Wednesday, October 28, 2015

How to host an urban pig roast

Last week Spencer and I hosted our first pig roast along with a couple of our friends. Those of you who have done this know that it is no easy feat. You also probably did it out in the country or at least in the burbs in someone's back yard. You don't often see a lot of smokers going off out in the open in San Francisco due to city air quality ordinances. All restaurants and caterers have to have their smokers indoors under a hood to filter the smoke. You have to find the perfect spot, you have to rent or buy a spit (unless someone knows where in this city you could possibly dig a hole to bury a pig without pissing someone off or getting fined or something) and you have to have somewhere to refrigerate this large animal up until the point of cooking it.

Here is what we did, step by step. I encourage everyone to try and do this at some point in your lives. It's fun and pig tastes good.


1. Source your pig. My good friend Dave the butcher down at Marina Meats found us a local farm out of Manteca called The Long Ranch that sold whole pigs. Ole Bessie was 100 lbs, a duroc bread, had a vegetarian diet and lived a good life. I highly suggest that if you are going to go though all of the trouble of doing a pig roast that you go to a reputable butcher and spend some money on a high quality, local, organic pig. It will taste better, it's better for you and it's just the right thing to do.

Marina Meats SF

2. Source your spit. We used Action Rentals and rented a 2x5 foot charcoal grill with a 5 foot rotisserie (that had a motor) and hood and side panels. Big enough to smoke a 100 lb pig.

Action Rentals SF

3. Find a location to cook your pig. This gets tricky because it takes at least 10 hours to cook a pig of this size. We were fortunate enough to have a good friend who owns a warehouse with a courtyard for her business that she was willing to let us use. It was in an area where we could be there all night making noise and no one would complain. 

The courtyard at Urbanfarmgirls 


DAY 1 - Buy/gather supplies. This includes things like wood (we used white oak from Lazarri Fuel Co., it's mild in flavor and burns slower), a sausage pricker, boning knives, a cleaver, a large cutting board, heavy wine, chicken wire, a u-bolt, pliers, wire cutters, baking soda, a pastry brush, kosher salt, disposable large aluminum pans, heavy duty dishwasher gloves, 2 clean tarps, a shovel, a galvanized metal trough (ours was about 3x1 ft ) and plenty of beer (it's a long night of looking at a pig turn round and round....).

DAY 2 - Pick up spit rental & pig. Bring your spit to it's final destination and set it up completely (they will most likely take it apart when they put it in the back of your truck at Action Rentals). You do not need any special tools to put the spit together. Pick up your pig, season the inside (not the skin) with your favorite rub, we used S&S brand BBQ Spice naturally, and make sure you have a refrigerated place to hold it until you are ready to cook it (Our friends who run a nearby restaurant let us store it in their walk-in refrigerator). 


DAY 3 - The pig roast.

2:30am - Picked up the pig and brought everything over to my friends warehouse. 

3:00am - Unloaded the oak wood from our truck and started a fire in the galvanized metal trough. ***Start the fire on one side of the trough and as the wood burns down break it up into chunks  with your shovel and move them to the other side of the trough. Keep adding one log at a time to the fire to ensure constant charcoal production. 

3:30am - Get pig tied up to the rotisserie. This took 3 people and some muscle. The rotisserie is made up of one giant spike with 2 little spikes that come off each end (for a total of 4 little spikes). Slide the large spike between the pigs back legs underneath the belly, in through the throat and out through the mouth. The small spikes on either end with go into the legs and each set of legs with be bound together and secured around the rotisserie with heavy wire. Secure the spine of the pig to the large spike with a u-bolt. Attach the pig, secured to the rotisserie, to your grill. Make a paste of baking soda and water, about a cups worth and with a pastry brush apply it all over the skin of the pig. Let sit 10 minutes and then wipe it all off completely with a clean towel. This helps the skin get crispy. Season the skin all over with kosher salt and prick the skin all over with your sausage pricker. Wrap the entire pig, securing it to the rotisserie with chicken wire. 

4:45am -  Turn on the motor so that the pig starts rotating and start shoveling hot (grey) coals underneath it. You will just need a thin perimeter of coals lining the outer walls of the grill. Do not put coals directly underneath the pig. 

5:00am - Crack some beers, turn on some good music and watch the sun come up. You will want to hang out and watch the pig the whole time to ensure there is consistent heat underneath the pig by adding hot coals a little at a time. (This can always be done in shifts between you and your friends) The temperature needs to be around 200-250 degrees the whole time. The pig will take about 10 hours to cook. 

3:00pm - The pig is ready, we cut a piece of meat out of the loin, close to the spine, and tested that it was tender and cooked through. Shovel out any remaining burning coals. Take all walls of the spit down and let it rest uncovered for about 30 minutes. 

3:30pm - Lay a tarp down on the ground, over it place a 4-6 foot table lined with another clean tarp. Set a large cutting board on top of the table. Place the pig on top of the table. Line up your aluminum pans and start dismembering the pig. You can use a boning knife to remove all 4 legs and set those in one pan. Use your cleaver to remove the head and place that in another pan. Put on your heavy gloves and remove all of the skin, chop up the skin into smaller pieces with your cleaver and throw those in another pan. Then with your gloves on start pulling the meat off the rest of the carcass and putting that into pans. You can have 2 other people beside you pulling the large chunks of meat you pass them into bite size pieces for your guests. 

The rest of the day - Sit back and enjoy your pig, your friends and job well done :)

Side dishes, condiments and sauces - We served a variety of salads, snacks, fermented pickles, kimchi, chimichuri sauce and all of the S&S brand BBQ sauces along side our pig. This can all be prepped and laid out on to tables while you are waiting for your piggy to cook. 

marinated winter squashes, pomegranate seeds, proscuitto

kale salad with watermelon radish, sprouted seeds & heirloom tomatoes

baby carrot, chioggia beet and fennel salad

persimmon & chicory salad with parmigiano reggiano

fermented root vegetables, pickled peppers, kimchi, S&S bbq sauces

Wisconsin cheeses, local fruit, chips with locally made salsas

Bloody mary bar

Our "prep kitchen" for the day

Huge thank you to Tina & Amavel from Urbanfarmgirls, Dave the Butcher from Marina Meats and all of our friends who made it out to the feast. It was the best urban pig roast ever! 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Nugget rib cook off 2015 recap

Today marked the last day for the Nugget rib cook off in Sparks, NV. Although we went to the cook off during the week to avoid the "burners" coming through town I always wait until the event is over to post my recap.

We always start our road trip to "the biggest little city in the world" with a stop off in Auburn, CA to The California club. It's a great little neighborhood dive bar. Everyone is super friendly, nobody's a stranger and there's always a full bar (even at 8am). If you ask for a restaurant recommendation they will hand you menus to every restaurant in the neighborhood.

The California Club
This year, per a friends recommendation, we stopped for burgers at Ryan's Saloon before checking into the hotel. Another awesome dive bar where your bartender is also the cook. We indulged in their famous fried cheese curds, clam strips and some amazing bacon cheeseburgers. No kidding, one of the best burgers I've ever had. Not in that organic high end meat on a house-made bun sorta way, but in a greasy, messy, this is going to probably make me feel terrible later sorta way. Oh and by the way they offer their draught beers in small or large. Large being a ridiculously massive stein that probably holds about a gallon of beer. Choose wisely my friends, that mega mug gets warm before you can finish it.

We hit the rib cook off twice. Once Wednesday evening and again all day on Thursday. All together we tried 17 out of 24 pitmaster's ribs. Here's what we tried, in order from favorite (who also coincidentally won 1st place from the judges and peoples choice award) to least favorite. At the end of this list I have posted the official competition results and there is a scattering of photos of us goofing around at the cook off. Enjoy. 

Bone Daddy's - Michigan 

1st place winner, people's choice award winner & our favorite 
Bone Daddy's

Checkered Pig - Virginia

Checkered Pig

Kinder's - California

Just North of Memphis - Minneapolis 

Just North of Memphis

Butch's Smack Your Lips - New Jersey

Butch's Smack Your Lips
Butch's pyro bbq sauce - That s$!*t was spicy!
Uncle Bub's

The Barbecue Company Inc. - Arizona

In addition to great ribs these guys also had a killer chipotle-bacon mac & cheese

Bourbon Q - Kentucky

Bourbon Q's ribs and Pulled pork nachos
Porky 'N Beans - Florida

Pork 'N Beans

Carson City - Nevada

Carson City

Desperado's - Ohio

Desperado's. Great mac & cheese!
Joey's Texas Originals - Texas

Joey's Texas Original
Nate and his Harry Potter owl 
Smokin' Joes Hog Wild - Ohio

Smokin' Joes Hog Wild

Montana Q - Montana

Montana Q

Back Forty - California

Texas Outlaw - Kentucky

Casino musician wearing Nate's hat
Austin's Texas Lightning - Illinois

Austin's Texas Lightning 

2015 Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook Off - OFFICIAL RESULTS -

Best Sauce - Ausome Aussie
People's Choice - Bone Daddy's

Formerly The Alley Bar
Until next year Reno!