On game day it helps to have your team in place to help you pull all of this off. Have at least one extra set of hands to help you lift and carry, pay attention to your fire, and help you with any other things you may need. Trust me you will need them.
Once your pig is cooking avoid constantly checking on it, and lifting the cover. You will loose heat and just extend cooking time. As long as you can maintain a constant, even temperature there is no need to check on it.
When cooking a butterflied pig the general train of thought is to flip it at some point to cook it evenly on both sides. However, I took a little different approach. I reasoned that if I were to cook a whole, non butterflied, pig that was not on a rotisserie, it would sit on the grill, and indirect heat would eventually cook it all the way through. I wouldn’t have to flip or turn it. Why couldn’t I do the same with a butterflied pig? It will cook faster, but this is what I wanted. Additionally, I wouldn’t have to build any wire cages to sandwich the pig between to flip it. I was going to let indirect heat do its job. And it did to perfection. I didn’t touch the pig for 6 hours and, in my opinion, it turned out great. Here is the caveat to doing it this way. There is the potential for your loin section to cook faster. If you find that your loins are reaching 185 degrees faster than your hams and shoulders you can wrap the middle section of your pig in foil to slow this down.
I previously mentioned that you are going to want to reach a meat temperature of 185 degrees before pulling the pig off the grill. The reason this temperature is crucial is because you want your meat to pull. The collagens, connective tissues, and fats do not melt until 180 degrees. Once this occurs you can now have the beautiful pieces of pulled pork you see in restaurants and on television shows.
Off the GrillYour pig has reached temperature, and it looks fantastic. Now it has to come off the grill. Because I chose not to create a cage to flip the pig I had to figure out a way to get it off without pulling it apart. We simply took away some block and slid it onto a foil covered table. I happened to have a large pizza peel we used to help move it. Pushing it off from the snout end worked well also. It would probably help to have some type of wire mesh underneath to help lift your pig off the pit.
Now you have to let your pig cool down. You could start cutting into it right away, but I wouldn’t recommend it for the following reasons. First, it’s hot. Second, allow time for the meat to rest, and allow the juices to reabsorb back into the muscles (I will expand on this topic as well in a later posting). Let it rest for about 30-45 minutes. If you have a large cooler you can place it in that is best case scenario. If not you can wrap it in foil and place some towels over it to keep as much of that heat in as possible. The other option is to quarter it up, wrap it in foil and place the smaller pieces in a cooler to rest.
To be continued...