Raúl: Roasting a pig is the traditional way to celebrate Noche Buena, or Christmas Eve.

Jorge: The Three Guys from Miami have been roasting pigs in the United States for more than 20 years.

Glenn: Raúl is the true master of the pig roast! He learned the art of the pigroast from his father and father-in-law in Cuba.

Raúl: For the past seven years we have been showing people all over the world how to roast a pig using the '"Three Guys from Miami Method." To date we have had nothing but positive feedback!

Jorge: Don't let the thought of roasting a whole pig overwhelm you! We make it easy to get great results with our step-by-step instructions.

Glenn: We've received many letters from people who couldn't believe how easy it is and how great the pig tastes.

Jorge: The only way we could make it easier would be to invent a pig that hops on the grill and roasts itself!

The Three Guys From Miami selecting a fat Iowa pig "on the hoof" in 1984.
An no, we didn't select one of these sows!

Glenn: Finding a suitable pig is surprisingly easy.

Jorge: You'd be amazed at how many pigs are hiding in our midst!

Glenn: Start with your local butcher. We’re talking about an independent butcher where they actually cut the meat and package it for sale.

Raúl: The average butcher has had this request before, so don’t be shy. Step up to the counter!

Glenn: Buying a pig is one of the few times in life when you don’t have to worry about color, model, or brand name!

Jorge: You just need to have a pretty good idea of what size pig you want.

Raúl: The best pigs are about 60-120 pounds, cleaned and prepared for cooking – what they call the butchered weight.

Glenn: We've also cooked smaller pigs and they can be quite tasty.

Jorge: Anything larger than 140 pounds is a disaster in the making! It's just too big to cook and handle properly. Try flipping a 140 pound pig and you'll know what we're talking about!

Glenn: An 80-pound pig easily feeds 50 to 60 people. However, we love to have plenty of leftovers, so we always make way too much!

Jorge: Another good place to find a pig is from someone who raises them, namely your local neighborhood farmer.

Raúl: If you live near a farming area, contact the local agriculture agency to see which farmers sell pigs directly to the public.

Jorge: Then get in touch with one of the farmers on the list and tell him (or her) what you need. Many farmers can butcher the meat themselves or they may have an arrangement with a butcher to do so.

Raúl: No farms near you? Many grocery stores can also arrange to deliver a whole pig to you. Talk to the person in charge of the meat department and see what they say!

Jorge: We also heard from a man in Texas who had a whole pig shipped to him frozen from Iowa!

A 95-pound pig as received from the butcher. The pig is completely cleaned and gutted, and the hair has been removed from the skin.

Glenn: Have the farmer or butcher clean the pig.

Jorge: And we're not talking about a good soaking in the bathtub!

Raúl: Tell them to leave on the head, feet, tail and BOTH ears.

Jorge: This is especially important if you purchase your pig from a professional pig fighter as it is a long-standing tradition for the victorious matador to slice the ear off of the pig for a souvenir!

Raúl: Also make sure that all of the hair is removed from the skin!

Glenn: Some whole pigs are shipped and handled frozen – even at the butcher shop. A good butcher will thaw the pig out for you the day before you're scheduled to pick it up.

Jorge: You must pick up your pig the day before you plan to eat it! You need to marinate it overnight!

Glenn: If your pig arrives frozen, don't freak out! It will probably arrive in a huge plastic bag stuffed into a huge cardboard box – looking something like that bargain casket we bought several years ago for Uncle Victor...

Jorge: ... nobody liked Uncle Victor very much!

Glenn: You can thaw the pig out in your backyard by filling the plastic bag with a garden hose.

Jorge: Just leave the water running so that it covers the pig and runs out over the sides. You can thaw a large pig in a few hours using this method.

Pig in a box -- Frozen solid! Yes it happens...
Glenn: Just be sure to keep an eye on it! And we're not just talking about neighborhood dogs!

Jorge: You want to make sure that you defrost the pig without letting it get warm. This is especially important on a hot day!

Raúl: The pig should be defrosted but end up well chilled!

It's important to crack through the head so that the pig can be completely splayed out. We like to use a machete and a hammer. Use the hammer to drive the blade through the snout, taking care not to cut all the way through!

Raúl: Once the pig is thawed, use a hammer and a machete or hatchet to crack the back bone – the spine along the center of the pig.

Glenn: Take extreme care not to cut or pierce the skin! The idea is to splay the pig out like a butterfly so it will cook more evenly and quickly.

Jorge: Pay special attention to the head. It's important to crack through the head so that the pig can be completely splayed out. We like to use a machete and a hammer. Use the hammer to drive the blade through the snout, taking care not to cut all the way through!

Raúl: The person you got the pig from should have removed all of the hair or bristles from the pig. Use a razor and a little hot water to remove anything they missed.

Jorge: Hey, the skin is the tastiest part of the pig and there's nothing like a little "stubble" to ruin your skin-eating experience!

Raúl: Once fully clean and split, lay the pig out on a table and rub the outside of the skin with a liberal amount of salt.

Jorge: Turn the pig on its back and use a sharp knife to cut several slits, or pockets, in the meat, especially in the thicker areas like hams on the rear legs.

Raúl: DO NOT cut through the skin!!

Glenn: Cover the inside of the pig with the prepared mojo (RECIPE: CLICK HERE) taking care to stuff all of the slits you made with the garlic. With a shaker, salt the inside of the pig.

Season the pig and marinate overnight.

Raúl: The pig needs to marinate overnight.

Jorge: Some people put the pig in a large wash tub filled with ice to keep it cool.

Glenn: You can also lay several bags of ice -- double-bag the ice in plastic to make sure the bags don't leak -- on top of the pig.

Jorge: Then cover the pig with an old, but clean sheet and keep it in a well-cooled room!

Glenn: Miami Cubans do not dig a pit in the ground, cover the pig with wet banana leaves and hot rocks and bury it.

Raúl: Maybe that's the way they do it in Hawaii, but NOT in Miami!

Jorge: For one thing, the ground in Miami is solid coral below about three inches of top soil. You'd need a day or two with a jack hammer to dig a pit in this stuff!

Raúl: You'd probably hit water after the first foot.

Glenn: And besides, we like to see what we're cooking!

Raúl: We build a "pig roaster" with concrete blocks, the kind you can pick up for a dollar or so at your local Home Depot. You need about 48 blocks to build a roaster four blocks high, four blocks long and two blocks wide.

Glenn: The two end walls are inset between the long walls, making the actual width at each end about three blocks.

Raúl: You can build over grass or dirt in the back yard.

Glenn: We like to use a piece of sheet aluminum on the ground below the roaster to reflect some of the heat.

Raúl: We've also done it for many years without this, so don't worry if you don't have a giant piece of aluminum lying around the house! It's not an essential piece of equipment.

Jorge: However, if you make your roaster over grass, you'll need to rip out the grass with a hoe.

Raúl: Otherwise, the burning grass can give the pig a very bad flavor!

Glenn: A concrete slab also works great if you don't mind a little staining.

Raúl: However, never set your roaster up on asphalt! The heat will melt the asphalt and you will have a big stinking mess on your hands!

Jorge: Once you get the first two layers of blocks laid out, cover the inside of the bottom two layers with aluminum foil.

Raúl: Use the next row of blocks to hold the foil in place. This will help keep more of the heat in the roaster.

Raúl: You start by piling the charcoal

Glenn: ...start with about 20 pounds...

Raúl: ...in the middle of the roaster. Soak the coal liberally with lighter fluid, and light it with a match. Let the coals burn about 20 minutes until they are hot and white.

Jorge: Now this is important! Divide the coals in four with a long-handled shovel or a big stick and push them into the four corners of the cooker.

Glenn: This provides an INDIRECT cooking method.

Raúl: It's the same way my father and my father-in-law did it in Cuba! NO coals should remain directly under the pig!

Pig Weight (Dressed)

Charcoal

Time

 55-80 pounds
 40-70 pounds
 4-5 hours
 85-100 pounds
 70-80 pounds
 5-6 hours
105-140 pounds
 80-100 pounds
 6-9 hours

Raúl: Everyone wants to know: How long does it take to cook?

Glenn: Basically it takes approximately four to eight hours depending on the size of the pig and the temperature of your roaster.

Jorge: Time your day accordingly.

Glenn: Want to eat at 6:00 and you have a 140 pound pig?

Raúl: Plan on starting early in the morning!

Now the "hard" part, sitting around drinking beer, telling jokes, enjoying the sunshine and oh yeah, watching the pig roast!

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Jorge: We use a pig holder that allows us to easily flip the pig during the cooking process.

Raúl: We use poles and mesh from a standard chain link fence.

Glenn: We recommend using either aluminum or aluminized chain link fabric (aluminum-coated steel mesh) for all surfaces that come in contact with the pig. DO NOT USE galvanized metal!

Raúl: You can buy aluminum or aluminized chain link at most hardware/home stores, although it may be a special order item. Better yet, go to a fencing contractor in your area and chances are they will sell you a remnant from one of their jobs. We bought ours for $15.00.

Jorge: Lay the poles (which can be galvanized metal since they never come in contact with the pig) across the top of your blocks to get an idea of the correct size. Then cut two sections of wire mesh to size.

Glenn: The bottom section can be more or less permanently affixed to the two poles with heavy gauge wire. Reinforce the mesh with the flat irons...

Raúl: ...it has to be strong enough to hold your pig!

Jorge: The other piece is used to cover the top of the pig and hold it in place. Use flat metal bars to spread and reinforce the mesh between the two poles.

Glenn: Finally, use pieces of heavy wire to wire the two sections together, one on top of the pig. This makes a "sandwich" with the pig as the "filling."

Raúl: Again, you want to use plenty of heavy gauge wire to wire the two sections together securely. Do this in many places!

(See illustration.)

PLAN A

For the bottom of the holder, the bars and mesh should be securely strapped to the two long poles with fencing clamps and heavy gauge wire. For the top section, the short flat irons need to be wired to the two long flat irons.

Lay the pig belly side up (skin side down) on the wire mesh. Use heavy wire and a pliers to wire the two sections together, one on top of the pig.

Place the whole works on top of your blocks.

Cover the top of the pig with large sections of standard weight aluminum foil to keep the heat in. (Place rocks on top to keep it from blowing away!)

PLAN B

Raúl: OK, if you just can't get aluminum or aluminized chain link in your area, you can go with Plan B.

Jorge: Plan B uses steel rebar, a very common item that we can guarantee you'll find everywhere.

Glenn: Be sure you don't get the very narrow gauge rebar, which is too pliable to carry the weight. You want rebar that is stiff and does not bend easily.

Raúl: You also don't want ANY coating on the rebar, just the plain old steel. So pass on any plastic coated or GALVANIZED steel rebar.

Jorge: Some readers have told us about stainless steel rebar, and if you can get some, great -- it won't rust!

Glenn: Prepare your rebar for first use by scrubbing it down with some steel wool, detergent, and plenty of hot water.

Raúl: Cut the rebar to the specified lengths. To assemble your pig-holding frame, place the cross support bars (the shorter ones) ON TOP of the two main poles and wire the sections together using MULITIPLE turns of a heavy gauge UNCOATED steel wire.

Glenn: We are talking HEAVY DUTY wire here -- the kind you need a pliers or two to work with! For something even more sturdy, use hose clamps -- the type you use in your car.

Jorge: And if you have any welders in your family, why not make a heavy-duty welded pig roasting frame that will last for years to come?

Jorge: Make two complete sections, one for the top and one for the bottom.

Glenn: Lay your pig down on the bottom section. Pigs are very stiff and are easily supported -- even with this widely spaced grid.

Raúl: Place the top section on top of the pig and wire the top and bottom together using a heavy gauge wire.

Place the whole works on top of your blocks.

Cover the top of the pig with large sections of standard weight aluminum foil to keep the heat in. (Place rocks on top to keep it from blowing away!)

The Food Network is on hand to tape our Noche Buena party for a new special: "Christmas in America." The show premiered in December 2003 -- our third appearance on the Food Network!

Jorge: Now the "hard" part, sitting around drinking beer, telling jokes, enjoying the sunshine and oh yeah, watching the pig roast!

Glenn: You don't have to watch it constantly, but you do need to be available nearby to prevent any disasters. So grab a beer or a Cuban soda, turn on some salsa music, open a bag of chicharrones and start the party early!

Raúl: About every 40 minutes, you need to add more charcoal through the front of the roaster.

Glenn: Because the weight of the pig is carried by the bricks on the two longer sides, you can remove a block or two (carefully) in the front or back of the roaster as needed to add more charcoal.

Jorge: Raúl removes one brick from the front and tosses the charcoal into each corner. You can also remove a block from the back if your throwing arm isn't as accurate as the master's!

Raúl: Add just enough to keep the coals going. The pig needs to cook slowly! Again, bank the coals into the four corners only! A 140 pound pig can require more than five (20-lb.) bags of charcoal.

Glenn: Only remove the bricks to add more charcoal, and put them right back to contain the heat! Obviously, the bricks can get hot, so use something to protect yourself from burns!

Raúl: When you add more charcoal, it's a good time to add some more mojo. Pour it all over the body cavity then re-cover the pig with the foil.

Jorge: In Cuba, you had to make your own charcoal. It's a long and laborious process that involves starting logs on fire and partially burying them so that they smolder and burn incompletely. When Raúl first came to the United States, he thought that this was the way it was done all over the world.

Glenn: Imagine his surprise when Jorge took him to a local supermarket and showed him bags and bags of charcoal all neatly packaged and stacked from floor to ceiling!

Raúl: Wow, man I couldn't believe it!

Jorge: The homemade charcoal does give the pig a distinctive taste.

Glenn: But only a real diehard or the Cuban Martha Stewart would even THINK of attempting this feat today

Raúl: About half way through the cooking, flip the pig over, cover and continue cooking.

Glenn: Pigs can produce a lot of oil as they cook. NEVER allow the oil to drip directly onto the hot coals unless you enjoy a GOOD fire!

Jorge: Some people use an aluminum tray to collect the oil that falls directly under the pig. We've used one of those large disposable aluminum turkey roasting pans (or two) just large enough to fit under the pig.

Raúl: The coals, banked into the four corners, should NOT touch the drip pans!

Jorge: Some people like to catch the oil and use it in cooking. Many people just let the oil soak into the ground.

Glenn: If you use a sheet of aluminum below the pig with no drip pan, most of the oil smokes off as it hits the hot metal.

Jorge: However, it's a good idea to have a hose nearby to put out unwanted fires.

Glenn: We have noticed over the years that the pigs in the United States have gotten a lot leaner.

Jorge: In the "old days" we used to collect a gallon or more of rendered pig fat.

Raúl: Now, it's not unusual to get little more than a few ounces!

Raúl: Poke a fork in the underside of the pig, NOT through the skin! If the juices runs clear this is a good sign.

Glenn: Use a knife to slice away some of the tender meat near the belly. Does the meat look cooked through?

Raúl: Does it taste delicious? We thought so.

Jorge: If you can't handle surprises or are not a good judge of cooked meat, use a meat thermometer. When the temperature reaches 160º F and you don't see any pink meat when you cut into the hams it's done.

Raúl: Now here's the last step. Remove the pig and carefully REMOVE any drip pans (if you used them). Many Cubans use this rendered pig fat for cooking. If you want, you can strain it and keep it in the refrigerator for later use.

Glenn: Spread the coals from the corners across the entire bottom of the roaster. Then place the pig skin-side down over the bed of coals. The extra heat will crisp up the skin. It should only take about five minutes. Watch it carefully so it doesn't burn!

Hey everybody: The pig is done, the pig is done!

Raúl: Now you are ready for the final, final step. Instruct a nearby child to run around the backyard shouting, "The pig is done, the pig is done!"

Jorge: This usually draws a crowd.

Glenn: Hopefully you have enough pig for everyone!

The finished product: skin crisped and ready to serve.

Raúl: Carving the pig for serving is easy. Place the pig on a large table skin-side up or skin-side down -- it's a personal preference. Use a large meat fork and pull the meat away from the bones.

Jorge: The meat should be falling off of the bones by now!

Glenn: The meat is always taken in chunks and shreds, never sliced! We guess that's what they mean by "pulled pork."

Jorge: A sharp knife does come in handy to cut away the ribs -- a real delicacy!

Glenn: Remember too that many people enjoy snacking on the crisp skin, so don't throw the skin away until everyone has had their fill!

Jorge: The next day, disassemble the pit and save the cement blocks for the next pig roast. Our blocks at Raúl's house are about 15 years old and are still good for many years to come!

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Noche Buena in the North

Many people ask about roasting a pig for Noche Buena in those unfortunate parts of the country where it actually gets cold, and even snows on Christmas Eve. We have roasted several pigs in Iowa and Minnesota, but always during the summer or fall. However, we have had several reports from visitors to our website who have roasted pigs using our methods at temperatures down to 15 degrees! So it is very possible to have a traditional Noche Buena in the frozen Northlands. If you can stand being outside in that weather, so can your pig!

Your biggest problem in the winter is heat loss. We suggest that you be real generous with the charcoal to keep the cooker nice and hot and be really vigilant about adding more charcoal! It’s also important to set your cooker up someplace where it will be out of the wind! You may also want to cover the top of the pig with a large sheet of aluminum (in addition to the foil) to trap more of the heat in.

Important Legal Disclaimers

The instructions for assembling the pig roaster and pig holder are tried and true methods the Three Guys from Miami have been using for years.

However, the Three Guys From Miami are not going to be there looking over your shoulder! So please understand that we cannot guarantee or warranty anything that you assemble yourself. Your skills and abilities may vary from ours, and there is no way that we can ensure that your "do-it-yourself" project will work as intended. Thus, it is important that you note the following legal disclaimer:

USE THESE INSTRUCTIONS AT YOUR OWN RISK

Due to differing materials, tools, and your individual skills, the builder of any devices described on this site IMPLICITLY ASSUMES ALL RISKS inherent in the building of said devices AND in the preparation of any food item using these devices. In no event shall iCuban.com, Musibay, Lindgren & Castillo, LLP, or any affiliated companies (Website Content Providers) be liable for any damages, including direct or consequential, personal injuries suffered, or property or economic losses incurred as a result of using the information published on this website.

The Website Content Providers assume no liability or responsibility for the design, construction, or use of any device described on this site.

The Website Content Providers make no warranty, express or implied, as to the suitability of any device or method described on this site for any purpose whatsoever (including without limitation, the implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose). The reader of this website must determine what, if any purpose any device is suitable for, including the production and cooking of food items. Follow all accepted safety procedures.

Before starting any do-it-yourself project, review all instructions carefully. We cannot anticipate your working conditions or the condition of your materials and tools. For your safety, always consider your own skill level and use good judgment, care, and prudence when following all instructions. Always read and observe all instructions and safety precautions provided by any tool or materials manufacturer.

The reader assumes total responsibility and risk for any use of the information provided on this site.

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