Yes, Game of Thrones is coming to a close. For the penultimate episode, I wanted to do something over-the-top. At first, I wanted to do a suckling pig and spit roast it over an open fire. However, my main source for quality meats, Saint Paul Meat Shop couldn’t get me one. But they could get me a whole pig head!
My first step was to “pull” Chris Consentino’s Offal Good off my Kindle library and read about how to cook a whole head. I used his recipes as a starting point to go my own way.
I knew that I wanted to serve it bossam style complete with lettuce wraps, kimchi, pickled onions, ssamjang, and other Korean pickles. Since it is really fatty, it would need the vinegar from the kimchi and pickles to balance things out.
So my strategy would be to cook it fully sous vide and then finish it in a turkey deep fryer. While it didn’t go exactly to plan, it tasted awesome and my guests loved it!
Sous Vide and Fried Whole Pigs Head
- 1 whole pig’s head, split in half (preferably with skin and ears attached) -(10-20 lbs)
- 0.1-0.2 oz /lb of head Morton’s tender quick
- 1 bunch thyme
- 8 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 tablespoons whole peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon whole allspice
- 1 tablespoon whole cloves
- 6 bay leaves
- 3 gallons peanut oil
- Preheat large sous vide bath to 190F (I used a 5-gallon cooler)
- If your pig head has skin on, shave any hairs, clean ears thoroughly and singe any straggling hairs with a torch
- Weigh head and then weigh out a corresponding amount of Morton’s Tender Quick at a rate of 0.1-0.2 oz per lb (about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon)
- Divide Tender Quick, thyme, spices, and bay leaves evenly into two bowls
- Carefully place each head-half in an expandable sous vide bag taking care not to puncture the bag (cut bones and teeth are sharp!).
- Sprinkle cure over the head. Reach in and spread it all over. Toss in spices and herbs. Repeat with other head-half.
- Vacuum seal and then double seal each end. (You may want to clamp the ends with paper clamps to prevent seal failure)
- Cook in bath for about 14 hours
- Chill completely in an ice bath. Remove from bag and refrigerate open on a wire rack until 1 hour before serving
- Heat convection oven to 200F with fan on
- Place half-heads on a wire rack and insert into oven
- Meanwhile, slowly heat peanut oil a 5-gallon turkey fryer to 375F (takes about 30-60 minutes depending on your burner)
- Fry head-halves for 5-7 minutes without skin or 10-15 minutes with skin until golden brown and a tester comes out warm
- Serve with lettuce wraps, pickled onions, ssamjang, kimchi, and Korean pickles
Be sure to seal your vacuum bags very well!
Tasting and lessons learned
Well this was just fantastic! It was rich and savory and we attacked this thing ferociously. Frying it gave us a nice crunchy exterior with a super tender interior. The pickles and kimchi were a MUST! They have acid to balance the super fatty meat. Together, the pairing is unbelievably tasty.
Salt and curing
I liked that the cure gave it a nice pink color, but don’t follow the dosing rate on the Morton’s bag. It would be way too salty because the ratio assumes that there is no bone. Since the head is mostly skull and jawbone, it would be inedibly salty. 0.1-0.2 oz per lb of pigs head is about right.
Originally, I did the full 0.5 oz per lb because I didn’t account for the head. However, my seals failed on my sous vide bag because I used a machine I hadn’t tested yet and 190f is hot for a sous vide bath. I even double-sealed the bags. Because the seals failed, it allowed water into the bags. This ended up saving my recipe because it diluted the cure to a more manageable level. I got lucky!
We want a pig head skin on!
I wish that my pig head came with the skin and ears on. I was expecting it to and was unpleasantly surprised when it came without the skin and ears. Pork skin is so good and I really wanted that crispy golden covering. Also one of the head halves broke apart in the fryer without the skin-on and I fished the meat out with a spider skimmer. Still tasted great, but wasn’t the presentation I wanted.
Expandable sous vide bags?
This was also my first time working with the expandable sous vide bags from Foodsaver. I absolutely loved them! I’ve struggled to get Prime rib roast into bags before and this is thousand times easier! I’ll always use these for big things going forward.
Offal and courage
Lastly, I want to talk about courage. I was a little intimidated about cooking a whole pigs head at first. But I approached it as confidently as I could and I’m happy with how things turned out! Offal is a little scary, but when treated right, it can be delicious. I have to thank Chris Consentino’s Offal Good again. It breaks things down and demystifies the more esoteric cuts like sweetbreads.