A Lechon is a young pig between the ages of two and six weeks of life. This lechon is traditionally cooked whole in its entirety, often roasted either in a “grill” or an mud oven. It is usually prepared as a treat for special occasions, gatherings, birthdays, graduations, Christmas and on national festivals in various cuisines through South America and Central America.
Usually when someone chooses to cook a lechon they will buy an organic fed pig that was naturally fed on grass and corn and not from an industrial animal farm. Not only this is healthier but helps the local farm economy.
An average lechon weighs 8 to 10 kilos (or 18 to 22 Lbs.) and is cooked in a parrilla (Argentine barbecue) for a total of 4 to 5 hours.
Some people prefer to marinate the lechon the previous night with a lot of lemon juice, garlics, parsley and cayenne pepper. By noon the next day it’s ready to be cooked! Contrary to what is done with Chivitos or Lamb, the lechon is located on the grill with it’s leather facing the fire coals. Also a very important tip is that the lechon should be flat and shouldn’t start to “curve” throughout those hours – therefore the front and back legs should be snapped out and then down.
The parrilla should be pulled up and furthest from the heat and the cooking time should be slow and constant. It is said that you should be able to put your hand in the heat for about 10 seconds to know that it the right temperature. The skin of the lechon should be golden and crispy when it’s well cooked and ready to be served.
The calculated cooking time is two hours and a half per side – but it’s usually turned around at the two hour mark to then be turned back for the last half-hour. Then the meat should be so tender that it should be easily torn off the bone!
This traditional dish is usually served with “Ensalada Rusa” which is a potato salad, with peas, chopped boiled carrots and mayonaise or “Ensalada Mixta” which is lettuce, tomato, onions and lemon with olive oil.