electronic Gourmet Guide

Above the Ground Pit Barbecue


Most people seem to enjoy the flavor pork fat gives the meat. Those who prefer a dryer, less fatty meat, however, may wish to prepare their pig in an above-ground pit.

Build a Pit Above the Ground
pig pit

Partially bury 14—8 x 8 x 16 inch cement blocks in a rectangle shape placing 3 blocks across each end and 4 blocks along the sides. (Adjust the pit according to the size of your pig.) Stack additional blocks 3 rows high on the sides of the pit and 2 rows high on the ends.

Next, construct a 2-piece wire mesh rack to envelope a pig that is split down the middle and laid out flat (head and legs removed). This pig rack is a larger version of those used for grilling hamburgers.

Suggestion: Use 3/4 inch metal rod in constructing the frame for the rack. Extend 2 rods approximately 1-1/2 feet at each of the 4 corners. These extensions will allow the rack to rest on the blocks over the coals and will also be used as turning grips. By placing the turning grips on the end blocks, the pork is closer to the coals. When the heat is more intense, raise the rack by resting the grips on the higher side.

pig rack

Start the fire in a small ring of rocks outside the pit. When the fire turns to coals, place 1/2 shovel full of coals inside the cooking pit at each corner.

Remove the head and legs of the pig and split the entire carcass down the middle so it lies out flat (butterfly fashion). Secure the pig within the rack and lay it across the pit allowing the extensions to rest on the low end of the bricks. Turn the pig every 20 minutes and, using a new household mop, baste the meat with salt water each time you turn it. (Salt water will draw the fat from the pork.) Add 1/2 shovel full of coals to each of the 4 corner spots as needed. with the open pit method, a 200 pound pig will take up to 18 hours to cook.

When is the Pork Done?

The National Pork Producers Council now suggests that for medium doneness the internal temperature of pork need only reach 160 degrees F or 170 degrees F for well done pork. According to Robin Kline, M.S ., R.D., director of the Pork Information Bureau for the NPPC, these changes reflect new research based on the fact that pork products are leaner and more healthful today.

Robert Rust concurs and further explains, "While 160 degrees F is a safe temperature for roast pork, a temperature of 170 degrees F for a whole pig will produce a product of superior acceptance."

Okole maluna!

Also see Roast Stuffed Suckling Pig


This page originally published as part of the electronic Gourmet Guide between 1994 and 1998.

Copyright © 2007, Forkmedia LLC. All rights reserved.

Modified April 2007