The last lecture in Texas Barbecue each year is whole pig cooking at the Savell home. This is always one of the highlights of the semester, and the students enjoy seeing the process of cooking a whole pig in a cinder-block pit.
We obtained a smaller pig than our usual ones we have cooked in the past. This pig weighed about 85 pounds and was much easier to handle and cook compared to the usual 150- to 200-pound pigs we usually get to cook. We had planned to cook this pig on November 22nd, but we had heavy rains and cold conditions leading up to that date so we postponed the cooking until December 2nd. We believe one side benefit of this delay was more complete brining. We had brined the pig on November 21st anticipating that we would cook it on the next day. Because we held the pig until December 2nd before cooking, the meat seemed to have more of a brined flavor than those we usually brine overnight. We need to consider whether we need a longer brining time than we have normally used in the past.
Ray Riley and I built the fire in one of the pans in the cinder-block pit around 6 am using split oak logs. With the fire built and ready to go, we put the pig on around 7 am. We monitored the temperatures of the ham and shoulder using an iGrill connected to an iPad. Target temperatures were 190°F in the ham and shoulder.
The pit temperature ranged from 250 to 300°F for most of the day. Very few logs had to be added during the day, but we had great weather to cook in (mid 70s). The pig was ready around 3:30 pm ahead of the 4 pm class.
We discussed the use of the cinder-block pit with the students and showed them how everything was laid out inside it—the pig, the fire, and the pans. We removed the pig from the pit and let it rest for about 15 minutes before we started pulling pork for them to eat. As mentioned before, the meat was outstanding, and the students enjoyed the presentation and the pork.