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#123BBQ with Chef Michael Symon: The Whole Hog

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Serious Eats has had a blast kicking back with Bank of America and Chef Michael Symon as he's shared his advice for creating succulent grilled chicken, delectably tender beef, and perfectly charred vegetables. But we got really fired up when he offered his tips for conquering the pinnacle of barbecue. Yep, that's right: Michael's talking about throwing a good old-fashioned pig roast.

As any committed carnivore can tell you, there's hardly a piece of pork that can't be transformed by the magic of barbecuing. From ribs, to bellies, to shoulders, everyone's got their own favorite part of the pig. But Michael likes to have it all. "I'm a whole hog guy," he confesses.

Getting ready for the big roast does involve a little planning ahead. "I rub the pig the day before," Michael explains. "I use kosher salt, a touch of sugar, and a bit of smoked paprika; I keep it really simple. And then I baste it with a very vinegary, mustardy base." Just make sure not to go overboard with the seasonings. "When you start playing too much with acidic marinades or salty rubs, it starts to change the texture of the meat."

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[Photograph: Joshua Bousel]

On the big day, low and slow is the way it's got to be. "Use an offset smoker if you have one. If not, just really try to control the heat," Michael suggests. And to get that expertly subtle smoky flavor, he prefers using a mild wood like applewood. "I think woods like mesquite tend to overpower the meat," he offers. "Fruitwoods are really your best bet."

And the one thing a roast master has to have in spades, according to Michael? "Patience!" If you're the sort of griller who likes the fast-paced fury of high flames, look elsewhere. "It's a great time to hang out with your friends and drink beer," he says. So open up a cold one, relax, and just check in with your pig every now and then to make sure that things are going nice and easy.

Whether you're tackling the whole beast or just cooking up some perfectly petite pork chops, make sure to share photos of your barbecuing glory with #123BBQ. Labor Day will be here sooner than you can say "all-American cookout," so get crackin'!

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