Building a Roasting Pit

Rex Trulove's image for:
"Building a Roasting Pit"
Image by: 

This is one of the most interesting fire pits, producing unexpectedly good results.

First, what is a roasting pit? A roasting pit is a deep pit that meat is put into for cooking. The meat is then buried, and the fire is built over the top. The heat from the fire slowly roasts the contents of the pit.

While a person can cook smaller amounts of meat in this way, for instance, one or two chickens, this is usually used to cook larger items, like a whole pork or beef. It can be used as well to cook fresh caught seafood, such as crabs, lobster, clams, or oysters.

Since a roasting pit can be used to cook many different things, these instructions are rather generic. Adjust them as needed for the item you are going to cook, so that the actual fire pit is about 2-3 feet deep. Also note that this is *not* a quick cooking method; it takes time. For instance, a medium sized whole beef can take 3 days to cook. The results, however, are well worth the time and effort.

Start by digging a deep hole, 4' to 6' deep. The diameter of the hole should be large enough for the meat you are cooking to fit into it comfortably. For instance, for a venison, a 5' diameter would probably work, but for a whole beef, this would probably be too small. The sides of the pit should slant inward slightly toward the bottom, so that the bottom diameter isn't quite as big as that of the top. The soil in the bottom of the hole should be damp...this aids with the cooking.

Line the bottom of the hole with green leaves to flavor the meat and hold in the moisture. The type of leaves used can vary, depending on what is readily available. Example of good choices are cabbage, lettuce, green alfalfa, curled dock, water cress, and similar. Place the cleaned meat on this bed of leaves, season it with plenty of salt, pepper, raw garlic, and onions, and wrap more leaves around it. Ideally, the leaves should be one or two inches thick, all the way around the meat.

Over the top of this, add dirt, about 2', until the depth of the pit is about 2'. Ring the pit with rocks, then build a fire in the pit, concentrating on building a good bed of coals. Once a good bed of coals is established and the fire is going well, simply add logs to the fire to keep it going. If done properly, a 1000 pound beef will take approximately a day and a half to cook, and will yield beef that is everything from medium rare to well done. Cooking a couple 5 pound chickens, however, will only take 6-8 hours. (The greatest amount of time is in getting the heat through the layer of dirt where it will begin cooking the meat. To test the meat, a pointed metal skewer of the right length can be passed down through the bottom of the fire pit and into the meat. It should pass easily through the meat, though you may need to vary the angle if you encounter bone. Once it is nearly done, allow the fire to go out or douse it, then carefully dig up the meat.

While this may sound like a bazaar way to cook meat, I can assure you that the result is just this side of heaven. The meat will be partly steamed and tends to be very tender, it will be extremely moist, the flavor of the garlic and onion will permeate the meat, but in a delicate sort of way, and there will be plenty of meat to go around, even for quite a group. I have yet to see a time when this has been done that many people didn't go back for seconds and even thirds, in fact. To be honest, the best barbecue I've ever had was a pit roasted meat, rather than a conventional barbecue. And since the amount of meat can be so easily varied, this is ideal for large gatherings. If you have never tried this, you owe it to yourself and everyone you cook for to try it at least once.

More about this author: Rex Trulove

From Around the Web