

The meat on this was cooked to perfection, tender as anything and I got 11 1/2 pounds of meat from it. Vacced into 1lb packs and in the freezer.

Pretty sure that when this stuff is heated up it's just going to fall apart into great pulled pork.

Due to the total chaos of 'organisation' of the rest of the party, didn't get round to making any finishing sauces. And the pork went on the food table as it came out of the oven. People liked it and I was too tired by this time to care lol

So I'm looking forward to seeing what I can do with the stuff in the fridge.

Learnt an awful lot, the main points can probably be thus summarised:-

1) Cooking a whole pig is a very inefficient way of cooking pork. The sheer amount of bone, fat, skin and sinew you throw away is scary. I figure we probably got 40-50 pounds of actual meat from the pig. So in future I'll probably just use large joints.
2) Make sure there is plenty of air flow through the middle of the oven.
3) don't overestimate amount of charcoal needed. We ran the oven for 30 hours and used 4 15lb bags of charcoal (we actually had 12 lol)

All in all it was a great experience and we were both impressed at how easy it was and how efficient the breeze block oven was :-)
Definitely use the oven design again, but probably not with a whole pig :-)
post #2 of 18
Hey, none of your Q-View is showing up... Im really sad about this...
post #3 of 18
Great writeup on what you did there, curious aardvark. For some reason, your qview isn't showing up. All I'm getting are x's.
post #4 of 18
workin' fine for me!
post #5 of 18
Same here.icon_neutral.gif
post #6 of 18
I'm sorry to say the Q-view doesn't work for me either :(
It maybe your host site.
post #7 of 18

Would Love To See The Pics.

Loved your editorial of the proccess. Unfortunately, like others, I was unable to enjoy the qview.
post #8 of 18
Great write up but no qview.
post #9 of 18
Thread Starter 
weird, i see all the pics.
Oh well it was an experiment.

Just out of curiosity are those who can't see the pics using firefox or a different browser ?
They show up fine on firefox.
post #10 of 18
It's the X's here too.
post #11 of 18
Great job! Pics are fine for me. ?? Points to ya for the effort.
post #12 of 18
x's for me. that upsets me. looked like a great post!
post #13 of 18
Internet Explorer 8.0
post #14 of 18
I've got red X's in IE8 and no pics in Firefox either. Both up to date. Maybe resolution issue?
post #15 of 18
Thread Starter 
they're all 640x480 or less.
If no one could see them here it'd make sense. but some can, some can't - no idea.
oh well back to usual way of posting pics next time :-)
They show up even when I'm editing for me.
post #16 of 18
Shoot, I didn't read anything past this line... lol

Sounds great to me Alex!! Thanks!!

Glad to hear the cook was a success...they DO get easier, the more pigs you cook the easier they get. If you foil the rib section next time, they will stay moist. Injecting and marinading overnight is a plus too. PDT_Armataz_01_34.gif

I'd like to make it over to your next cookout. biggrin.gif
post #17 of 18

Figured out the picture issue

I'm not registered with the site that is hosting them - smoked-meat.com... Once I registered, and refreshed the thread, boom, there's the pix.

So the people that can see the pix are likely already members of the aforementioned site.

Thanks for sharing, love the story and the pix make it even better!
post #18 of 18
I'm registered and I can't see them. I've used both Google Chrome and Windows Internet Explorer and nothin'. Just little red "X's"
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