Whole Hog BBQ – South Carolina Style

[Music] Nothing like hot fresh barbecue coming off the pit after the 12-13 hours. It’s nothing like it. I mean it’s really hard to describe. Only in New Orleans will you find South Carolina whole hog barbecue and a second-line on any given Sunday. I’m Dr. Howard Conyers. I’m a NASA engineer. I’m also a South Carolina whole hog pit master now living in New Orleans, Louisiana. Currently I work at Stennis Space Center, which is on the border of Louisiana and Mississippi, testing rocket engines. Being a rocket scientist was great, but my passion is being a South Carolina whole hog barbecue pitmaster, because I get to carry on the tradition that was in my community for hundreds of years and it’s my time to help share this rich history and culture before it’s gone. South Carolina whole hog barbecue is in my blood. I learned it from my father and he learned it from generations of cooks before him in the community. So, for this episode, I wanted to share with you the basics of South Carolina whole hog barbecue. There are five main things to think about when it comes to barbecue: the coals, the pit, the pig, the wait, and,of course, the sauce. Number one: the coals. You can use lump charcoal or briquettes, but I really like hardwood coals — mainly oak with a little hickory or pecan. I make a fire in a burn barrel I made — basically a 55-gallon drum with a hole cut in the bottom with metal rebar inside two separate fire from the embers. As coals keep forming in the base of the burn barrel, I transfer them to the pit with a shovel. So we got a burn barrel here going and one of the first things that I learned how to do in cooking whole hog barbecue is learn how to manage the fire. That fire is what is giving you the embers the be able to cook your hog throughout the process. Number two is the pit. If you have a pit already, that’s great. My dad inspired me to design my own from how he learned to barbecue. It was interesting, because my father said he learned how to cook pigs in the ground. And with him cooking pigs in the ground, I never had a visual of how he cooked. So, he drew the sketch of a pit in the ground. And so, I took my father’s sketch and recreated my own, being an engineer, on engineers paper. I fabricated my own portable pit, but you can build one easily with cinder block, stacking them like Legos, leaving two doors to shove in coals. You will need a metal rack big enough for your pig. I suggest rebar overlaid with fence wire. The rack should be no more than two feet above your heat source. Then, a dense sheet metal roof cover is no more than a foot above the rack. Number three is the pig. When I was a kid we will slaughter our own hogs for family events, but you can get a fresh whole pig from a butcher, meat market, or farmer. You want one about ninety to a hundred pounds dressed. Dressed means just meat — no hair, no organs. That’ll feed about 50 to 60 people. Cut the backbone down the center with a hatchet and hammer, but don’t pierce the skin. You don’t want dripping fat to start a fire and ruin the pig for your friends. Split the pig, or butterfly as I like to say, so it will lay flat on the grate. Salt it, but no rubs or sauce at the start, especially in the Carolinas. First thing — got to salt them up beforehand. [Music] Flip them over. Like to cook them skin side up — the whole process. Number three: the wait. Low and slow heat is key. Often times, we would get started like 12 o’clock at night and finish up at like twelve or one o’clock the next day. We burn the wood down first of all. And we got the pig is in here. And we just slide the coals in here. I kind of make adjustments, because I don’t use any thermometers. But every 30 or 40 minutes, I put coals in here because it gives more heat back to continue the cooking process. The pit should be about 225 degrees. I add coals on the ends nearsest the thickest part of the pig — the shoulders and the hams. And then we wait. Adding coals all night long, but this is the best part when we sit around and share traditions of the past. My main inspiration for researching the ties between barbecue and my own heritage were news stories about America’s pitmasters. I remember when this came out and I saw no African-americans listed in most…. Americans most influential barbecue. It was kind of disheartening because I never knew what about a word pitmaster growing up. A lot of guys who I learned how to cook whole hog barbecue were just known as cooks or barbecuers. I started researching barbecue traditions, interviewing people, talking to the barbecue cooks I knew. I looked at historic sketches and photographs. Now I’m sharing what I’ve learned — that most barbecue practices spread across early America along with slavery. For generations, African-Americans were the masters of the pit on southern plantationsj. Oral histories document the practice. One generation taught another how to do it. It doesn’t take rocket science to execute barbecue, but what it takes is a lot of hard work, a lot of learning to get it right. You just can’t pick this up overnight. When I was like three or four years old, I father used to let me throw a piece of wood in the fire. And then and I got a little older and I was strong enough to be able to actually lift the shovel full of coals and do it safely without burning myself so my mom wouldn’t get mad. He allowed me to actually take the shovel and put underneath the pig. I’m starting to smell the pig — that’s one of those things. I’m starting to get a whiff of it. The smell of the cooked pig is hard to describe, but I would say it is close to smoky bacon. The finished pig turns a light reddish brown and the skin separates from the meat, forming a bubble that almost looks translucent. After 11 to 12 hours, or when the pig gets to 195 degrees, you really have to pay attention. You can end up with a perfect pig, a dry pig, or a pig on fire if you’re not careful. Flip it over, skin side down, for about 30 more minutes, but don’t take your eyes off it, because this is the most critical part of the cooking process. Now for my favorite part, number 5 — the sauce. You can use any recipe you like, but mine! I apply the sauce to the meat at the end of the cooking process. A lot of people would like to know what’s in my family barbecue sauce. I can’t really tell you what’s in it. But what I can’t tell you, it’s true the South Carolina. It has vinegar in it. It has a little bit of mustard. It has sugar, black pepper, red pepper, cayenne pepper, and a whole lot of love. So what are your favorite traditions and memories for cooking barbecue? And what do your traditions say about you your history and where you’re from? Share things from your barbecue culture below. In future episodes of Nourish, we explore more culture traditions and science of foods of the American South. Think of our show as food for your mind, body, and soul. This program is made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting

100 thoughts on “Whole Hog BBQ – South Carolina Style

  1. Random coincidence as I was looking at bbq videos. I went to school with him. I majored in IE. I think he pledged with my cousin Connell. I remember thinking there is no way a person is this smart. 🧐🧐🧐I was wrong. 🤷🏽‍♀️🤷🏽‍♀️😂😂😂🤦🏾‍♀️🤦🏾‍♀️Aggie Pride!!! Proud of my guy. Stay up – Elizabeth

  2. I remember my father and his brothers and cousins THE MALES drinking white lighting all night long so l guess the pig cooked itself😜

  3. That is very inspirational I am very glad to see someone that has a desire for cooking like you do and family-orientated when I come to New Orleans again I will try looking you up

  4. Thanx for sharing and keeping the tradition real, hats off to you , secret sauce and keeping it true to heritage,

  5. I just came across your site. Thank you so much for sharing. I love tradition. You make me proud of our American heritage. It has nothing to do with race, money, or anything. It is a love for food and people having a great time of fellowship.

  6. Wow, sure are alot of people in here putting an emphasis on race concerning this video. I think everyone has eyes and we can see that it is a black man. But thanks everyone for pointing it out in detail. Much appreciated.

  7. So glad I found your channel as a result of your interview on the BBQ Central Show. I have never cooked a whole hog but I have always been intrigued by the process. I also commend you for bringing attention to the place we have in the history of BBQ cooking.

  8. ▪How amazing A Rocket Scientist that loves to cook BBQ so wonderful Congratulations on your success Many Many blessings to you Dr.Sir.▪▪■▪▪■▪▪

  9. The tradition of killing us that 🐖 been killing black men since day one do u want a ham or turkey

  10. I would love to eat at your house. It was one of the best videos I have seen. The best part is that you took the time to research the history of being a pit-master. That's what makes a smart person. You are not reinventing the wheel, just improving on the process. Very nice job young man.

  11. That’s awesome Doc, I live on the Mississippi gulf coast and I really would enjoy getting together with you to learn about the traditions of cooking South Carolina whole hog.

  12. “Well I can’t really tell you what’s in my sauce, but it does have… (proceeds to list the ingredients 😂)”

  13. In Serbia, we spit roast them for about 6-8 hours and just salt them. Meaning there is no sauce, so it basically comes down to how good the meat is.

  14. Talking about living a smoke life in both worlds…..good smelling cooking smoke and good educational smoke from the rockets. Great video sir, please continue to share your great knowledge.

  15. I swear i could smell that cooking. I would love to learn the ins and outs of BBQ. My girl and i are wanting to start doing this. Just because we love BBQ so much.

  16. I like you're passion for what you do, Thank You for the video, I like you're pit. And the hog looked delicious. God Bless.

  17. my father introduced me to the 'southern-pit' style of BBQ in Kansas City when i was a kid. the pit masters were actually from St. Joseph,Mo. where my dad was from.

  18. I love the Step-by-step instructions. But when it came to the sauce recipe and I got nothing….Kind of let me down. This Yankee spent many years in the Carolinas. I remember all the bbq restaurants, but the church Harvest dinner was the Greatest! Now I can't find or make a good Carolina barbecue sauce.

  19. Your an inspiration to me and allot of others I'm sure of it. It's important to know and respect the culture behind the fork. I'd love to bring you a pig and learn your way of BBQ.

  20. SC BBQ is the best. I own a place down there and will be going in about 2 weeks. BBQ every day…maybe some shrimp and grits too.

  21. That what am talking about old recipes and good taste am building any BBQ and fire pits whatever outdoor love BBQs

  22. I used to work at Ft. Jackson. And the Brothers there make a very unique and totally killer roast pig. It’s different from roast hog in Asia, The Islands, Spain, etc. like the chef said, the used dry oak and not charcoal and it’s a 12 hour job with low heat. They apply a thing vinegar and mustard sauce about an hour before it’s done. It’s wrapped in cyclone fence wire and jigs are used to turn the pig. The most embers go under the hams. After it’s done the “rest it “ before getting it ready to carve. Cooking hogs like this is a cultural labor of love. I was hosted to several such “ques” like this while Ibwas there. I felt honored. All the other foods that go with it are awesome too. This is a cultural thing and it would not lend itself to being a commercial activity. I have had some good roast pigs. I won’t say this was inherently better than all others. But it is Pure Americana of the Native African Americans of the region. It was such good food and greater fellowship. Kudos to the pit master. After, eating this I would not call something like Famous Dave’s real “que.”. Great video!

  23. I can remember growing up around whole hog bbq’s just like this one. In North and South Carolina. All nighters hanging with my buddies while our dads tended the fires. Waking up in the back of a pickup to the smell of bbq and breakfast cooked over an open fire. We all slept good the night after. Great video!

  24. Well if a NASA scientist designs a BBQ pit. We can be sure of following.;
    The BBQ pit will work. Eventually.
    BBQ pit will be overbudget and missed deadlines for at least 5 FYs.
    NASA director will be questioned by Senate Science & Technology sub-committee as to why BBQ pit is late, and overbudget.

  25. I see in his family pics they were wearing SC state University hats. Being an Orangeburg native I can say that when homecoming for SC state comes this whole city smells of some of the best BBQ around. Those Sunday cookouts really do have the best BBQ.

  26. I'm KC barbecue through and through, but I would wreck a couple of plates of Dr. Conyers' 'cue in a heartbeat. Looks amazing.

  27. So glad to see this one doctor my father was one the greats Bbq men in Texas. I see all the so call pit master give falsehoods on how tjis is done. I started cooking with him when i was 8. We made brisket. In Texas we got it almost free, They called it trash meat. Until they saw the line of black people waiting in line to purchase the finish product.
    Coming to NO on my 60th September 24th do you have a place there?

  28. Wow! Looks really good Howard! Thanks for sharing. My name is Joe Parra. I made me a homemade spit roaster. I tried it out with five full chickens and they came out excellent. Now I want to put on a whole pig or a whole lamb. Please pass me any ideas on how to make a sauce or a rub for the pig. 915-850-3733. Hello from El Paso TX

  29. I was stunned to see that list too… I mean, Rodney Scott is a f'n legend in pit BBQ, one of only two pitmasters ever to win a James Beard Award, and the first African-American to ever win a James Beard award. Any list of influential pitmasters that doesn't include Mr. Scott is just a broken, dumb list.

  30. It was the blacks that first started cooking bbq .and the whites began learning from them later .the blacks allways got the parts of the pig no one wanted .so they had to make it tender to eat that means cooking the parts of the pig over a slow coal fire .bbq is born.

  31. Outstanding,,,, where in SC can we come to get some of your Barbecue. We just left Summerville and monk's corner.

  32. not like anyone cares, but make sure the fence wire is not galvanized. i do not recommend eating zinc, especially when it's been transferred onto the food from being heated.

  33. Ok bruh… after watching the whole video — you are just stealing the technique of that James Beard BBQ dude but using a western NC mustard sauce instead of his eastern NC vinegar/pepper sauce.

    Seriously dude, this is like plagiarism.

  34. Awesome here in Miami every 24 of December almost every Cuban house cooks a whole pig the same way in a hole in the dirt big custom barbecue or in a Chinese box it's a tradition but when alcohol gets involved it's a competition who makes the best tasting pig with a golden crispy skin that's where it gets competitive

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