Lechon, Round 5 – MM Score 8.875


With the last lechon (Round # 4), or Accuchon, rating an 8.75/10.0, any improvements from thereon in would be incremental, and relatively tiny. In fact, with serious experimentation, ratings could certainly fall lower than previous attempts. But no guts, no glory, right? So here is the post on Lechon #5. I thought I had reached lechon skin nirvana with the pin-pricked Accuchon and decided to use that method again. But since I wasn’t completely happy with the saltiness and flavor of the lechon the last time around, I figured the main difference of this lechon was to season it and let it marinate or cure for a while. With an entire chest freezer wiped squeaky clean, then left to freeze up for two days totally empty except for several bags of ice, I figured I could replicate a chilled room for an overnight slumber for Ms. Piggy…


The pig was seasoned GENEROUSLY with kosher salt and pepper and wrapped in a huge banana leaf and placed inside the chest freezer at about 7p.m. I kept the freezer on for another hour, added several bags of ice to the floor of the freezer, then shut the power off. Essentially, the carcass was in a very cold setting, almost near freezing and I left it there for about 9 hours, with instructions for someone to check the freezer every hour after midnight to ensure that it was still cold enough, and the ice had not completely defrosted. We had to turn the chest freezer back on for another hour at the crack of dawn as the temperature had risen quite a bit. Now what was the logic behind this weird move? I wanted to ensure that the salt really penetrated the meat of the pig. It also had the effect of drawing out a substantial amount of moisture from the pig (I would say some 3 cups of water) that froze on the floor of the chest freezer. Read, less moisture, hopefully more intense flavor. It was an experiment, and I have never heard of anyone else doing this here in Cebu or Manila. It could have been just folly. I also thought of it as similar to hanging the pig in a cold room overnight, except I couldn’t physically hang it in the freezer.


The next morning, around 8 a.m., we removed the pig and let it return to room temperature, which took 2.0 hours or so. Next, we stuffed it for more FLAVOR than ever before. A substantial amount of salt and pepper, two packages of thyme and one big bunch of rosemary from Metro Grocery Cebu (YES! Fresh Thyme and Rosemary in Cebu!) green onions, my mash of garlic, chillies, lots of lemongrass, lemons, etc. The cavity was filled with aromatics. And if you look closely, the area between the ribs and meat was also filled with herbs and spices. The double stuffing seems to be unknown to Manila lechons, or maybe I have just been eating too many Cebuano lechons this year…


The skin was bathed in fresh coconut water, then pin-pricked as before. Olive oil was rubbed all over the body and it went onto a very hot fire to cook fos some 2 hours or so. Halfway through the cooking, I thought we had a disaster in the making. The skin looked like it had that unusual skin disease that has uneven pigments and thus it was white in some places and starting to tan in others. The pig wasn’t snapping and crackling as Lechon # 4 had done. And I could only hope that things would work out, which they did… The result was an incredibly flavorful lechon, with a drier and more intensely flavored meat. And the aroma and taste matched each other beautifully… you could almost see how the herbs had infused themselves directly in the meat… The skin was crisp, but not Accuchon crisp, and on further analysis, we realized we used a much finer gauge needle, which didn’t allow enough air and oil to move around, reducing the chicharon effect… so the lesson learned is that you probably have to use a bigger needle. Overall, I think the night in the chilled room was probably not something I would do again. Instead, I would just salt the pig and let it hang out for a few hours before cooking it.


I think the stint in the freezer may have affected the skin somewhat (besides the pin size issue) and while the infusion of salt was good, I think you could do that with a shortcut outside of a chiller… just let the salt sit on the eat for longer before cooking it. My rating this time around? a solid 9.00/10.0 for taste, but an 8.75/10.0 for the skin, for a total score of 8.875 which just edges out Lechon #4 overall. This lechon didn’t look very pretty, but it tasted pretty good. So now I think I have the ideal Marketman lechon almost nailed. The next time around, I will have the Accuchon skin with the flavor of this latest attempt. Hopefully, this will all be sorted out by the Eyeball on November 15th!


35 Responses

  1. I would be very surprise if your Accuchon or the Eyeball turn out not PERFECT. My wish still stands: attend a MarketManila Eyeball before I pass away.

  2. What if you brine the whole lechon? I wonder if that’ll make a difference. But then again, dryness or tough texture has never been a problem for most lechon. If only there was a vacuum chamber big enough to accommodate the whole lechon, you’ll have the marinade penetrate the meat in no time…

  3. MM, i had the same problem with my pin pricks the last time. I used a meat tenderizer pricker which is flat sharp steel. they were almost non existent despite having puncture the swine like a mad man…lesson learned as well for me. = actually bought leather needles to prick it with

  4. I am doing a lechon this Sunday following your recipe.Although my litsonan is not the same as yours. We built a litsonan, gas fired. I will take a picture and will send it to you. Wish me luck. It will be a litson cebu style in Canada.

  5. While reading, I was thinking about how much this lechon series reminds me of some of my favorite Jeffrey Steingarten essays (his attempts at the perfect french fry, search for the best flatbread, etc.), when I realized how many similarities there are between you and Steingarten. You’re both exceedingly passionate and opinionated about food, more than a little obsessive-compulsive, are known to be — as Apicio said — quite cantankerous (but humorously so), and you even share the fact that you’re retired professionals who are now in the culinary field! I hasten to add that you are, of course, younger and in much better shape. :-) How I’d love for Steingarten to read the whole lechon series once it’s done, and to know what he thought — he’s a huge pork lover!

  6. have not much to comment on the pig but that it looks delicious – but i just so thoroughly enjoy your postings – excellent writing, observations, wry humor and above all, a generous spirit! God bless you, the wife and the child.


  7. Perhaps the blotchiness of the skin was caused by some spots on the pig being colder than other spots–maybe it wasn’t completely defrosted?

    This procedure reminds me of brining Thanksgiving turkeys, keeping the pig in cold storage and all. After brining my turkey, I dry it off as much as possible, then put it in the refrigerator overnight. The long refrigeration dries the skin out even more and yields a crisper than normal skin after it is roasted.

    I’m not sure how feasible it would be to brine an entire pig, but have you considered that option yet?

  8. Marketman, you ought to design a Dermaroller for pigs….
    I wonder if a stainless steel pinfrog or Kenzan would work? It might make all that pricking less of a chore.

  9. These lechon posts just kills me! I can’t wait to have my lechon skin fix in Dec. when I’ll be in the Philippines for Christmas!

  10. This one’s Gourmet lechon for me!=)

    Hhhhhmmmmmmm I am salivating just looking at it=)

    Oh how I wish I can attend the November 15 eyeball=(

  11. me too, AleXena..me too…i can just taste the crispy skin. michelle h has an idea there—sharpen the frogs for flower arrangements, and you have more sticks in one blow!

  12. Usually, lechon would gross me out, but seeing this kind of lechon suddenly made my mouth water… Wouldn’t go for the skin though, the idea of accidentally eating a few bristly hairs is kinda gross…

  13. k. ramos, this was carefully shaved by a team of two, there wasn’t a bristle to graze your lips at all… natie, hahaha, the flower frogs, that’s inventive… but would likely cause tetanus! Regina, I doubt I will ever achieve a 10, I think perfection is impossible, there will always be some room for improvement… but a solid 9.0 is good enough for me! michelle, the key is to prick based on the thickness of the meat…so the depth of the prick varies… marvin, I did think of brining, but didn’t know how to submerge the entire 30 kilo carcass in salty water in 40 degree environment!! But juiciness for a lechon is rarely a problem, so brining might overdue the moisture content. Mareilen, many thanks! Katrina, I am flattered by the comparison, but I couldn’t even approach the intensity of Mr. Steingarten’s food explorations… but at least I would have known why my throat suddenly contstricted in First Class from Tokyo to New York if my sushi was served on raw leaves of gabi… apparently this happened to him and he thought momentarily he was going to meet his creator sooner than he had expected… Rudy, good luck with the lechon! RobStar, yes, bigger needle but not so deep is best, I think… chrisb, if only I had my own cold room… Naz, you could still attend the Nov. 15th one?!

  14. Hi Marketman,

    What about sauce? Have you considered making your own sauce out of char broiled livers or are you going to stick to the Cebuano sauce? I have experienced brining a suckling pig with excellent results. A friend of mine in New Jersey did brine a whole pig in a scrubbed out tub with sacks of ice he was satisfied with the result.

  15. Speaking of sauces, have any of you tried Pinakurat? It’s a kind of spiced vinegar that goes well with anything, from lechon baboy/manok to sinugba to anything fried (especially danggit!). It’s really really good, much better than Mang Tomas imho.

  16. I don’t think cebu lechon needs any sauce…with the lechon #2 i did, the flavor was so pronounced inside and outside.. noting offcourse that mine was a suckling pig therefore the meat wasn’t as thick as it would be cooking a 30 kilo porker..but the ingredients have penetrated enough inside and seasoned incredibly well on the outside that when I tasted it, it did not require additional sauce. But out of curiousity, i did open a mang tomas spicy all purpose sauce to see if it made it taste any better…result…it actually ruined the flavor of the lechon.
    I seasoned the inside cavities with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and soy… rubbed generously keeping in mind what MM suggested in lechon #4 about under seasoning. Then stuffed in in all crevices with scallions, and lemon grass. I squished the lemon grass stalks using a clever to obtain maximum aromatic and flavor.
    Outside skin was seasoned generously keeping in mind MM’s tip on lechon #4.. ample sea salts and pepper and soy sauce…. air dried for 1 hr. with a fan.

  17. Robstar, sounds like another roast pig obsession in the making… :) K. ramos, yes I have tried pinakurat… wickedly spicy and flavorful. APM, I haven’s started with the sauce yet as traditionally Cebuano lechons come with no sauce… but I would like to learn how to make a good lechon sauce someday… any further tips besides the charred livers? Oh, and APM, does the brining affect the skin in any way?

  18. I like the Cebu native vinegar sawsawan for lechon but you might try the Manila liver sauce for a change. Just grill the pig liver, mash or blitz with garlic, salt and pepper, season with brown sugar and vinegar and use dried breadcrumbs to thicken.

  19. As fine tuning to Sister’s suggestion, here in Canada where the acid concentration of vinegar is consistent, I follow Virginia Lee and Craig Claiborne’s sweet and sour proportion: 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup vinegar, fry mashed garlic, chopped shallots until golden but not burnt and start with a small bit of puréed grilled pork liver adding more gradually until desired taste is attained. If you start out with a lot of pork liver, you might end up needing to dilute the liver taste with lots more of the other ingredients than you have on hand. I surprised my dear mother with this once because she had always deferred to our town’s expert for her salsa for as long as I can remember.

  20. Inspired by your previous posts, I just made a liempo with a chicken liver sauce. I brined the liempo in a half gallon of water with 1/2 cup kosher salt, 1/4 cup sugar solution. I roasted the liempo for an hour (350) and then pricked the skin using a chicken trussing needle (I find that the trussing needle is the optimum size for maximum crispness). I find that brining will affect the skin several ways if you don’t prick the skin of the lechon evenly then you risk having uneven splotches within the skin where the brine exits from the protein out towards the source of heat ( the even pricking solves that dilemna). The crispness of the skin is also affected by the other flavor elements in the brine (alcohol, sugar, sinigang mix are some variaions) the more sugar elements in the brine the more you have to work at achieving a crisp skin. I tend to use a convection oven to crisp either a liempo or a suckling pig. The funny effect of using a convection oven is the skin’s crispness does not last as long as a spit roasted product.

    With regard to the sauce. I deveined, dehearted, and cleaned chicken livers. I marinated them for thirty minutes in some of the pandrippings of the roast. I then cher broiled the livers until pink inside. I then caramelized onions with a sprinkling of sugar in a non stick pan added the livers and the rest of the drippings, some balsamic vinegar. I reduced the solution until syrupy. I then added chicken stock and honey. I blended the sauce and then adjusted the taste with salt and pepper. Its not your traditional sauce but I felt that it was the best I could do with the ingredients on hand. I find that I prefer using chicken livers because the taste is much milder and you can come up with a great sauce without adding tons of breadcrumbs to dilute the pork liver taste.

  21. if your blog had nothing but the lechon series, i’d still read it regularly! i don’t think you’ve written better on any other topic PLUS i think it mellows you out some. hehe.. i think steingarten would be lucky to munch on an authentic accuchon! but he does seem a bit hard to please when he judges on iron chef america.. incidentally, i caught chef chris schlesinger roasting a whole pig on nat geo’s flgttp and it didn’t look nearly as good as this!

  22. Apicio, I guess my larder is so well stocked I could feed my entire 30 apt. building for a week should we be under siege and don’t take into account the more limited supplies most people keep. Actually, one pork liver makes a generous pot of sauce for a 12-15 kilo lechon if using the liver of that pig. I also stock 6 or 7% percent acid vinegar. Your proportions are helpful but I tend to wing it more than others.

  23. We used to have a small piggery and I would reserve the runts just for lechon. They would be smaller but around 2-3 months old. The skin and flesh flavour would be more developed plus the texture would be more firm. I would sometimes have the dressed pig plastic wrapped in the freezer for a few days and my mom said she noticed the skin was crispier.

  24. How much is the raw pig per kilo in Cebu? I’ve been buying dressed piglets (cuchinillo) for P275 per kilo here in Manila.

  25. what is the purpose to bathed the pig skin in fresh coconut water? Do you bath the skin after marinate with salt & pepper? After the bathed, do you let the pig hang dry before cooking in the hot charcoal fire?

  26. Thank you for publishing one of our food delicacy Inasal, the real Cebuano term. The word ‘lechon’ for Cebuanos are the lechon in Manila with liver sauce. That gives the distictive Cebuano term Inasal (without sauce). Thank you.


  27. Fichte,

    the coconut water gives the pig a reddish color when you cook it. The natural sugars in the coconut carmelizes under the fire and gives the swine its color. After applying coconut water you should air dry or fan dry your pig, otherwise the skin would not be as crunchy as if it was thoroughly dried.

  28. Where do you buy gerry? I saw an episode wherein they used milk over the skin of the conchinillo. Will this technique for the lechon?

  29. MM, I do my own lechon catering. My wife says it’s the best she has ever tasted.

    I did ALOT of research on lechon before I roasted one…your posts helped too. Mainly, we asked my wifes grandfather for advice…he had a wealth of knowledge to give us.

    1st, the coconut water thing is right on! That’s what all of the filipinos used before colas came around.

    2nd, I cook 50 kilo lechons (live weight) but only use about 2/3 cup of SALISH SALT (from Artisan salt company) in the stomach cavity. It gives the meat a slightly smokey flavor on the inside. Also, I’ve notice most of the filipinos here put soy sauce or vinager seasoned with chili peppers, garlic and ginger on the meat. So, more salt would make it way too salty.

    3rd, I use a food processor to grind up lemongrass, garlic and green onions to rub on the “outside” of the ribs and in the neck area. It really flavors the meat, and I can put a small serving ON MY MEAT TO EAT!Look at my web site to see a picture of it.
    https://www.fil-amcatering.com I also put whole vegetables in the stomach area.

    4th, be sure you are removing that rubbery membrane from the stomach and rib area! That membrane acts something like a rubber seal and won’t allow any flavor to go through it…in either direction. Then, I also cut slits in the meat between a few of the ribs. This helps insure juices pass from the outside to the stomach area, and vice versa.

    5th, I cook my meat until it is about 185 degrees F ! That insures it is falling of the bone cooked. Plus, it gets my skin so crispy, that it is still crunchy after taking it out of the refridgerator the next day!

    The one thing I have problems with is the skin shrinking and splitting open. I have come to realize the reason for this is because the pigs here in the states are slaughtered then kept in coolers for about 5 days before I can get them. This wicks the moisture and elasticity out of the skin. Nothing I can do about that. But, it does allow the juices from the stomach to seep out and marinade the skin as it cooks. So it is a bitter sweet.

    Thanks for your posts, and I hope some of my input helps you too!

  30. where is the best place in cebu to purchase lechon? im sorry, not from around the area and i would like to bring back some home to manila



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