Whole Hog: Building the Pit

My friend Richard Flores, a veteran barbecue cook-off competitor, has always wanted to cook whole hogs in a classic Southern pit. And I have to come up with a whole hog recipe for my upcoming Southern barbecue cookbook. So we decided to work together on the project.

I showed him photos of the various whole hog pits I had visited while researching the book, and we decided to adapt the construction technique from some of those. An mortared cinderblock pit will work fine, but you have to make in four bricks wide to accommadate the splayed out hog and to also leave a gap so you can shovel hot coals or charcoal in from the top. The main vent you see at one end is for ventilation– Once I find the proper supplier of aluminium, it will get a sheet metal door that can be opened or closed incrementally.

If you have built one of these before, we would appreciate your comments!

8 thoughts on “Whole Hog: Building the Pit

  1. nmissc

    I’ve built one of these in my back yard (you’ve seen it here in Oxford– you ate bbq from a whole hog the first time I cooked it, with Joe York) and this looks just like mine, except for the vent at the bottom. Are you sure you need it?

    I also like a bit longer than needed for a hog, which allows some flexibility. I will almost invariably throw a couple of shoulders on (yes, that sounds crazy, but they are done first and provide something to eat during the process…) or something else I might want to smoke.

    I’ve wondered if a dirt floor was an advantage, allowing some of the lard drip off to soak into the ground and slightly reduce the chance of a grease fire, and ever-present concern with whole hog cookery.

    I’ve written out a detailed recipe for a whole hog cooked the way Ricky Parker in Lexington, TN cooks them if you are interested….

    Tom Freeland

  2. robbwalsh Post author

    Great to hear from you Tom! That was one fine hog.
    Have ever measured the distance from the coals to the grate in your pit? I keep hearing 24 inches, and I don’t think we have quite that much.

  3. Terry Griffith

    I would love to have the recipe from Ricky Parker in Lexington,TN

  4. Jared

    I’m interested in building one of these pits in my back yard. Does your pit have fire bricks inside it, or special fire resistant mortar? Some say you need them, others say you don’t. The Fire bricks are expensive and I want to build my pit on a budget. Have you had any problems with the blocks cracking from the heat of the fire?
    Regards – Jared. Christchurch, New Zealand

  5. Paul Lindsey

    Ricky Parker was an ace. He was a good friend of mine in high school. Put a star on Lexington / Henderson Co. Tennessee. That’s the whole hog barbque capital of the world. I learned from one of the best…. Harold Smith. Then before that the was Hall Crowe in Juno, and down in Jacks Creek Tennessee… Crowes Barbque.
    Best in the world by far!!!

  6. Paul Lindsey

    Keep the coals away from the sides….no fire… You’ll burn the hog up. That would be a bad day.
    Harold Smith used some wood from the side boards of an old hog shoot one time…it was cool that night, Memorial Day weekend I think. Me and Anthony Smith wears sitting up with the dead. We burn a spot about the size of a basket ball on the wood pit. Harold came out at daylight to find me and Big Dog asleep. It was a miracle from God that that fire didn’t catch up. He almost killed us….of course it was Big Dogs fault.

  7. Larry Rogers

    height is not important temperature is
    low temp rigidly controlled is the key
    we cook at 200 to 225 Fahrenheit ’til meat reaches temperature
    cooked properly the meat will fall off the bones

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