Who knows about bbq, smokers, and whole pigs?

We’ve been doing a yearly pig roast going on five years, and we have one coming up in a couple weeks. Around 3 or 4 pigs ago we managed to score a 5 foot commercial grade flat grill for free and have been using that as a pig cooker ever since. Its certainly a lot better than the improvised pits and spit rigs we started out with, and it comes in handy for large scale grilling.

It works pretty well for low and slow roasting/smoking a pig, but its got some problems. Chiefly temperature control. As in it doesn’t have any. There are no vents to open or close, and coals sit on a rack that’s directly on the bottom of the fire box so they don’t breath well. Its pretty tricky to get an even temp across the whole enclosure, and maintaining a consistent temp is difficult as well. We’ve made it work in the past by banking coals to either end, and keeping the pig centered and away from the fire. But there’s still big jumps in temp when coals are added, and it dies down very quickly. Like minutes quickly, and it takes a ton of charcoal to raise the temp above about 180F. It takes pretty constant attention to keep things ~250F and we usually settle for bouncing 25dg up or down as we go.

I was wondering if any one has advice for cooking a pig on this type of grill. Or ideas and tips for better temp/fire control. The grill is a Belson Porta-Grill, which is pretty much identical to most other catering style charcoal flat grills. Though we have the “breadbox hood” which is a heavy gauge and highly domed cover. Aside from working an indirect fire with drip pans filled with water under the pig itself I’m thinking I might need to contrive some way to lift the coals up a bit more so they breath better. I’ve also heard adding mass with sand in the drip pans rather than water can lead to more even temps and better efficiency with cookers that have similar problems to mine. And the thing is large and sturdy enough that I could even line the interior with bricks or lava rock or something.

Man, without some way of adding lots of thermal mass plus careful air control, I don’t know how you could get any better than +/- 25. If this is for say grilling 15 chickens in a go personally I would put something like half a dozen steel bowls with grates and holes drilled in them (think half a dozen mini webers inside your massive grill) and then cook in “areas”. It would lose total grilling space, but the round shape/parabola will help to reflect heat up.

But mostly I want pics. And an invite.


The lack of vents actually works a bit in our favor. Helps keep the fire on the low side with the lid down. The bigger problem is that you have to work constantly to keep in that + or - 25 range. If you don’t tweek it every 20 or 30 minutes it’ll drop below 200 or spike above 350 if you add to man coals.

Airflow we can cheat with bellows and compressors, though I’d like to cut proper vents when we get around to modding it. But I think adding frightening amounts of bricks might even things out overall. But then I need to find a way to preheat them evenly. The waterbaths we usually use tend to boil near the fire and their pretty tepid at the center

Heh, then you know what I know :). BTW, bellows aren’t cheating, they are awesome.

The other thing you could do which is cheating is install a low pressure propane burner inside. Something that could give say 20k BTUs but deflected or shielded.

A bit of a less of a cheat would be to have an offset firebox of some kind that supplies preheated air, as opposed to bellows or a compressor. If you have electricity an induction hot plate that runs on standard plugs can produce over 10k BTUs.

Lastly, and this is what I do when brewing, lits of insulation. I know McMaster sells high temp insulation, though I have never seen it used in competition BBQ.

Can’t offer any help other than recipes as most of my stuff is much smaller scale. I just wanted to let you know I have some serious grill envy now. :smiley:

Better vents, proper offset smoke box and supplimental burners are all being saved for my dad’s " I’m gonna learn to weld " project. But the insulation is as good idea. I’ve seen guys wrap the fire box of cheap offset smokers with it . I might be able to cover the hood to help keep heat in.

It’s a great grill. But kind of a terrible smoker. If it hadn’t been free we could have bought a damned good smoker for what these things cost new and kitted out.

I’d be interested in any sauce recipes if your offering.

Apparently this is what you (and I, for a bread oven I’m building) needs.http://www.anvilfire.com/sales/pages/kaowool_index.htm

Wrap as much of the radiating part of your cooker as possible, and it will greatly reduce temp changes. I use reflectix for all my brew kettles and it has made an amazing difference (for a standalone, non RIMS/HERMS system if that means anything) so for 200+ F I think it could really help.

A mechanic just recommended reflectix to me as a cheap solution. I actually thought the polyethylene at the center might melt during a long cook, its only rated to 180f. Kaowool definitely seems one of the better materials if we get around to the permanent changes. I think I might have to run around tomorrow and see what’s available at the local hardware and home improvement store cheaply. I need a few odds and ends to truss the pig anyway.

Sure. As a foreigner to this planet, I don’t have any real concept of “One True BBQ” style, but I know that some people get very …emphatic… about it. And I’m not all that good with exact quantities either, but you’re good enough to recognise if something’s seriously out of whack.

Pork’s a great meat and takes up flavour brilliantly without being over-powered by them. I’m figuring that you’re already brining the pig as that’s probably the single most important step to turning good meat into great. Most Aussies don’t brine, and my ego is very happy about that.
A good splash of fish sauce in the brine/marinade (scale up to suit) or in the baste can really add some depth to the flavour. Anchovy and pork is a great pairing and has been since the Romans. Works just as well with lamb, too. Don’t overdo it though, it’s an enhancer, not a flavour.

For an actual barbecue sauce, my tastes run to the thick, sweet/sharp ones (Kansas City, I think?) with healthy belts of both smoke, heat and booze. IMO, rum is the clear winner in flavour. I like to use local produce too so pineapple or mango tends to feature where perhaps it wouldn’t usually turn up.

So, Martian Queensland-style BBQ sauce.

2 cups base sauce.
1/2 finely chopped onion
2 cloves smashed garlic
1/2 cup really dark brown sugar
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup of rum. Suggest inner Circle Green Spot or other overproof dark rum.
1/4 tsp Apocalypse Powder*
Pepper (Now please put the skipping-rope down)
(optional) Worcestershire Sauce.

Put some butter in a pan, fry the onion until translucent, add garlic, fry on low heat for a bit. Don’t let it catch.

Add your base sauce, whether that’s a store-bought red sauce, a 50/50 mix of ketchup and BBQ or a properly done mix of simmered-down and blended tomatoes, garlic, spices and onions.
Then add pineapple juice, mix and bring to a slow simmer.

Test rum, stir in rum, test it again. Can’t be too certain with thish. Sherioushly.

Stir in the sugar until it’s dissolved, Add chilli, stir well, then add seasonings to taste. Use mustard powder (Coleman’s is my choice) and any vinegar you fancy (Balsamic works a treat, but can drown other flavours. ) The vinegar is there to enhance the acidity from the pineapple and to cut through the sweetness, so you’ll need less of it if they’re early season pineapples.

A few drops of Lea and Perrin’s finest can be good at this point, too. Optional, though.

Simmer gently until it’s thick enough. Add more rum or juice to tailor to taste and consistency.

Serve over smoked pulled-pork on buns. Apple-pickled ginger works as a really good relish with this.

*Home-made mix of smoked ground chiles containing habaneros, jolokias, Trinidad Scorps, Nagas and 7-pots. Replace with larger quantity of not-stupidly-hot product.

I’ve got a recipe for a BBQ sauce that I will vouch for, but it makes several gallons worth. you might want that much if you’re doing a whole pig, though? I don’t have it memorized fully, I’d have to look it up on tuesday at work and get back to you, but if you need A LOT of sauce, and you like the tomato/vinegar/brown sugar style it’s a pretty damn tasty recipe and it’s designed to be high-yield with a minimum cook time since it’s for restaurant use. so, that could be either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how much of a sauce nerd you are. I personally like the Carolina style sauces with pork, but I don’t know how to make them, I just happen to work in a kitchen where I make this KC(?) kind right now.

Its always good to look new at recipes. I tend to agree the Carolina sauces work best with pork, but the family like KC and I’ve got plenty of experience breaking restaurant volume recipes down to home volumes. Gallons is far too much for a 50-60lb pig, and I tend to make at least 3 to cater to various tastes.

Thanks, my family tends to like sweeter sauces and I’ve got some mild dried chilies I can substitute for the insanity. Might give it a shot.

cool. I’ll get back to you with that, been meaning to copy it down for myself anyway :smile:

Seems I’ve got a couple people giving me sauce recipes so I figure I should reciprocate. I don’t do a lot of measurements or formal recipes with bbq sauce. In part because I’ve not hit on too many that work as well as I’d like but I do have one loose recipe for a Carolina style mustard sauce. Its sweeter than is traditional, but I concocted it to go on chicken (hate sweet tomato base on chicken) so it works pretty well. I also add a bunch of other things to give it complexity. Though its done got more simple the more I’ve made it. The basic frame work is as follows, measurements are rough so play around as you see fit.

1 10-12 oz jar of prepared brown or Dijon mustard (rather than the traditional yellow)
20-24oz of apple cider vinegar (2:1 ratio of vinegar:mustard)
3 cloves well garlic smashed
1/4 of a medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 to 2 table spoons dark brown sugar
1 to 2 table spoons honey
1/2 tea spoon smoked or hot paprika
1/2 to 1 tea spoon dried marjoram
1 tea spoon salt (or to taste I have a heavy hand)
1/2 tea spoon fresh ground black pepper
splash of oil

Smash your garlic cloves good, chop the onion coarse. They get sweated/sauteed in oil briefly. I go till translucent or barely brownish, you can brown fully or caramelize it if you’d like a deeper savory base. Set the heat to around medium low. Dump the mustard in, followed by the vinegar. Whisk it till its mixed smoothly. Oddly the mustard doesn’t like to break up into the vinegar, its gonna look chunky for a bit. Let the mix heat till its steaming (or simmering doesn’t matter much). Add the rest and allow the mix to hit a simmer. Keep it there for at least 30 minutes until everything is softened fully and some reduction has happened. Pulse the sauce with a stick blender until smooth and thick. The bulk of your thickening happens here, so the more aromatics you add the thicker. But too much and its down right fibrous.

I tend to just fish out the aromatics these days rather than blending. I’ve been very into thinner sauces that need to cook down on the meat to get that glaze like stickiness. I also tend to use less sweet in the sauce, but the combo of honey and brown sugar brings a combo of different kinds of sweetness. I’ve also been known to sprinkle a fair amount of MSG into it (for funsies), but caramelizing the aromatics brings a similar kind of savory base.I also add my preferred hot sauce to make it spicier when that’s what I’m going for. The hot sauce can bring the heat without skewing the flavor too much.


Thanks for that. :thumbsup:

For a country that prides itself on outdoor cookery, Aussie BBQ cuisine is still firmly stuck on “burnt snags on white bread”. It’s slowly catching up but I like to try and stay ahead of the curve. I’m missing a really good vinegar-based sauce from my repertoire, and this one looks like it’s a good place to start.

And as we’re on the subject of BBQ toys, I picked up a short-handle cane-cutting knife last year. Best spatula I’ve ever used. Has a hook for lifting hotplates and dragging meat, a decent edge, it’s thin and flexy enough to flip burgers easily and long enough to keep hands away from the hot bit. Perfect.

I’ve actually heard that about cane knives, although from Puerto Ricans oddly. Thought about tracking one down but frankly I’ve never been sure a “cooking machete” was the best use of funds. Interesting it can be used as a spatula (might be my excuse).

If I had to pick one thing to complain about with the current ITS REAL BARBECUE trend it would have to be the myopic focus on the foods on the American South. For one thing most technique at the base was fairly universal to the Americas in general at one point. It died in most places outside of the Deep South and then got re-introduced by former slaves moving north and west after the American Civil War. Poor blacks move from the rural South to the urban North (also every other part of the country) and bring rural southern food with them. Otherwise if you poke about there are serious BBQ traditions in nearly every place you look. Here in the North East we have the really old tradition of cooking shellfish in buried pits. Then the later traditions from Italians for spit roasted pig, and porchetta, and where I am a well established greek base in roasting whole goats, sheep, and souvlaki . All of that is technically barbecue. So are a lot of European pig roasting (or even onion roasting) traditions. Any where you’ve got open flames, cheap ingredients, and communal eating. Your earlier post/recipe reminds me a lot of the California approach to adapting proper southern bbq. Throw in mangos, pineapples, avocados and a bunch of spice and call it California bbq. The seeming aim is to graft the current, local culinary landscape onto the current American barbecue belt definition of cue and call it something new. But in either case there’s probably (definitely in California’s case) a better, older, local tradition of slow cooked meats (or fast cooked non-meats) involving open flame to draw on. There’s probably something the Aborigines (that can’t still be the term right?) were doing with open pits, or something early white settlers were doing that fits the bill. I mean you guys are right next to New Zealand, and those guys are basically Polynesians, and they’ve got the whole Kalua Pig thing and a few dozen variations. At its rawest its all about cheap food plus open flame. If you want to hit the heart of the Southern thing its all about slowly cooking tough meat beyond when its technically done. So you break down connective tissue and fat, and there by need 10 extra napkins. You guys have lots of sheep right? Also cows? I bet there’s some crazy cooking sheep or beef over an open fire thing your all ignoring to mimic one section of the US. Or Bunyip. I bet pulled Bunyip is the greatest.

To summarize: Cane knife need one.

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This isn’t my recipe but it’s good. I’d say it’s got a really balanced taste. It’s got the tomato and brown sugar KC thing going on but enough savory notes to have a more general appeal.

I dunno if it’s just pulled from Joy or if this is the chef’s personal recipe that he’s gonna kill me for sharing or what. There’s nothing especially surprising, ingredient-wise. Anyhow, hopefully this scales down to home proportions for you.

YIELD: 2 gallons

if you follow this recipe to the letter, you’ll need to roast some of the garlic first, but everything else just dump in the pot.

  • 114 oz (7 lb 2oz) which is one of those big foodservice cans of ketchup (a “No. 10” sized can)
  • 8 cups (64 oz) light brown sugar
  • 1 cup minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup roasted garlic
  • 1/2 cup parsley
  • 1/2 cup scallion
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup black pepper
  • 1/3 cup crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 cup chili powder
  • 1/2 cup cumin
  • 2 quarts apple cider vinegar
  • 1 bottle Miller High Life (16 oz)
  • 1/2 cup yellow mustard
  • 2 cup Worstercheshire
  • 1/2 cup chipotles canned in adobo sauce

put it all in a big-ass pot and bring it up to just boiling, then let simmer for at least ten minutes. keep stirring, that sugar’ll scorch if you give it a chance to. I use the rubber spatula along the bottom of the pot every so often. Then, blend it to an even consistency. a stick blender/hand blender/emulsifier thing is nice to have here. yep.

the heat is present but mild and a slow onset. Like I said, this sauce is really balanced, including the smoky heat. but, you’re all gonna put your favorite peppers in anyway, I’m sure.

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