Ridgewood Brothers BBQ, a favorite of River Valley barbecue patrons and fans of expertly rendered brisket, recently teased a new addition to its smoker lineup: a whole hog cooker and flipper. The tease came via Instagram a couple weeks ago, with Ridgewood Brothers sharing a story displaying the new roaster they’re calling “The Dan” with a caption reading “Did someone say flip the Piggy?”

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The new piece of machinery is custom made by the talented Dustin Dixon of Mule Skinner Smoke Rigs out of Bristol, Texas. It’s about five feet long, four feet wide, made of 3/16-inch plate steel and has a two-inch insulating base ensuring it will retain heat from the coals well. The fire is controlled by a damper and the position of the door, with coals being fed from a separate double-drum burn barrel chugging out charcoal the old-fashioned way.

“You know, it’s sort of a hybrid between a grill and a smoker. It’s not really a grill, but it’s got direct heat, so it’s definitely not an offset smoker of any kind,” pitmaster Grant Hall told me.

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Perhaps the coolest part of the whole rig is the flipper, or turning rack, which is essentially a cooking grate mounted on a rotating spit within the unit that allows the operator to flip the hog from one side to another. This ensures crispy skin and an even char throughout the cooking process. Ridgewood’s new pit will have the capacity of a single whole pig weighing between 120 and 125 pounds fully dressed, but Hall has big plans for the cooker that aren’t limited to just hogs.

“As far as what we’re gonna cook on it — lots and lots of different things. Pork steaks will probably be one of the first things we try out. We’re also getting some plancha style grates, so we’ll be able to do some smash burgers. Definitely chicken, I could see us doing some beef steak specials, direct heat ribs, stuff like that. I think half chickens and pork steaks will probably end up being permanent menu items.”

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Hall told me what he’s looking forward to the most is trying out different styles of barbecue that might not be as well-known to some Arkansawyers.

“Another one of my favorite aspects of the pit: using a mop sauce. A big advantage with cooking this way is the additional flavor you can get on lots of different meats from having the fat and the juices dripping down onto the coals and coming back up. I think that’s a cool aspect of barbecue that’s going to be in Arkansas now. We’re sort of a hybrid state so to have that mopped barbecue flavor from the direct heat, as well as the offset [smoker] flavors — that’s a pretty unique combination. I think people in the River Valley and Arkansas are really going to like the flavors it produces.”

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Once the new Mule Skinner pit is installed, Ridgewood Brothers will be the only restaurant in the state of Arkansas cooking and serving whole hog-style barbecue, at least to my knowledge.

“With fall and football on, we want to throw hog parties — think tailgates and Razorback parties. We’re looking to attract more of that crowd, people who want to enjoy the game and eat some barbecue. You can definitely see the town slow down around here when the Hogs are playing, so we’ve got to take that into account.”

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If you build it they will come, I told Hall.

“That’s right. We’re trying to build it right now — no doubt about it.”

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Be sure to follow Ridgewood Brothers BBQ on Facebook and Instagram for updates on specials, events and, of course, their new whole hog flipper.