This page carries a SERIOUS WARNING. If your friends and neighbors find out you can really "do" a pig pickin', you will get no rest! They'll always be pestering you about when you are going to have the next pig pickin'.
This is another of those uniquely Southern events. A political campaign season just wouldn't be complete without several pig pickin's. Psst!, I've got a secret for ya...a pig pickin' is one of the easiest barbecues you can host, providing you have a grill large enough and at least 8 hours to spare.
So exactly what is a pig pickin'? It is no more than a whole pig barbecued which, when finished, the guests serve themselves by picking the pork off the grill. Hence the name pig pickin'. There is nothing for you to do except turn the pig once and during the last hour or so baste it generously with our Carolina Compromise sauce.
About the grill. One of the best pig pickin's I ever tasted was one that was cooked over a slight hole in the ground with some heavy metal screening placed over concrete blocks. The pig was placed on the metal screening and oak logs were burned off to one side. As the logs burned down, the coals were shoveled into the hole underneath the pig. After about 12 hours, the pig was finished. You can shorten the time to about 8 hours if you have a grill large enough with an indirect heat source (as we described earlier). If not, a hole in the ground with metal screening and concrete blocks will work just fine. It just takes a little longer.
A pig pickin is another reason for using that lump charcoal I told you about earlier. It can be added directly to already burning coals without the worry of chemicals or soot getting on your food.
In addition to having a cooker large enough (about a 4' long by 3' deep cooking surface) you are also going to need 2 pieces of sturdy chicken wire. One piece of the chicken wire will be placed directly onto the cooking surface and the pig will be placed onto that. The second piece of chicken wire will be used later when you are ready to turn the pig. Place it on top of the pig when ready to turn and then you and a helper grab both pieces of chicken wire and turn the pig over for the final couple of hours of cooking. Remove the piece of chicken that is now on top which was originally on the bottom when you first started.
Step 1: Plan on about 1 1/2 lbs of pig for each person you'll be serving. Tell your butcher, locker plant or whomever is supplying you that you want the feet and head removed. Around here you just tell the locker plant you're having a pig pickin and they know what you need. The pig will come already dressed (split down the entire underside with head and feet removed.)
Step 2: After the coals have burned down and the grill has reached 225 degrees, place the pig split side down on the grill on top of the chicken wire. Tend the fire to maintain an even temperature and cook for 6 hours.
Step 3: After 6 hours, turn the pig over and continue cooking for an additional 2 hours. During the last hour of cooking pour our Carolina Compromise sauce over the entire inside of the pig to a depth of an inch or so. You will need about a half gallon of sauce for this step. To be on the safe side, prepare a gallon of our Carolina Compromise. This way you will have plenty left for folks to put on their chopped meat.
Step 4: After a total of 8 hours, start testing the meat. It should be an internal temperature of 170 degrees in the thickest part of the shoulder and the meat should be tender enough to easily pull off with fork. That's all there is to it. I told you it was simple, didn't I? The only help you will need is turning the pig over. The meat will be too tender at this stage to turn without the support of the chicken wire. Two dish towels or heavy gloves for each of you (it is hot!) and heave together at the same time. If you've done a really good job at keeping the fire "low and slow" it may take a little longer for the cooking. If it does take a little longer, don't worry. The aroma of the cooking will keep your guests patiently waiting.
Step 5: You can either let you guests pick the meat directly from the finished pig (my preference) - that's why it's call a pig pickin' - or you can remove the meat and chop it for them.