A couple weeks ago, we headed back out to the farmland where Dead Rooster Co. was born for an all-weekend bachelor party getaway. We've been wanting to test out North Carolina style whole hog barbecue with Dead Rooster Co. for ages, and decided to finally get it going. The results speak for themselves. Absolutely stunning final meal.
We started out with a 75lb hog from a local farmer. Perfect size for our group of 20 large Americans. Kept the hog on ice overnight, then got up at sunrise and got our firebox going. We built a custom cinder block smoker for this, filling in the blocks with sand to maintain temperature much easier. We used a mix of hardwoods and pecan to get the fire going, maintaining a temperature of 225°.
After the fire was going, we started trimming this bad boy up. The key here is to remove all the fat and silverskin to a) prevent grease fires and b) let our dry rub work its flavor 100% into the pork. Once trimmed up, we washed the pig down with vinegar and dried with a white towel. This helps to clean the meat and remove any tiny pieces of bone leftover from the butcher's work. After this, we did a full layer of mustard, followed by a liberal dose of dry rub. For whole hog, we'd recommend either our Redwood rub for true barbecue flavor, or Black Gold for something much more unique.
So much goodness already going on here. Only 10 hours to go. After we rubbed it down, we took our basting/injection mix and hit the hams, loins and cheeks.
The rub is perfect on here, and that injection works flavor deep into the larger chunks of meat to make sure flavor is happening throughout the whole pig. Be sure to mix the dry rub into your injection to keep flavors consistent.
Next, we got a final check on rub consistency, then cleaned the excess mustard/rub off the skin. This allows the skin to naturally crisp up into beautiful crackling.
We made sure our fire was at a solid 225°, then lowered the magic onto the smoker grates, belly down. You want the initial cook to hit belly down, letting the smoke/heat do the work properly. Once the pig was on the grates, we put a liberal amount of salt on the entire exterior, coating the skin to get flavor on point there for later.
With the size of this hog, we gave it about 7 hours before we flipped it on its back. Once we got there, we took our basting/injection liquid and mopped the pig nce every 30-45 minutes. Quick look at the beauty post-flip:
We went heavy on the baste initially, then lighter as it continued to cook. For the skin-side, this part of the process really helps crisp that up and let the salt cook in beautifully. Pork crackling is just an amazing thing.
3 hours later (at 10 total hours), this guy was about ready to serve to our crew. Just look at the contrast of tenderness and crispiness we ended up with:
Remember the salt we threw on the back to get that skin perfected? Yup.
Once we pulled it off the smoker, we let it rest for 10-15 minutes. Then we sliced out the best cuts – pork belly (delicious bacon), pork jowl (incredibly tender) and the tenderloins (boy howdy). The rest we shredded up and mixed with more dry rub to top of with final flavor.
Conclusion? Dead Rooster Co. takes gold again. Not only was the flavor incredible, but there's just something magical about old school prep work and cooking 10 hours straight to craft a single meal we'll remember forever. Investing a full day for a few moments of eating adds so much value and appreciation to the pig, the farmer, the process and the work among friends.
It's not something most of us can do often, but when you have the chance to smoke whole hog, take full advantage and be sure to use our rubs. We've never been prouder of our work around a smoker and can't wait til we do the next one. And now, a little timelapse of the magic: