Is It Ready Yet? Roasting a Whole Pig

A whole roast pig takes time

A whole roast pig takes time

If you have never roasted a whole pig before, be aware that it is not a quick process. In fact, if your butcher or neighbor gives you an estimate on the time to roast your pig, be prepared for it to take longer than that. Especially if you have a back yard filled with excited guests waiting to taste it. But one thing you should never do is to rush the pig just to placate your ever-rowdier crowds. Plan ahead with some snacks — break out more pretzels and chips. Assure the masses that it will be well worth the wait.

When I was first learning how to roast a whole pig, the guests would be hungry and someone suggested that some parts of the pig were already done. Why not start carving those first. I relinquished and the ensuing half-butchered pig made the grand finish rather anti-climatic. Now I keep the hoards at bay and use that time to socialize, eat chips and snacks, and theatrically build excitement for the grand moment when the meat thermometer declares the pig is at the perfect temperature!

No one can tell you exactly how long it will take your pig to be done. There are estimates that can help but plan on what happens when it is ready a few hours earlier or a few hours later than you think it will be. A rule of thumb is that a 100 lb (that’s live weight) pig on a spit may take 8-10 hours while the same size over slow coals can take over twice as long. A pig roasted in the ground, Hawaiian or Kalua style, can take 12 hours if done right and if it is filled with fruits and vegetables it can take 16 hours or longer. 

Waiting For The Roasted Pig

The Crowd Waits For The Pig

I typically roast a pig as slowly as possible on a grill over a smokey bed of coals for maximum flavor, juiciness, and tenderness. I use at least 160 lb pig (live weight) and I start it around 5 pm the day before the pig roast. It will slowly cook all night long under the watchful eye of a couple of eager neighbor kids plied with chips and Skittles and sodas that their parents normally restrict. The next morning my wife & I stumble out of bed and relieve the kids (who dubbed themselves, “The Pig Sitters”) of their overnight duty and we take over for the whole day. By 2 or 3 pm guests start arriving and by 4 or 5 pm, the pig is ready to be served — 24 hours after starting it cooking it! The first year we did it this way, the pig wasn’t ready until after 6pm. I’ve gotten better at regulating the coals now to get very close to my target time of 4:30 or 5pm. It takes some experience to do that but I still plan on some flexibility in my schedule in case I don’t hit my target time.

The best investment I made was a good digital meat thermometer. I got a nice one with a wireless remote sensor. (I also kept my manual roasting thermometer handy after one year when the new batteries in my wireless one prematurely died.) With my wireless marvel, I can be on the other side of the yard when someone asks me how the pig is doing. I can take out my wireless thermometer and sagely let them look at the temperature of 120 degrees and tell them it will be ready at 160 degrees.

Depending on how the pig is being cooked and how big the pig is, will determine the time it takes to roast it. But if the meat thermometer shows the temperature is lower than 150 degrees any place on the pig, let the pig continue to cook. If most of the pig is over 160 but there is a place in the center of a ham that is just 150-155 and the guest vultures are circling, I start the serving process. The USDA is now stating that a roasted pig over 145 degrees is safe to serve with at least 3 minutes rest time after that. However, if you serve it at 145 degrees, there will be enough pink to make your guests uneasy. On the other hand, cooking it too much over 160 will start it drying out. Fortunately, a pig is large enough that some of it can be 150 (my favorite temperature) while most of it will be 160 degrees or over which is what most of your guests want to see.

And don’t forget to take into consideration that when you remove the pig from the spit or grill, it will continue to cook as you march it over to the serving table. So don’t rush the setup after removing the pig from the fire. A few extra minutes while putting an apple in the mouth or putting a few decorations around it will give it time for the juices to settle and the meat to become even more tender! And it won’t hurt to let the crowd’s excitement grow for a few more minutes.

Leave a comment ?


  1. Hi, I am have.g my first pig roast for family in 4 weeks. We have a wood burning toaster we r using. I am serving 50 people, and ordered a 100 lb. Dressed pig. I am planning.g on eating at 2:00 p.m how long will I need to roast my pig, and when would you suggest I start the pig? Thank you, Maggie

    • Maggie, congratulations on the upcoming feast!

      It is difficult to tell for certain how long it will take depending on how hot the heat is, how much (if any) air currents, etc. If it were me, I’d plan on putting the pig on the heat around 6 a.m. and assume it will take around 6-8 hours to cook it. Be sure you have a meat thermometer to keep checking it.

      If it is getting close to done by 11am or noon, start radically backing off on the heat so it slowly finishes. As I also mentioned, make sure you have a secret plan to pull out some snacks (and maybe games for the kids) if you see that you are going to go over your 2pm mark. That way they will think it is all part of the planned activities while you increase the heat on the pig instead of the party!

      Have fun and stop by and let us know how it went.

  2. Elizabeth Potter

    Thanks for the info it was good and helpfull. Any lua awe dancers for my lua awe party :)

    • Elizabeth, glad you found the article helpful… but I’m not sharing any of my pig roast dancers :). Have fun!

  3. This will be my first pig roast. I am wondering how I should prepare the meat.
    Should I just salt the meat side of the pig and then cook it?
    Or, would it be good to inject some spices or butter, etc. under the skin to add flavor.


    • Dan, I’ve never did any injections for our pigs. Generally I rub some salt & pepper in and out and then slowly cook it. I brush it with a marinade periodically as well to give the skin a dark amber color and to give it some more flavor. Either way should be fine though. Let me know how it works out!

  4. What kind of marinade?

  5. We are doing our first pig roast this coming weekend for our Annual Memorial Day party. My husband believes that the pig is going to be skin-off and the pig will be in halves. This is approximately a 200 lb pig and I want to make sure we cook him thoroughly. I was thinking originally that it would take about 12-14 hours to cook the big guy but now I’m wondering because he said its going to be skin-off. Any suggestions/thoughts/concerns/ideas?

    • Angel, that sounds like a fun weekend! I’m not sure about cooking the pig with the skin off… to me, the cracklin’ is a tasty part of the pig :) — and the pig skin helps keep it moist. I’ll be interested in hearing how it worked out.

      Your 200 lb pig may take a bit more than 12-14 hours depending on how hot the fire is and how you are cooking the critter. When I cooked a pig on a spit, I was amazed at how much faster it was than when I slow-smoke it. But however you are cooking it, start out with a good fire and an eagle eye to make sure you don’t have any flare-ups. As the day moves along, keep an eye on the thermometer. If the temp is climbing quickly, back off on the fire. Once the pig gets near 150-160 degrees you should be getting close to serving time. Check the temp in several places — find thick meaty spots without touching a bone with the probe. It’s an adventure to have a massive pig done at just the right time that the crowds are getting rowdy for their pork fix! Have a wonderful time!
      – Jim

      • Thanks so much Jim! We are really looking forward to making this a part of our annual party. I’m hoping the butcher will leave the skin on but we won’t know until we pick him up Friday. I think we’re planning on slow-smoking him so that helps me quite a bit knowing that the process will be longer than spit-roasting. I’d love to send you a pic of our guy when he’s finished, is that possible???

        • I’m sure you will have a ball Angel! I’d love a picture or two of the pig and a report on how it worked out and any suggestions you’d like me to pass along to others. I can’t wait to hear how it goes!
          – Jim

  6. Richard McKibbin

    Jim, Cooking a 200 pound dressed Pig yummy! This will be 3rd pig I have been around my whole life I am 36 years old. This pig Is for my wedding on June 29 2013 , I have been told that in a spit it should take about 12 hours i know from the past to start a little early but my BIG Thought is that if this PIG gets done early will it dry out if pig has to sit for around a hour or hour and a half? trying to time a pig just right is hard even if your just cooking it for friends but a wedding ooo wow! I will take pics and share them on here so all can see I also am going to burn and clean every inch of the pig ill have all pictures to show every step. Any thought on the time of a spit and if it would dry out if it has to sit for about a hour or so?

    • First, congrats on your upcoming wedding! And WOW… you are having a pig roast too? How cool is that!! Your 200 pounder should not dry out in an hour or two of slow cooking. Just keep an eye on the temperature. If it is cooking too fast, keep backing the heat off so it coasts to a perfect finish. Same if it is cooking too slowly — crank the heat up a bit. As another buffer for a pig that is done before you are ready, you can pull the finished pig off the heat, loosely cover it with foil, and let it sit for another half-hour or so… much like you would with a nice roast to let it finish cooking while off the heat.

      And make sure you have some trusted buddies who can share in the pig-watching task so you can enjoy some fun time with your blushing bride and friends and family. After all, that’s what its all about, right?

      I’m looking forward to a full report and any tips to share with others!


  7. Richard McKibbin

    thank you and I will share. And I have a few trusted to watch the pig it just has me a little scared the pig will be done way to soon or not soon enough.

  8. We are roasting a 240 pound skin on hog Saturday and was just wondering approximately how many hours it would take to roast it.

    • Carla,
      Sounds like you are going to have a fun weekend!! Wow, 240 pounder is a whole hog fer sure! As you can tell from the above article, there are a lot of variables in that question. So, I’m sorry I won’t give you an easy cut & dry answer but we can start with a estimate of 24 hours. So to clarify, if you slow cook the hog at a steady 225 degrees (F.), you can plan on 24 to 30 hours cooking time. If you let the fire get hotter from time to time, it will take a shorter time. But try not to let the fire get too high nor below 200 degrees. If you put the hog on a spit (for a 240 pounder that’s a challenge but not impossible), the cooking time will be a little bit shorter than if you cook it on a grill. But either way, use the rule of thumb, 10 pound = 1 hour (240 lbs = 24 hours) and just watch your meat thermometer carefully. And have a fun weekend!
      – Jim

  9. Hello,

    I am cooking a pig thi weekend on a pit. It will be 70-100 lbs. I will be told this afternoon. I am using the method I was taught years ago with placing four small piles of coals in the corners. My question is in the past with a pig over 150 if I remember correctly we cooked it for almost 20 hours at about 200-225 degrees. Do you have any idea about the time change for a smaller hog. I know you can cook one faster, but I prefer the long and slow method. However I seem to be getting CRS disease as I get older and am having issues with remembering the times.

    Thank you ,

    Ben Davis

    • Ben,
      Sorry I didn’t see your question earlier. My reply is probably too late for your feast but I’ll respond in case others wonder as well. Using the 10lb = 1 hour rule of thumb, plan on it taking around 7-10 hours. I would tend to push it to the 10 hour time since you like your pig the same way I do, very low heat and longer cooking time. I hope your event went well. Let me know if you have any other questions or want to share any lessons learned from your pig roast.



  10. Steele Ballew


    We’re roasting a pig for the first time for approx. 70 people. At least 10 of them will be children. Considering we won’t eat the head or feet, how big of a dressed pig should I get and how long should it cook (whole and covered in a pit)?
    Shouldn’t it be in a pan, wrapped and wired, so the juices don’t catch or put out the fire? Should I have a grate over the coals?
    I have a lot of pine wood. Will that suffice for coals? Approx. how many hours will it take to burn how much wood?
    When people say to burn down the wood to coals, does that mean down to just red burning embers and no structure resembling the wood?
    I live in SoCal. What can I use instead of banana leaves?
    Where should I insert the thermometer and do I leave it visible or just remember where it is under the dirt and leaves?
    How do I “crank up” the heat if dirt covers the entire pit, which it should, right?
    Thanks for your cool website and taking the time to address my questions.

    Best regards,


  11. We are roasting 85 lb pig for this Sunday starting Saturday night . We are injecting it with spices and apple cider. A friend made a spit out of a drum with a motor. Stuffing pig with saurcrout wrapping with chicken wire.

  12. Hello Jim, we are having our first pig roast on the 20th and could use your opinion. We are butchering one of our own pigs and live weight is about 200 to 225 lbs. we are planning to make a cinder block fire pit and I would like to know if we should have coals under the entire pig or have a fire just at one end. Also could you please let me know the temp. and time that it would take. thanks Robert

    • Robert, sounds like you are going to have a fun weekend! Here’s a few tips and answers:

      • Make sure your cinder blocks are at least 3-4 blocks high so the pig is not too close to the coals.
      • I would estimate it will take around 24 hours over slow heat so the pig is done.
      • I have a fire pit near the pig grill. That way I can build a nice fire up and, as it burns down to coals, I take my shovel and scoop coals into the pig pit.
      • I leave a hole on one side of the pig pit that I use to add coals. I have that opening away from where the wind will normally blow but I guess you could just lean a piece of sheet metal against the hole to keep the wind from cooling things off (and to keep the smoke in).
      • And for keeping the smoke in, I built a flimsy cover frame with reinforcing wire that is used as rebar in sidewalks. Then I cover the entire thing with a couple of rolls of aluminium foil. I’ve also used green palm fronds when I lived in Florida and have seen similar results with green maple leaves (rotate them out when they start getting dried out and be ready to douse them if they catch on fire). Do not use galvanized fencing or other galvanized metal for the cover — it tends to generate toxic fumes around cooking food.
      • I only put the coals under the 4 corners of the pig pit — none in the center. That way the 4 hams, which are thickest, will cook through rather than just overcooking the ribs and center section while the hams don’t get equal treatment.
      • Keep your meat thermometer handy as the temps rise. If you see the back hams are getting done slower than the front hams, use less coals on the front and more on the back.
      • Although the USDA now deemed that pork is safe to eat at 145 degrees F., your guests are probably going to get nervous eating pink pork. I always make sure it is 150-155 degrees when I pull it from the heat. Be sure to poke the thermometer into the thickest parts of all the hams but not touching the bones to make sure there are not “rare” sections. Then when you declare it “fit for a feast”, you can let it “rest” off the heat for 15-30 minutes while you set it up on the carving table and do any desired decorations. That allows the juices to spread throughout and makes it juicier (and it cooks a little more during that resting period) while building the excitement.

      Wow, I’m getting excited just thinking of that 200 pounds of deliciousness! Have a great time and get back to us with any other questions and give us a report when it is all over! Now, let the fun begin!

  13. Hi Jim,

    I hope this question is not too burdensome…

    I started with a 200lb feral pig (live weight) and will be cooking half on a roast. I reckon the half pig will weigh about 50-60 lbs(ish). I can see two choices – cook the half as a half hog, or cut the carcass in half again (midway) flip one end over and wire it together, shoulder and ham at opposite ends. I can then stuff the middle with apples and onions (even a duck and chicken or two). the result will be a shorter / thicker roast which I hope will be more even to cook (and a bit more manageable). Is this a method you have seen? Should I go with the 10lbs per hour or bump that out a bit – say 8lbs per hour. Any thoughts most welcome.

    Many thanks


    • Sorry – I forgot to mention that I plan to roast it on a spit over charcoal

    • Mike,
      I admire your creative ideas! Cooking it on a spit will be faster than a slow grill so if you do stuff it, first make sure, as the pig cooks, it is wired well enough so as not to fall apart and into the fire (I know from experience that it can happen :)). Others have had great success with stuffing a pig but my luck has not been as great. One year I stuffed a pig with everything from rice to fruits and veggies. The pig was done and some of the rice was still crunchy and others was mushy (but the pig was delicious!). Another time I loaded a pig on a spit wired shut with sausages, a couple of chickens and everything else I could think of. It flavored the pig nicely but in the process of cooking the pig all the way through, the sausage and chicken was an unrecognizable blob of “soft stuff” mixed with chicken bones and orange rinds.

      If I do a stuffed pig again (and I’m sure I will since I love trying new stuff), I will probably not plan on eating the stuffing but rather use it to flavor the pig with citrus, tart apples, cranberries, onions, garlic, etc. The chef in me would be tempted to run the over-cooked glop through my food processor with some white wine and salt and pepper to taste and serve it with the pig as a sauce. But that’s for another day :).

      If you think of it, report back on how you decided to cook thee pig and how the feast went. I’m sure you’ll have a blast!

      • Hi Jim,

        Many thanks for your prompt response.

        Maybe stuffing with chickens is overreaching a bit, so I am thinking about limiting the stuffing to apples and onions etc. (would hate to have destroyed pig and perfect stuffing…).

        As to the method of cutting the side into two and wiring the two halves (pig quarters) together so the ham and shoulder are at each end (rather than the same end), do you have any experience in that method? The side is 52″ long (not including the legs) and 15″ at its thickest. After cutting, the roast would be about 26″ long and 15″ deep (up to a foot thick I reckon). It will be cooked on a spit – any thoughts on the rate of cooking (lbs per hour)?

        As it will have to be wired together) any advice on the sort of wire to use (I assume not ordinary galvanized chicken wire)?

        I have to keep the side overnight so I was thinking about cutting and wiring the quarters together and brineing overnight in an iced tub (to keep it cool) then in the am – washing the brine off, stuffing with apples and onions, closing the wire and mounting the spit and wiring the legs on each end. Any thoughts about brineing? I do spatchcock turkeys that way in a smoker and they are delicious.

        I think the plan is taking shape –



        • My experience in roasting 1/2 pigs is non-existent. If I cook a pig, it’s gonna be the whole thing even if I must eat leftovers for a few months (boo-hoo) :). So I’m sorry that I’m not much help with 1/2 pig on a spit… you’re on you own with that :).

          In wiring the pig, you are correct in not using galvanized chicken wire as it can be toxic. I pick up a spool or two of stainless steel wiring from my local hardware store and use that to tie the critter onto the spit. Once I thought about using rusty wire mesh that they use on sidewalks to hold a pig together but never did it so I can only assume that might be a viable option.

          Regarding the prep, definitely brine that feral pig. If you use wire mesh or other rust-able wire, don’t leave the mesh in the brine overnight. It might save some time but it might also encourage the rusting process. Wire mesh on a roasting pig won’t have much rusting with the hot grease coating it but I could see a nice brine solution kicking the rust up. Let the pig languish in the ice cold brine solution over night then while the fire is burning down to coals, get the pig out of the brine, rinse and dry a bit with some paper towels, stuff and wire onto the spit post, and start the processional to the fire pit!

          As to the time, I would guestimate it at 6-8 hours over a slow spit. It could be done a little sooner (5 hours?) but I’d tend to keep the coals very low since it is a feral pig and might be a bit lean and tougher than a domestic one.

          • Sorry for my tardy reply – but here is the result….

            The side of pig weighed in at 60lb – and here is the kicker – my first shot took out the spine 2/3 down its back (it jumped up a bank as I shot it…) so the side was not rigid and I was worried about the middle cooking before the shoulder or ham. I had the side cut in two – around 2/3 from the shoulder so that the ham would rotate and fit in the rib cage so it could be wired together. That made for a consistent thickness over the whole side.

            I brined the (now two piece) side overnight (salt molasses chile pepper) and then placed the ham in the rib cage (skin out) and wrapped the combo with stainless steel mesh – skewered it with the spit and set it on the barbecue (no stuffing).

            The barbecue was a 5.5ft – charcoal (electric) rotisserie with a hood – good decision. – on the front yard – perfect location.

            I reckoned 60lb at about 7-8lb per hour (because it was more densely packed than a side which is rated at roughly 10lb per hour) – so roughly 8 hours – but I reckoned that it would be better to keep a done side warm than try to finish a raw side at eating time – I started early – pig on about 9am (charcoal lit at 7am) to eat at 7pm

            Electronic temperature reader – a godsend.

            Herman was close to being done faster than I estimated – maybe 6 hours – so I backed off the coals. The aroma was fabulous.

            As I had a couple of kegs on the go as well – I had to plan how to eat Herman…. I wanted a bun (for one hand) and beer for the other. My female advice was salads / potato salad / bean salad / beets etc but they need plates – plates need to be held – knifes, forks, chairs, sitting down, setting beer mugs down somewhere… but I had one of the best hippy bands playing (after my (ahem!) slide guitar cameo on the warm up band – google ‘5 days in May’ by Blue Rodeo – Canadian excellence – please do – it is a fabulous tune).

            So Nixed salads – apart from coleslaw – I bought 3 green cabbages, one red, carrots, mayo, (onion?) sugar and salt and let my beloved and her sister-in-law chop away – (they complained that they had never made it before – fell on deaf ears – I was cooking Herman) they did and it was fabulous… – made the difference).

            I made three (barbecue) sauces the night before – all found on google): Tennessee whiskey (bottle of Jim Beam required (took the longest to make) – it went first…) North Carolina (vinegar and sugar) and a Kansas City – didn’t take long but set the whole meal off.

            The Safeway lass (who recommended the ‘slaw method’) produced 150 crusty white buns at $4.49 / 30 day of).

            Herman was sort of up to temp after about 6 hours – so put him on low for another couple and then 30 mins to rest. Fat ran for the whole time – no lean dry meat here….

            Started carving (not knowing what would the result would be).

            All I can say is fabulous – supremely tasty, moist, tender – in a word – perfect! Bun, sauce and slaw.

            We decimated the side. My brother and I sliced the meat onto a platter and the hoard made up buns with meat, slaw, sauce). I found paper tablecloths – made the cheapo tables look great – straight in the bin after too….

            I had ‘Europeaned’ the skull – so Herman’s skull looked on at the proceedings – while the warm up band played a version of Fred Eaglesmith’s I shot your dog – Mike shot the Pig).

            Absolutely stunning – so good, even my Jewish friends had a nibble (no kidding!).

            There was not much left after the zombie hoards gorged.

            Corralled the remains – fridged overnight.

            Next day – invited to neighbours for supper. The ribs are huge – over a foot long – so cut them up – left over sauce on them and put them on the grill – a Neanderthal / Flintstones meal – everyone eating huge ribs – fansastic!

            The remains? Well I (slim) picked over the remains – had a plate of high-quality bits and a plate of not-so-much – and a ton of bones.

            So – dumped the bones and low quality bits into a 5 gal stock pot with celery / onion / carrot / peppers / peppercorns bayleaves etc. Gently boiled for a few hours and reduced down.

            I made a fabulous ‘Tonkotsu’ Soup with the broth – the slivers of good meat, soft boiled eggs, noodles and a weird Japanese toasted sesame oil dressing – again – total knockout – just a superb rich deep flavour.

            I know I am cracking on a bit about this – but I shot Herman, sold half, winged barbecuing – with 100 people coming over) – 2 bands – family arriving from the UK…… – if I had the same event – I would be looking for a pig to shoot.

            This site (and Jim) helped enormously – I took an ‘educated guess’ – (knowing that failure is an option) – and it could not have worked out better with your help (and I felt your support).

            I hope this helps a bit – I have photos but don’t think I can post them here. If you would like more info – please comment and I will help all I can – here’s to Thanksgiving and the next adventure (spatchcock a 20lb turkey and cook in 2 hours) – Thanksgiving is in October in Canada – so I can have two!

            Have a blast


          • Mike, that was a great bit of feedback. Sounds like your event was a great success. I’m sure your detailed report will help others overcome their concerns when they jump into their own first pig roast! Thanks for sharing… that’s what it is about!
            — Jim

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