Pig feet, also known as pork trotters, are an inexpensive cut of meat that can be transformed into a delicious dish when cooked properly. Pig feet are packed with collagen which breaks down into gelatin when cooked low and slow, resulting in meat so tender it falls off the bone. The gelatin also gives the cooking liquid a rich body that makes an incredible sauce. Grilling pig feet over indirect heat draws out all the natural flavors and is an excellent cooking method. With just a few simple steps you can have gourmet-quality pig feet off the grill!
Benefits of Cooking Pig Feet
There are many excellent reasons to cook pig feet:
- They are very inexpensive, usually costing only a dollar or two per pound.
- Packed with collagen that turns into rich gelatin, giving amazing texture.
- Provide plenty of meat once cooked and the skin gets deliciously crispy.
- Make a flavorful broth or sauce from the natural gelatin.
- Contain important nutrients like protein, iron, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium.
- The cartilage and gelatin have numerous health benefits for joints and gut health.
Pig feet are the ultimate budget-friendly cut of meat that rewards you with decadent, fork-tender meat and luxurious broth perfect for soups, stews, and braises. The skin also gets nice and crispy when grilled over the hot fire.
Selecting Pig Feet for Grilling
You can find pig feet at any butcher shop, Asian market, or Latin grocery store. Choose feet that are heavy for their size and have smooth, firm skin without blemishes. Avoid any with an off or unpleasant smell. Plan on cooking 1 pound of feet per person. For easy prep, ask the butcher to split the feet in half lengthwise.
Types of Pig Feet
- Front feet – From the pig’s front legs, meatier than hind feet.
- Hind feet – From the rear legs, bonier with more gelatin.
- Cloven – Cut lengthwise, easier to grill.
Look for front feet or hind feet cut in half lengthwise. This exposes more surface area for browning and reduces grilling time.
Pig feet are the star of this dish, but pairing them with aromatics, spices, and acid creates a full-flavored barbecue feast. Here are the key ingredients you’ll need:
- 2-3 pounds pig feet, preferably cloven
- 1 onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 cup barbecue sauce or liquid smoke
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Customize the flavor profile with different herbs, spices, vinegars, and sauces to match your tastes.
Grilling Time and Temperature
The most important factors for grilling pig feet are low heat and plenty of time. Collagen in the feet needs 4-6 hours of slow cooking to melt into gelatin and baste the meat in its own juices. Aim for 225-250°F indirect heat on a kettle grill or low setting on a gas grill. The long cooking time gives the opportunity for perfect smoke penetration.
Approximate Grill Times
- Whole feet – 5-7 hours
- Split feet – 4-6 hours
- 1 inch chunks – 2-3 hours
Use an instant-read thermometer to check for doneness, aiming for 195°F internally before removing from the grill.
Step-by-Step Grilling Instructions
Follow these simple steps for finger-licking fried pig feet every time:
- Prep the pig feet – Rinse and pat dry. Score the skin. Split feet in half lengthwise if not already cloven.
- Make a rub – Combine smoked paprika, salt, pepper and any other desired seasonings.
- Rub the feet – Generously season all sides of the feet with the spice rub.
- Parboil (optional) – Simmer in stock for 30 minutes to help render fat and shorten grill time.
- Sear the feet – Grill the feet over direct high heat just until browned.
- Mix braising liquid – Combine onion, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, barbecue sauce, and apple cider vinegar.
- Braise on grill – Place feet over indirect heat, add braising liquid to pan. Cover and cook at 250°F for 4-6 hours.
- Rest and serve – Let rest 10-15 minutes before serving.
The low and slow cooking gives plenty of time to enjoy a cold drink in the yard while the grill does the work!
Choosing the Right Grill
To achieve the right low temperature and thorough cooking, you’ll need the right grill setup:
Kettle Charcoal Grill
- Bank coals on each side, leave the center empty.
- Place a disposable foil pan in the center for a drip pan.
- Shoot for 225-250°F with vents wide open.
- Add a handful of fresh coals every hour as needed.
- Turn burners on low or medium-low.
- Use center burners only, leave outer burners off.
- Add a foil drip pan underneath if no built-in pan.
The most important thing is maintaining even low heat for the full duration of grilling time. Open the lid as infrequently as possible.
Flavoring and Saucing
Pig feet have a mild flavor that benefits from seasoning and sauces. Here are some delicious ways to add flavor:
Rubs and Marinades
- Barbecue rub – Smoked paprika, chili powder, cumin, garlic, salt
- Jerk seasoning – Allspice, thyme, brown sugar, garlic, onion
- Asian five spice – Star anise, cinnamon, fennel seed
- Mojo marinade – Garlic, cilantro, olive oil, lime juice, cumin
- Barbecue sauce – Sweet, savory, tangy with molasses
- Beer or wine
- Broth – Chicken, beef, or vegetable
- Fruit juices – Pineapple, orange, apple
- Barbecue sauce – Layer on thick for the last 30-60 minutes
- Teriyaki sauce – Brush on during the rest time
- Chimichurri – Fresh parsley and garlic sauce
- Mojo – Bright cilantro lime dressing
Use your favorite flavors to give a signature touch. The key is layering seasoning throughout the grilling process.
Pig feet are incredibly versatile. They make a stellar standalone main served in many ways:
- On the bone – With tongs or gloves, eat the juicy meat right off the bones.
- Chopped – Dice or shred the meat and toss with sauce.
- In tacos – Top corn tortillas with chopped feet, salsa, and cilantro.
- Over rice – Serve diced feet and sauce over white rice.
- In soup – Add chopped feet to bean or veggie soup.
The rich gelatin extracted into the braising liquid also elevates sauces and gravy. Try these delicious options:
- Reduction sauce – Simmer liquid until thickened into gravy.
- Pinto beans – Cook beans in the seasoned broth.
- Rice – Cook rice in the broth for delicious flavor.
- French dip sandwiches – Sliced beef dipped in broth.
Get creative with the meat and broth for an amazing full meal from this humble cut!
Key Tips for Grilling Pig Feet
Follow these tips and tricks for the very best results grilling pig feet:
- Choose fresh, meaty feet for maximum meat.
- Ask the butcher to split or halve the feet for you.
- Remove any hair with a knife or chef’s torch.
- Parboil in stock for 30 minutes before grilling to reduce time.
- Use indirect heat and keep the temperature low at 225-250°F.
- Allow plenty of time, plan for at least 4 hours of grilling.
- Check for doneness at 195°F with an instant-read thermometer.
- Rest 10-15 minutes before serving.
- Season and sauce at multiple stages for flavor layering.
- Chop or shred meat and reduce broth for serving.
Common Grilling Mistakes
It’s easy to dry out pig feet or miss the collagen breakdown. Avoid these common pitfalls:
- Grilling over direct high heat – Will cause burning and dry meat.
- Cooking at too high a temperature – Collagen won’t have time to properly gelatinize.
- Not allowing enough time – May result in tough meat.
- Neglecting to rest – Juices won’t reabsorb after cooking.
- Forgetting to season – Pig feet need seasoning and sauce for the best flavor.
- Overlooking the skin – Crisp up the skin at the end for a textural treat.
With the right techniques, you’ll have lip-smacking pig feet every time off the grill!
|Tough, chewy meat||Cook for longer at a lower heat. Collagen needs time to break down.|
|Dry, stringy meat||Do not grill over direct heat. Use indirect heat and baste to keep moist.|
|Burned or charred||Grill at a lower temperature and move to indirect heat if flare-ups occur.|
|Bland flavor||Generously season and sauce the feet throughout cooking.|
|Skin isn’t crispy||Broil or sear briefly over direct heat at the end to crisp skin.|
Monitor the temperature and allow enough time for collagen to break down for fork-tender pork perfection!
Frequently Asked Questions
Are pig feet healthy to eat?
Yes, pig feet are nutritious and good for you! They contain lots of protein, important vitamins and minerals, and collagen. The collagen helps support joint, gut, and heart health.
What’s the white stuff on pig feet?
The white substance coating pig feet is calcium carbonate powder. It’s edible but can be rinsed off before cooking. It helps absorb moisture and keep the feet fresh.
Can you eat pig feet skin?
Absolutely! Pork skin, or rind, becomes deliciously crispy when grilled over the hot fire. The skin contains the collagen that gives pig feet their signature tenderness.
How long do cooked pig feet last?
Cooked pig feet keep refrigerated for 4-5 days. Reheat gently before serving again. The broth lasts 5-7 days refrigerated. Freeze both for longer term storage.
What’s the black stuff in pig feet?
The black substance in pig feet is blood that coagulates and naturally collects in the lower extremities. It’s perfectly safe to eat but can be parboiled before grilling to reduce the blood content if desired.
Grilling pig feet transforms an ultra-affordable cut into fork-tender meat perfection. Allowing collagen to break down over low indirect heat gives pork that melts in your mouth. The natural gelatin also makes for an incredible sauce. With just a bit of time and technique, you can have gourmet-quality pig feet hot off the barbecue.
Season the feet boldly, braise with flavorful liquids, then chop or shred the meat and reduce the broth down to sauce. You’ll have a whole meal from snout to tail! Grilled pig feet also make fantastic tacos, soup, or rice bowls. The possibilities are endless with this humble yet exceptional cut of meat.