It is always interesting to me how people react when you tell them that you are going to a pig roast. Some find it fascinating, perhaps even in a oh-look-there’s-a-car-wreck kind of way, some find it mouthwatering, and others find it gruesome and perhaps a bit barbaric. It’s about fifty-fifty when it comes to wanting to know the details. So if you are in the gruesome, don’t-want-the-details group, read someone else’s post. Just walk away. Okay, so you are still here. Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I am in the group that is not only fascinated, but I wholeheartedly want to participate. I imagine that I am in the minority. Most people don’t want to deal with their food on this level. Not really. But for years I wanted to roast a pig. Or bury it in a pit and slow-cook it. Then, last February (2004), my friend Max invited me to his annual pig-roast birthday fete. It was the 3rd year in a row that he had taken over his parents lovely Monterey home, invited way too many people, and put on a sit-down feast that would have made Henry VIII blush. Not able to keep my opinion to myself, I jumped right in and we agreed to bury the pig in a pit and cook it all day. Max did a lot of research, bought a very large pig, brined it and stuffed it with herbs and other items I won’t go into detail about, and then we wrapped it, threw it in and buried it. We cooked it all day and finally unearthed it late into the evening. Unfortunately, a few things had gone wrong. The pig was undercooked. Significantly. And it was perfumed by the burlap we wrapped it in (whose idea was that?). Anyway, we resolved to learn from our mistakes. The next year would be different. (From what I heard, the previous two years had been somewhat unsuccessful in the pig arena as well.)

So last weekend, Max’s birthday rolled around once again. After much planning, email swapping, and flipping through cookbooks, Max arrived at a fantastic (if somewhat lofty) menu. Centered around the pig of course. He purchased a 25-30 lb suckling pig from Golden Gate Meats, hauled it home, then rubbed it down with plenty of salt, pepper, herbs, and cracked fennel seeds. The day before the party, he and his ever-patient fiancee Davina drove the pig down to Monterey (her car is still a bit perfumed by this experience). The day of the party they rented a spit, built a nice low fire using logs and charcoal, and by noon the piggy was slowly spinning toward dinner. Try as I might, I didn’t make it there until just after the pig started rotating, but throughout the day, in between making fresh herb and ricotta ravioli, shaved fennel and blood orange salad, roasted beets, smoked trout with homemade mayonnaise, asparagus wrapped in prosciutto, braised greens, caramelized onion focaccia, roasted peppers, and myriad Italian-inspired tarts, tortes, and cakes (especially the heavenly goat cheese and lemon cake), we kept an eye on the pig. And throughout the day, as the sun went down, the guests arrived, and the wine started flowing, the pig took on a beautiful bronzed color.

Late in the evening, after the antipasti and primi courses had been enjoyed, the moment of truth arrived. Armed with flashlights, heavy gloves, and a large wooden board, we set out for the pig. To the tune of ooohs and ahhhs (and perhaps a few little whimpers), we carved the succulent meat and passed it around the table. Heaven. This year we had succeeded. Juicy, perfectly seasoned, it was one of the best pigs I’ve ever eaten. The rest of the evening is a blur, probably best left to our memories, although I do remember a heated ping-pong tournament around 4am.

So now that we’ve mastered the pig, what’s next? I can’t wait until next year.

*A side note: It is easy to see where Max gets his incredible passion for food (and his adventurous food spirit!) as his parents are hugely active in making this annual party happen. Among many other things, thanks to his dad for setting up a new smoker so we could eat that amazing trout and thanks to his mom for waking up at some ungodly hour to make all of those amazing desserts!

Pig on a Spit 26 February,2005Kim Laidlaw

  • Matthew

    My reaction to the pig roast puts me squarely in the mouthwatering camp – that sounded amazing, truly amazing. I’ve got a friend that is always talking about roasting a whole pig, but we’ve never actually done it… Consider me inspired! All I have to do now is find a ping-pong table for the 4am tourney.
    Great blog – thanks for sharing that!

  • Ultan Kiely

    Hi ya
    In a panic because although I know all the technical stuff about cooking times and marinades etc for a Pig on a Spit.
    I have absolutly no idea where to begin carving when the animal is Cooked

    can you please help
    Kind regards

    Ultan Kiely

  • Kim Goodfriend

    I believe we started with the leg and worked our way up one side. The meat was so tender that some of it we just pulled right off. I found this on another website: “Bones should separate easily at the joints. First separate shoulder from the body, then remove legs. Cut along the backbone to remove chops from rib and loin area.”

  • fisilaumali

    how much was the pig?

  • Kim Goodfriend

    I believe it was around $100, but contact Golden Gate Meats where the pig was purchased if you want a more accurate price.

  • Anonymous

    The whole Day was a Fantastic Success beyond all expectations.
    Th Pig was cooked to perfection and there wasn’t a morcel left.
    Remove the Crackling move on to Carving, starting from the leg and working your way up the loin to shoulder.For more information, or to host your own Pig on a Spit just E mail on
    Thanks all

    Thanks All

    Ultan Kiely

  • Anonymous

    I am a chef in the So Cal area, my thoughts are roasting whole beast is the only way to go. I did one two weekends ago for the brew club I serve as the chef for, 11 hours on the spit later and HEAVEN on a plate was achieved!!! I did my culinary apprenticeship in Italy and Germany, two places where roasting whole beast is VERY popular, so I had seen it done on a few occasions (Oct-fest, Feast of San Gennaro, etc) but on an untested rig in a national forest fire pit, still great. The roasting rig is the trick, no more than 1rpm for the speed of the turn and baste constantly, pay close attention to your fire and go man go…

  • Anonymous

    I so want to do this! Can anyone tell me where to rent the spit?

  • Randy D. Pfeifer

    I’m very excited, I have been talking about roasting a whole pig for several years. This year my wife is coordinating my 40th birthday party and ordered the pig, found a friend of a family member with a HUGE home-made BBQ with rotisserie. The BBQ is 5’ long, 5’ high and is built like a diesel truck. I have been researching all the right techniques like what rub to use, BBQ sauce that sounds good and of course the cooking methods. I was in the restaurant business for many years prior to my current career so I feel like I have a good base knowledge of cooking. But after reading many postings and stories about the over-cooked and under-cooked results I have reason to worry. Since this isn’t a piece of meat that is going to feed 10-12 people but a whole pig that we anticipate 60-75 I need to make sure it’s right. I plan on posting my results after the event and supply pictures (good or bad) to hopefully help anyone like me who needs to satisfy their whole pig roasting desires. Now my only real worry is what beer to serve after my home-brew is all gone. I love making beer, but that is a much larger crowd to please than the 10 gallons I am trying to keep on hand for this event.

  • keo

    Just “surfed” on the site and was wondering why it takes a half a day to do a hog. I been doing “huli-huli” pig for many decades and a 150 lb hog takes no more than 6 hours to have it cooked to perfection. It is all in how the fire/coals are placed and whenever a “hotspot” appears under the skin I use plain water to cool it down. I just built another motorized spit that turns a bit over 4 rpm.


  • berkeleygrocer

    Some friends and i are planning a pig on a spit event at the end of the month and I need to talk to someone who really has it together. I’ve looked at a few sites and have scraped together some info, and have also talked to some Greek friends, also getting some good advice. It seems to me that if I can rent a spit, then by all means we should do so. However, some of my more industrious friends are hell-bent on fabricating one out of old pinball machine parts and duct tape. In the sake of fun, I would never suppress good old creativity and gumption, however a contingency plan would be nice. Also, logistically, is there an argument for several smaller pigs over one big mother? We’re sixteen days away from the event, so any information you’ve got would be much appreciated!

  • Kim Goodfriend

    yeah, I know all about industrious friends (mine are currently digging a firepit and constructing an elaborate grill rack to hold a giant paella pan). I would highly recommend renting the spit. It makes it much easier and frankly if you are going through the trouble and expense of roasting a whole pig, you want it to be done right. As for two small vs one large, I’d probably go for the small beasts if you can fit them both on the spit. Yum! When’s the party?

  • Anonymous

    We’ve been doing pig roasts for several years..some times a couple a year, but on our local pork butchers recomendations always do two full haunches rather than the full pig. You pay way more for the suckling pig than the haunches off a big pig. We made the spit ourselves for the first one in a hurry…it worked so well we’ve been using it for around 7 years now. We manually turn the spit every little while…half the fun is sitting about roasting and drinking all day


Kim Laidlaw

Kim Laidlaw is a cookbook author, editor, food writer, producer, project manager, and baker who has been in the kitchen covered in flour since she was big enough to stir the biscuit dough. She has over 16 years of experience in book and online publishing, and a lifetime of experience in the kitchen.

Her first cookbook, Home Baked Comfort, was published in 2011; her second cookbook, Baby & Toddler On the Go, was published in April 2013; and her third cookbook, Williams-Sonoma Dessert of the Day, was published in October 2013.

She was the first blogger on KQED’s Bay Area Bites blog, which launched in 2005, and previously worked as a professional baker at La Farine French Bakery in Oakland, CA. She lives in Petaluma with her husband and their child, whom she cooks for everyday. Find out more at

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