NEWBURGH, Maine — Stu and Jen Hatch, owners of Mainely Cookouts on Carmel Road North, know meat. They believe slow cooking is the best way to prepare anything, especially whole pigs. More than that, a pig roasted to a golden-pink crisp has the power to change the minds of people who previously turned up their noses at pork, they say.
These days, as more people look to eat local and prepare food at home, the time-honored tradition of holding a pig roast is making its way back to Maine, particularly in rural communities.
“When you would go to a barbecue, it would usually be chicken, burgers or hot dogs,” Jen Hatch said.
But the menu is changing.
“People are trying to get away from the standard barbecue,” Stu Hatch said. “And after you’ve [been to] a pig roast, you’ll go to another.”
Maine is home to a handful of mobile barbecuing services. Some offer on-site cooking services, such as Mainely Pig Roasts in Westbrook; others prepare meat at their business location and bring it to parties or events.
The Hatches and their three adult sons have run Mainely Cookouts, a mobile barbecue service, for the past 15 years. They travel throughout the state, bringing equipment, cooked meat or their barbecuing services to families, businesses and organizations.
Stu Hatch believes the increase in interest has a lot to do with the resurfacing back-to-the-land movement that is bringing many young Mainers out to rural areas and farms. When that happens, he said, people are more likely to come together to dine. But Stu Hatch said he can’t deny — it also has to do with the meat tasting better.
“It’s the flavor of the the pig, the camaraderie,” he said. “When you say ‘pig roast,’ all your friends, family and neighbors are going to come.”
But pig roasts aren’t inexpensive. Mainely Pig Roasts charges $14 per person and has a 60-pound pig minimum — side dishes, such as watermelon and baked beans, are extra. Mainely Cookouts doesn’t have a set fee but instead tries to adjust costs to the customer’s need. However, they do rent their cookers out for $50 to $150 for people more interested in doing it themselves.
Stu Hatch created his cookers out of 25-pound oil drums: One type looks similar to a standard barbecue grill with a large grate below the curved lid to hold the meat, and the other type has a rotating basket with big stakes to hold the pig while the cage rotates. Both types have trailers. The family is working on a prototype with skis that could be pulled behind a snowmobile in the winter.
Stu Hatch instructs customers to cut pigs in half and place each side bone-side down on the grate. Then charcoal is started outside the cooker. After about an hour, the charcoal is added to the drum in a rectangular shape along the edges of a shelf below the grate. Hatch said with his equipment a 100-pound pig would take about six hours to cook and would serve 60 people. However, according to the Mainely Pig Roasts website, a 100-pound pig would take nine to 10 hours to cook and would feed up to 100 people.
Regardless of time, Stu Hatch said he’s certain it’s a sure-fired way to turn one-time tasters into pig roast fans for life.
“It’s not your granny’s over-dried pork chops,” he said. “It’s a lot fun and a good way to make good food and meet people, too.”