A method of classic barbecue
, as practiced in the American South
. An entire pig is cooked in a slow-cooking smoker
, at temperatures from 170 to 250 Fahrenheit
degrees, for as long as 20 to 26 hours for large hogs. Although the rules of the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest
specify that the hog weigh at least 85 pounds, the term "whole hog" can also apply to a 12- to 18-pound suckling pig
. As Jeffrey Steingarten writes in his article "Going Whole Hog," included in the excellent collection The Man Who Ate Everything
"The challenge of barbecuing a whole hog is to get the huge, thick shoulder
(the mass of muscle above the front leg) and the ham
(above the hind leg) done
at the same time as the delicate central portions of loin
- while making sure that the flavor of spices
penetrate deep inside the hog."
As in all aspects of classic American barbecue, debate runs high about the best way to cook a whole hog, and there is broad variation from region to region, even of the fundamentals. Some say the hog must be cooked directly over wood coals, while others are more flexible about where the coals go and what sort of elaborate apparatus goes inside your pit. Some even say that the "low and slow" cooking method is mere ritual, and higher heat brings better results if you start with a pig that's fat enough.