Q&A: Should I tent a pig with foil in a Caja China?

Hi Perry,

I am going to be cooking a 50 pound pig in a home made china box in a week and a half. We did a test cook with a couple of chickens and the box got hot, close to 400 and cooked the chickens beautifully. I had them in a roasting pan with a tent of foil. Took the foil off for the last 30 mins and the skin crisped up nicely. Almost too nice. I am concerned that when I’m cooking the pig, rib side up, that it will burn and crisp up too much. Is it ok or even advisable to tent the pig for the first 2 1/2 hours? After that time I’d take it off and let it cook up to the 190-195 temp and then flip the pig.

What do you think?

Great website, only place I found any mention of internal temps for the La Caja China.

Brian

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Brian,

Thanks! With those kind of temps, I would certainly tent the pig in foil. I wouldn’t worry about crisping the rib side, as there’s not much meat on that side.

Given the heat your cooker puts out, I would recommend a couple of things:

1 – definitely want to use a digital thermo in the pig, and perhaps another inside the box.

2- I’d cut back on the coals by about 25%, so you don’t jump over 300d. Keep a close eye on it though, as a 50lb piggie will suck up a lot more heat that a couple of birds.

Will you be marinating the pig? I’ve found that when the skin has absorbed some extra liquid, it doesn’t burn as quickly.

Keep us updated!

-Perry

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Perry,

Gotta love the quick response, very much appreciated. I will tent for the first part. I have two digital therms, one for the piggy and one for the oven. I plan on doing a creole based spice rub and then inject a brine. I haven’t completely settled on the brine recipe. Will likely be a mojo based brine.

The Caja China website says it will take about 4 hours to cook a pig. Is that for a 50 pound pig? Wondering if I can use that time for planning.

Thanks,
Brian

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No worries, my daughter is in a “Blues Clues” coma right now, so I’m free and (relatively) uninterrupted, lol.

The first pig I did in La Caja China was 42lbs:

http://burninlovebbq.com/2007/09/17/la-caja-china-pig-roast/

Cooked 3.5 hours before flipping, then took about 20 min to crisp. Keep in mind that Cubans don’t eat their pork “pulled” but sliced, so the box recipes turn out a very juicy, but still firm, end result.

This is why I started using the internal thermometer and taking it up close to 200d – I like a “pickable” pig!

The other thing I do now, is let the pig rest 30-45 minutes (even an hour would be fine) outside the box. This allows it to reabsorb the juices, and it’s still almost to hot to handle bare handed.

Lastly, I saw something very interesting the other day in an online video. A professional chef was using La Caja China, and when the pig was done and moved to the table, he left it “ribs up” and basically used a boning knife to slice under the ribs, and “bone out” the legs and shoulders.

Wen he was done, he had a big boneless roast pig that could be chopped and mixed WAY easier than when using the traditional carving method.

This is one of the more brilliant things I’ve seen when cooking whole pigs, and I’m going to try it next time myself!

-P

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I also like a pickable pig. :) Do you take it up to 200 before you flip? Can I expect that to take more than 4 hours? I plan to have the pig ready to eat by 3pm including the 45 min resting period.

Do you have a link to that video? This is my first whole pig and I have been thinking about how best to remove the meat for my guests. I think the de-boning may be beyond my skill.

Thanks,
Brian

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Brian,

Just a follow-up. We did a 90lb pig yesterday, started with 15lbs of coals, and added 10 lbs every hour, and scraping* off the ashes every 2 hours (very important.) Cooked 7 hours and the pig was tender and perfect for pulling.

Tip: Cooking this much longer, I would recommend that you tent the pig in foil for the first 3-4 hours to keep the cavity from getting to dark.

-Perry

*I’ve been using a big metal dust pan to scoop the ashes off the lid, instead of lifting the lid and dumping. I lose a lot less heat that way.

Yes, the extra time after flipping is just to crisp the skin.

I usually take the pig up to about 195, as the temp will continue to rise for some time, out of the box.

I would plan on flipping the pig between 4.5 – 5 hours, then 30 minutes to crisp and remove to table, and lastly 45 minutes to rest before carving. for about 6:15 total.

Remember to add about 30 minutes from the time you start the coals to the time you spread them. Spreading the coals is when your actual cook time starts.

Oh – and bringing the pig to room temp (or close) makes a HUGE difference in cooking time. A pig that’s still icy, or even very cold in the center will take FOREVER to cook…that’s the voice of experience talkin’ – lol!

-P

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Excellent. I think I’m ready to cook this pig. Here’s a pic of the home made box. It has a metal plate in the bottom and is lined with foil. My neighbor does welding and he did the metal top.

[IMG]http://a.imageshack.us/img818/6568/picture024k.jpg[/IMG]

Thanks again for all the tips.

Brian

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Hi Perry,

Did the pig cook yesterday. Took a bit longer than we had anticipated. Who knows why. Yesterday was the hottest day of the year and I decide to stand next to a fire for 10 hours and cook a pig. :)

Started the coals at 8:30 and we ate at 7pm. Even though it was late it was really tasty and everyone raved. Wanted to thank you for your input, despite taking longer it really helped. I used your Mojo recipe for the injection and rubbed a cajun spice mix on the outside.

Here’s a pig pic:

http://a.imageshack.us/img22/5130/picture090s.jpg

Thanks,
Brian

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LOL…same here…did four briskets in my Caja China semi-pro, and it was 105 here.

I swear that Roberto has some kind of ju-ju on these things that he ships from Miami…every time I fire it up, it turns into Miami here!

I’m gonna start charging people just for lighting my semi-pro. I figure Oregonian’s will pay a lot for a hot, sunny day!

Wonder what happened that added to the time?

-P

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