Last weekend the campground put on a Luau / Pig Roast, the catch being that no one on the campground staff had ever done a whole pig on an offset smoker before. You can probably see where this is going.
A propane-tank smoker was borrowed and readied the day before the cook by getting its firebox door welded back on, and three of us were volunteered because we had some experience, although not on that cooker.
Surely the cooker owner knew how to operate it, right? Wrong!
By the time I wandered over I found about nine feet of pigs crammed into about six feet of usable space and the firebox jammed full of some charcoal and lots of smoldering wood, billowing vast clouds of thick white smoke. Yet more lighter fluid was applied to the mass without much effect.
After a while us three volunteers were left on our own, so I decided to shovel that smoldering mass out on the ground, put the fire grate in the firebox where it was supposed to be, and build a proper fire. By that time the pigs were pretty well smoke-coated but at least it wasn’t creosote.
We decided that the cooker was happy for an hour or so and wandered off. We came back to find the temperature way up and the wood I’d laid on the firebox to dry out had disappeared. I didn’t think anything about the wood at the time but I should’ve.
After a couple of times of that I installed my wireless thermometer so I could sit on my porch and keep an eye on the temperature.
All was well for a couple of hours, then the temperature climbed a bit, then went way up. Grease fire! One of the volunteers had seen the orange glow from all the way over at the pool and was getting it under control by the time we got there. The drying wood was, again, missing.
We put two and two together and came up with five. We had a helper. Obviously someone was wandering over and throwing in wood, causing temperature spikes and clouds of smoke.
We decided the only way to stop that was that we’d have to sit there all night and since I’m a nightowl anyway I got first shift. The temperature spikes stopped, no more grease fires.
We had company all night and met some really…er…interesting people. We were making so much noise around dawn that I think people brought us coffee just to shut us up!
My other two volunteers showed up a while later and we proceeded to pull out one pig for pulling and flip the other for presentation. That’s a little more involved than it sounds since they were around 65 pounds each. But with a lot of shuffling around and singed arms it was accomplished.
We pulled pork and we pulled pork and we pulled pork. Once we finally got through with that bedtime had arrived!
The other two had some restaurant experience so they arranged service while I happily snored for a couple of hours. The staff cooks magnificently turned out all the other food on time from a standing start Saturday morning.
We served a bunch of people and no one was complaining. The pigs were ugly but they sure were moist and tasty.
I learned that if I’m going to cook with all wood in an offset a burn pile to shovel coals from is really necessary; never, ever, leave the pit unattended, and if a cooker is ugly it’ll probably cook that way. But it was a fun night and the event was a success.