Ball-Gagged Whole Roasted Suckling Pig Recipe

There’s no easier way to feed a party than a whole roasted suckling pig—we recommend salting aggressively to ensure the skin gets crispy as fuck.
September 17, 2021, 11:00am
ball-gagBall-Gagged Whole Roasted Suckling Pig Recipe
Photo by Dolly Faibyshev

Serves: 20 
Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time: 8 hours

INGREDIENTS:

1 (20 pound|9 kilogram) suckling pig 
1 (48-ounce|1.36 kilogram) box kosher salt

DIRECTIONS: 

  1. Get the pig out of the fridge as early as possible (at least 10 hours before you want to serve it). Remove the kidneys and kidney fat.
  2. On a parchment lined 26-inch-by 18-inch baking sheet, sprinkle a good amount of salt (like bedding). Using the entire box of salt, rub the pig thoroughly— the interior of the cavity, as well as the entire exterior of the pig. Situate the pig on top of the salt bed, making it sit in the pose you’ll want to cook it in later. Literally make it snow with salt all down its back, on top of its head, and snout. Allow it to sit that way unrefrigerated for about 4 to 5 hours.
  3. Heat the oven to 250°F. Using cold tap water, rinse off all of the salt. Be sure not to soak it and leach the salt out of the meat—just remove exterior salt, then, using kitchen rags, pat it dry all around, especially the exterior. 
  4. On a clean parchment lined 26-inch-by-18 inch baking sheet, situate the pig back in a sitting up position. It’s important that the pig doesn’t dry out before this point, but the salt and moisture should help with that. Using aluminum foil, wrap its ears fully, as well as the snout, tail, and trotters. 
  5. Using a straight-edge razor blade, VERY CAREFULLY score the skin of the pig’s midsection. Score vertically from the spine down to the belly, leaving about 3 inches above and below, with about 2 inches between each score. Go through the skin only to expose a fine fat layer. Baby pig skin is super-duper fragile and you can easily puncture the flesh, which you want to avoid. 
  6. Make a ball out of aluminum foil the size of the item you want to wedge in its mouth post-cooking. Pry the mouth open and wedge it in there. This will hold the jaw open in its place after cooking. 
  7. Slide the whole tray into the oven, making sure the pig is sitting with enough room so that the spine isn’t touching the roof of the oven. Insert a meat thermometer in the pig and let it cook until you have reached 125°F— about 2 ½ to 3 hours. Remove the pig from the oven and let it chill out on the counter a bit until you’re ready to finish the cooking process.
  8. Blast the oven at 450°F. Return the pig to the oven and roast until the skin puffs into chicharrón, a medium golden-brown. Unwrap the foiled body parts toward the end so they get some color but don’t burn, about 20 minutes before removing from the oven. Take the internal temperature of the pig (on the leg at first, then deep in the shoulder). If you want it to slice, you can take it to 160°F; if you want it to shred, take it to 185°F to 190°F.
  9. When it’s out of the oven, let it rest for at least 20 to 30 minutes before carving. Use a serrated knife to carve it. Use small tongs for serving. 

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This is part of a special series, 
Indulgence, which explores extravagant living in a time of restraint. It’s also in the September 2021 VICE magazine issue. Subscribe here.