I'm cooking a whole 100lb hog at a party in a few weeks. I've never done it before. Now my former braggadocio is quickly materializing as an ulcer. If anyone is willing to take the time to help, I'd be much obliged.
I've ordered the pig. I've bought wood. I've got a spit coming. I've planned a menu. I've got a general sense of how its supposed to work. Yet a few things are keeping me up at night:
-I ordered the hog thinking that it would feed a ravenous horde. Now I'm not so sure. There are 50-65 people coming. That will supply plenty of food, right?
-The cooking equipment is being made by a relative: an elevated 4x3 iron box with a sloping bottom for the wood and an adjustable mechanized spit attached to rails in the middle, which means the heat will be direct but distant. He was thinking about attaching a hinged lid (which would make it about 5ft tall), as well as making it more of a smoker by giving it a side firebox and chimney. Does this present anything that I should be concerned about? Do the glories of spit-roasting over an open fire conflict with the zen of smoking in a closed box?
-I haven't cooked over wood too many times. When I do the wood seems to burn a lot faster than I expect. I bought a 4x4x2 box of cherry wood about the size of my arm--that is, a few inches thick and a few feet long. How much will I need? Should I supplement it with charcoal or thicker logs?
-I know that the pig will be about 3 feet over the wood. Everything else about the heating logistics eludes me: the fire should be of a decent size to hold its temperature, but not so big that it oversmokes the pig; it should be hot enough to actually cook the meat, but not so hot that it overcooks; it should be low enough to cook evenly for optimal tenderness and flavor, but not so low that it dries out. How do I know the appropriate size and temperature of the fire?
-Then once it's going, I'll have to throw in some new logs at a steady pace to keep the fire at the optimal temperature. How do I evenly regulate the temperature of the fire? Or even measure it?
-I'm not so worried about the food taking too long because we can always play cards and serve more drinks. If it cooks too quickly, though, we not only lose the spectacle and the shared carnal experience of hanging out in front of a slowly burning animal, but we're also stuck with the problem of holding the meat at the right temperature until we eat. We plan to start cooking for the late afternoon party sometime the night before. Is that necessary? Given all of the variables, how can I estimate the cooking time?
Thanks to anyone who waded through this, and even more for advice/therapy from anyone with experience in these matters.