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Going Whole Hog: Whole Roasted Pork Tips & Tricks

There are so many festive culinary traditions across the globe. If you look deeply enough you can see a similarity of the technique and core ingredient. However, if you take a dive deep into the process and variations of flavoring agents, you can take your guests to parts of the world you may have never been to.

Take a roasted pig, for example. Though the sight of a whole roasted pig may be upsetting or unappealing to some, for many, it’s a core piece to many cultural celebrations.

In developing menus that include roasted pork of some kind, it is important to understand the different seasonings, cooking processes and final presentation. Catering gives us the opportunity to do our homework to create an experience that’s authentic for our guests.

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We are going to look at three major parts of the pig roasting process used in classic and regional dishes from around the world.

Fabrication & seasoning

Whole hogs can be processed or broken down by removing all of the bones as typically done in the traditional Italian Porchetta. Traditional seasonings range from salt and pepper, dry rubs, injections and long wet marinades such as mojito for a Cuban Lechon.

Cooking methods & flavoring components

Various techniques are used from spit roasting over open fires or rotisseries to slow smoking such as Eastern Carolina BBQ to cooking pits as used in Kahlua Pork from Hawaii. Additional seasonings such as agave and banana leaves can be used to impart flavor that is unique to several dishes around the globe.

Presentation & serving style

Roasted pork is served in several ways and lends itself well to stations and buffets. But if well thought out and timed correctly, you can design these dishes for plated applications. It is up to the culinary team to see the potential and high return of flavor from whole animal cooking verses a boxed fabricated pork loin from your broad liner.

Final carving techniques include chopping and hand-pulled portions. Various sections of the protein can be served individually on or off the bone or combined with or without the skin. For open fire roasted hogs, crispy skin is sign of skill and craftmanship and highly desired by the guest who understands its quality and excellence.

There is other suggestion I am going to make, which involves the internal temperature of the pig. If you are going to pull the meat, the deepest part of the shoulder should be 200-205ºF. You can get good pull around 180ºF, but off the bone clean is really important for the best yield.

These processes can be applied to other primal cuts such as shoulder and leg for small plates and appetizers. If you can adapt in a way that best reflects the results of going “whole hog” you can successfully give your customers a taste of home. 

John Reed

Owner, Custom Culinary Solutions, Chicago, IL

John Reed is a professional chef with over 30 years’ experience. He is the owner of Customized Culinary Solutions, a culinary consulting firm located in the Chicago Northshore area. He works with restaurant, catering, and foodservice companies to provide the highest quality food possible. His contributions include menu and recipe development, emerging concept development, and transition management for companies introducing culinary and production software programs. His company specializes as an on-demand culinary department supporting out-sourced culinary project management.

An active member of the ACF, he has earned certifications as a Certified Executive Chef, Certified Culinary Administrator, and American Academy of...