Cochon de Lait

Cochon de Lait literally translates from French to English as "pig in milk", or it is called a "suckling pig". A Cochon de Lait is basically a cajun pig roast of a whole young pig.  The pig is slow roasted for 6 to 12 hours.  That is what makes a Cochon de Lait an event rather than just cooking a meal.  It's an extended "male bonding", "story telling", "bull shooting", "beverage of your choice drinking", "fire tending" event ! I learned how to roast a pig from my late brother-in-law Ronnie Nezat.  Click for pictures of one of those early cochon de laits at Ronnie's hunting camp on the banks of the Atchafalaya River.


  • 25 to 100 pound young pig
  • injecting marinade (see recipe below)
  • cajun seasoning mix (homemade, Chachere's or Zatarain's)
  • several heads of garlic
  • cooking shed
  • lots of wood

Preparing the Pig

  • Obtain a 25 to 100 pound young pig.  I've usually cooked about a 70-80 pound pig.  The largest pig I ever cooked was 115 lb, which fed about 80 people.

    Cochon de lait - "pig in milk"

    These are 80-100 pound pigs.

  • The pig needs to be butchered by scraping and not skinning.  The skin needs to be on the pig so the meat does not dry out. 
  • If you do not want the little fellow looking at you while its cooking, then cook it without the head.  Personally, I consider having the head on part of the presentation of a cochon de lait.  But by all means, remove the eyes.
  • Prepare a sturdy frame to spread and skewer the pig.  You will have to partially split the backbone of the rib cage from the body cavity side in order to spread the pig flat.  The pig  needs to be supported for its full length, or else it may fall apart when it gets tender. 

    Pig with the legs attached to a top and bottom bar, with reinforcing wire for support.
  • Another method would be to sandwich the pig between wire mesh.
Seasoning the Pig
  • This is the most important part.  The pig needs to be injected with a marinade, stuffed with garlic, and coated on all sides with a seasoning mix.
  • Inject Marinade: About a quart of marinade is injected into all parts of the pig.  Use an injector needle that has holes on the side.  I have never made the same marinade twice, but it is always mixture containing a cajun seasoning mix, garlic powder or juice, onion powder or juice, hot pepper sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and sometimes butter. For starters, try the following turkey injecting recipe, without butter.

    Injecting Marinade
    • liquid garlic, 6 oz
    • liquid onion, 6 oz
    • liquid crab boil, 3 oz
    • Worcestershire sauce, 6 oz
    • Tabasco/red pepper sauce, 6 oz
    • cajun seasoning mix (homemade, Chachere's or Zatarain's), 6 tbs
    • makes about 28 oz

    Inject the marinade into all parts
  • Stuff Garlic:  Peel the cloves of  garlic.  Cut cloves in half  lengthwise .  Moisten and coat the cloves in cajun seasoning mix.  With a slender, sharp knife, cut small slits in the skin and into the meat.  Insert a 1/2 clove garlic in each slit.  Insert garlic into all parts of the pig.  For my taste, you cannot overdo the garlic!
  • Coat with Cajun Seasoning Mix:  Coat all surfaces with a good cajun seasoning mix (homemade, Chachere's or Zatarain's).
  • Allow the pig to marinade in a cooler or on ice at least overnight, and longer if possible.
Methods of Cooking
  • Cooking Shed:  The method I use is a cooking shed made out of tin.   The shed needs to be about 4-6 feet wide, about 6 feet tall, and 6-8 feet deep.  You can build the three sides and top as panels, so the shed can be quickly assembled and disassembled.  A rotisserie needs to be mounted above an opening at the front of  the shed, and above the tin so it is out of the heat. You can use a small electric rotisserie like those available for  gas barbecue pits .  The pig needs to be hung from a rotisserie so it constantly turns at a slow speed.  This method requires a lot of logs because the fire has to burn for a half day or more - so be prepared.
  • First generation cooking shed at a 
    Floriculture Club lake outing in the 1980s

    "New and Improved" cooking shed at the 2002 Horticulture Reunion
    Note: Chicken cooking on a rod in the upper right, and a rack cooking a brisket in the upper left of the shed. Click for larger still image.
  • Cajun Microwave:  My good friend, the late Gene Duos, built a metal lined plywood box with racks inside to lay the pig, or what ever you're cooking.  The top is metal and double walled, containing a propane burner over a metal plate.  Wood chips are laid on the metal plate to create the smoke and the burner can be regulated to adjust the temperature.   The picture below shows Gene and his son, the late Barry Duos, cooking pig in his Cajun Microwave for a undergraduate club outing on South Padre Island. Boy has he cooked some good food in the old box! 
  • Gene Duos' cajun microwave Gene (right) and Barry (left) Duos, and Gene's Cajun Microwave
  • Some hang the pig from a frame, such as a swing set, and the pig is rotisseried next to or above an open fire

  • Some roast the pig on a parallel rack suspended above a coal filled ground pit.
Cooking the Pig
  • Start the fire in the back of the shed.  Let the fire burn until you have good coals to keep the logs burning. 
  • Hang the pig and start the rotisserie.
  • Keep enough wood on the fire so it is hot enough that you can stand or hold your hand by the pig for only 5 or 10 seconds. I have no idea what temperature that would be (I'll measure it next time), but I'm guessing about 180 to 200 oF.  It's not a bad idea to start out with a pretty hot fire to get the outside of the pig up to temperature quickly, then let the fire die down a bit for the rest of the cooking period.
  • Flip the pig and hang it from the other side every couple of hours so the pig will cook evenly.
  • Now comes the easy part.  Sit back, drink a cold beverage, throw some wood on the fire every now and then, tell some bad jokes, and enjoy the company of your friends.
  • Cook the pig until the skin is golden brown, starts cracking, and the meat starts drawing away from the bones.   This can be anywhere from 6 to 12 hours, depending on how hot you kept the fire and the size of the pig. 
  • If you like, you can insert a meat thermometer into the hind quarter to check the internal temperature.  Cookbooks indicate a temperature of  of 170 oF is desired for pork. However, the only time I ever measured the internal temperature, it never went above 155 oF , yet the pig was cooked through-out and the meat was falling off the bones.  Go figure!
  • When our shop built the last cooking shed, I had them hang a rod in the top of the shed to skew chickens and hang sausage, and hang a rack to cook briskets.

  • Cooking brisket to go with the pork

    Cooking chicken to feed the cooks
  • The chickens and sausage are to feed the cooks while cooking the pig, and the briskets are done about the time the pig is done.
Carving and Serving
  • Lay the cooked pig on a flat surface, skin side down.  Filet the meat off the bone and away from the skin. 

  • Enjoy the feast!
Link back to Recipe Home Page ©David Wm. Reed