Pitmaster Leonard Botello IV decided to bring the tradition of Carolina whole hog barbecue over to the Lone Star State
After Truth BBQ’s popular brisket made the restaurant one of Texas’s most popular barbecue spots, pitmaster Leonard Botello IV decided to expand his menu by bringing Carolina whole hog barbecue to Houston. “I think if you spend more than 10 hours on anything it becomes art,” he says. “It’s the same way with whole hog. The Carolinas are so passionate about their whole hog and it’s kind of like the same journey for that cook, just a different animal and a different process.”
The process begins by sawing open a whole pig. “I was intimidated by the whole animal,” Botello describes. “A 120 to 140 pound pig is pretty intimidating, it’s a big animal.” After, he’s lays the pig flat on the smoker where it’s covered in salt, and preps his wood, fire, and coals. When the coals are hot enough, he evenly lines them at the bottom of the smoker. Coals burn off direct heat, so there is less of a smoky flavor as there is with the restaurant’s briskets. “That’s the way they do it in the Carolinas and I didn’t really want to change it up too much because I wanted to be respectful of those guys and I really appreciate the way they’re cooking out there.”
Twelve hours later, after Botello has moved the coals around to crisp up the bottom part of the pig, he brings the whole animal inside the kitchen and begins to carve it. He removes the crispy skin, chops up the meat, adds salt, pepper, and traditional Carolina vinegar sauce to enhance the flavor of the pork. He then cuts up the skins and mixes it back in. “You’ve got the hams, you’ve got the shoulders, you’ve got the loins, you’ve got the belly, all those are different textures and then this adds that crunchiness,” he says. “I love how many different flavors you can get in one bite.” The chopped and seasoned pork is then brought to the kitchen to either be sold by the pound or served in sandwiches.
“I don’t know why more people don’t do it,” Botello says of his whole hog barbecue process. “I think right now…everyone is focusing on brisket, and they’re so dialed in trying to figure out how to cook that perfect brisket, and they lose track of like; there’s more barbecue outside of Texas. The barbecue movement is still going other places.”
Check out the full video to see Botello’s process for the restaurant’s famous brisket, sausages, and more.