Cooking a Whole Beast on a Spit

Over the last 9 years this is something I have been asked to advise on regularly, and in the last 4 months since we opened our shop in Edinburgh I have been asked twice and helped do it once. It is a good idea for a party I once cooked two sheep and four suckling pigs for a party I gave in London. It is a surprisingly cheap way of catering and always causes excitement.


  1. Either hire a spit and stand, or build two pillars of concrete blocks each 90 cm/3 ft high and 1.2 m/4 ft apart.
  2. Make a marinade of garlic, herbs, lemon and oil and rub it well into the animal. If it is a sheep, put branches of rosemary inside the body cavity and rub in coarse salt. If a pig, you can put garlic and herbs inside and sew up the cavity.
  3. Push the spit or a 1 cm/½ in. diameter steel rod through the animal’s anus and out through its mouth, or throat if the head is removed.
  4. Bind the pig’s feet to the spit with steel wire (this does not apply to sheep).
  5. Light a fire between the posts, using a mixture of wood and charcoal, and spread it out. The fire should be about 20 cm/8 in. deep. Leave to burn for about 2 hours.
  6. Raise the spit in place over the fire and secure to the stand or pillars. After 20 minutes of cooking, the fat will begin to run, so baste with the marinade. Continue to baste every half hour. Raising or lowering the spit above the coals will control the cooking.
  7. A lamb weighs between 5-22 kg/11-50lb and a pig 3.6-68 kg/8-150 lb, although anything above 31.5 kg/70lb is impractical. Allow a minimum of 3 hours’ cooking for a small beast; otherwise calculate at 20 minutes to each 450 g/1 lb.