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The art of cooking Leitão à Bairrada

Whether in a typical restaurant or ordered with home delivery, from choosing the suckling pig to its arrival on the plate, the art of cooking suckling pig in the Bairrada style respects several rituals, which are the secret of its texture and flavor.


Leitão à Bairrada is a delicacy whose preparation begins long before it starts cooking. Choosing the piglet is the first step: it must be from the Bairrada area and of the Bísaro or Malhado de Alcobaça breed. It shouldn't be more than a month and a half old, it can't be less than six kilos and no more than eight, the right time and weight so that the piglet has fat but not excess. Its diet is exclusively made from breast milk and, in turn, its mother must be fed naturally, without the use of feed.

While it's not ready to go in the oven, which could take a few hours including dipping in very hot and cold water, it's time to prepare one of the best kept secrets of this dish: the seasoning. The seasoning, keep the secret, is made with fresh and natural products, always prepared by hand, with a pestle and mortar.

The skin, crispy and half-toasted, is only possible if, when placing the suckling pig inside the wood-fired oven, on a burnt pine stick, the seasoning has already been spread not only on the outside but also injected inside. Then, for around 2 hours, the suckling pig is rotated and sprayed with white wine, also from the region, so that it toasts evenly and becomes deliciously crunchy.

The ideal time to remove the suckling pig from the oven is dictated mainly by experience. However, there is a trick for those just starting out: when the rod rotates and the piglet starts to stop following along, seeming to be getting a little loose, it's ready. To be served, you still need to make a small hole so that the excess sauce can come out and be served with the dish.

Served at the desired temperature, the potato, preferably cooked, and the orange salad, are the perfect accompaniments to this very special dish which, fortunately, can now be enjoyed in any part of the country.

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