¡Que aproveche amigos!
¡Que aproveche amigos!
One of the fine folks over at the La Caja China Facebook page, asked: “Any tips for a clam bake in a La Caja China?”
Okay, I’ve done oysters and clams, both on the grill, and in the box. If you want a real “bake”…here’s what I would do:
Place a couple of disposable 1/2 sheet baking pans in the bottom of the caja, and put the Over Size Grill, 21″ x 40″ (http://www.lacajachina.com/over-size-grill-21-x-40/) on top. Fill the pans 1/2 way with boiling water, and close up the Caja China. Start you coals, as usual, and burn until ready to spread (you’re “pre-heating” your caja), carefully remove the lid and place your clams/oysters/lobsters, with split yams, par-boiled potatoes, shucked sweet corn, etc, on the interior grill.
Close her up, and roast 45 minutes to 1½ hours.
Be ready with your favorite melted butter recipe!
Now, let’s talk about oysters. I love oysters…I love ’em so much, I’ve written two novels and a cookbook about ’em (okay, so there was other stuff in the novels, but plenty about oysters, too! lol) Here’s my favorite grilled oyster recipe…
In 1854, while thousands were streaming into California in hope of finding gold, a young sailor named R.H. Espy was searching for his own treasure far up the northern coast. He became lost while navigating Washington’s then uncharted Shoalwater Bay and, in a heavy fog, Espy and his men feared they would paddle out to sea and never be seen again.
Lucky for them, the local Indian Chief spotted them and led them safely to shore.
On that shore, Espy found his treasure…in the form of vast clusters of native oysters, growing along the unclaimed mudflats of the bay. In San Francisco, hungry treasure-hunters paid fifty-dollars a plate for oysters, and soon Espy staked his claim and hit his mother-lode.
The oystermen were paid in gold, and Oysterville became the second richest city on the West Coast.
Today, tiny Oysterville is a National Historic District, and fresh oysters can still be found in Shoalwater (now Willapa) Bay. A number of small, family owned farms spurn the use of dredging a pesticides used by the larger corporations, and harvest fresh, deliciously organic oysters daily.
My family and I visit Oysterville often, and we love everything about this tiny town that time forgot. So much so, in fact, that two of my novels are based there. We get our oysters, hand-harvested, directly from the bay.
Here’s a favorite recipe of mine for those who truly love oysters…
2 dz med-small fresh oysters, in shell
¼ cup Tillamook butter
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp lemon pepper
Combine butter, garlic, and lemon pepper in pan. Heat until simmering, stirring often, remove from heat and set aside.
Heat grill to med-high and scrub oysters under cold water with a wire brush.
Place oysters, cup side down*, on grill and close the lid.
Reduce heat to med-low.
Remove the lid of each shell, cutting the oyster loose if necessary, and place cooked oyster in cup of shell, with about ½ of the remaining liquor.
Remove from grill and allow to cool until the shells can be handled. Serve.
Tip: To make a unique and delicious spread, use chilled slow grilled oysters in your favorite cream-cheese based oyster spread recipe.
*To keep oysters upright on the grill, roll tinfoil into 1-inch diameter tubes and make a ring for each oyster to set in.
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.
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!
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.
The first pig I did in La Caja China was 42lbs:
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!
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.
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.
*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!
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.
Thanks again for all the tips.
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:
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?
How freakin’ awesome is that?
Today, December 18th, we celebrate the swine! (Okay, we do that a lot around here, but today it’s official…)
The main ingredient involves a four to six week old piglet, ranging between nine to twenty pounds.. For those first few weeks, the pig is feeds solely on its mother’s milk, which produces an extremely tender, sweet pork.
Roast suckling pig is a famous item in Chinese culture, eaten primarily for the crisp texture of its skin, and as a symbol of virginity is often included in wedding banquets.
Roast suckling pig was immortalized in Spanish book Don Quixote (awesome!) and, known as cochinollo asado, remains a key dish in Castilian cuisine.
So, there are a lot of ways to roast a suckling pig (and they’re all good), including Mexican style (Mexican cinnamon, cumin, and guajillo chiles), Asian (rice vinegar, five-spice powder, miso, and a brushing of soy sauce) and, of course, the Castilian method, above (onion, bay, & white wine).
Several of these recipes are included in my La Caja China Cookbooks, but just in case you don’t own them (and I forgive you), here’s my favorite. A sucking is actually small enough to be roasted, with any of these styles, in the average oven, but, as I’m going to be giving you the directions for roasting your suckling in La Caja China, let’s borrow a page from my friend, Roberto Guerra, and go Cuban!
Cuban-style pig means “Mojo”, a sweet, savory, tangy broth of awesomness made up of oranges, limes, cumin, and other spices, and used to drench the piggie before, during, and after the roasting process.
As Roberto makes the best mojo I’ve ever tasted, we’ll use his recipe…
Peel and mash the garlic cloves. Mix all the ingredients and let it sit for a minimum of one hour. Keep refrigerated for up to 2 days.
Caja China Brine
1 cup of the Mojo Criollo recipe
3 cups Water
1/2 cup Table Salt
Blend all ingredients and let it sit for a minimum of one hour, strain and inject. After injecting the pig with the Caja China Brine, apply a salt rub all over the pig, using Kosher Salt or Sea Salt. Marinating the pig overnight, and allow it to come to room temperature, before you begin roasting.
Lightly oil La Caja China rack place your piglet on it, belly up, with its legs close the side of the body. Tent loosely with foil (the skin of a suckiling is much thinner than that of a larger pig, and burns easier.)
Add 16 lbs. of charcoal for Model #1 Box or 18lbs. for Model #2, or Semi Pro Box, and light up. Once lit (20-25 minutes) spread the charcoal evenly over the charcoal grid. Cooking time starts right now.
After 1 hour (1st hour), scoop away excess ashes, add 9 lbs. of charcoal (note time).
Continue to scoop away excess ashes, and add 9 lbs. of charcoal every hour until you reach 195 F on the meat thermometer. (The pig is actually “done” when the temperature in the thickest part of the ham registers 160 degrees, but for a “pulled pork” consistency, which I prefer, shoot for 195F-200F.)
Remove the ash pan from the box and dispose of the ashes.
Flip the piglet over to crispy the skin. This is easily done using the patented rack System, just grab the end of the rack, lift, and slide as you pull upward, using the other hand grab the top end of the other rack and slide it down.
Score the skin using a knife, this helps to remove the fat and crisp the skin. Cover the box again with the ash pan and the charcoal grid; do not add more charcoal at this time.
After 10 minutes, take a peak by lifting the charcoal pan by one end only. You will continue doing this every 5 minutes until the skin is crispy to your liking.
Remove sucking from Caja and allow to rest 20 minutes.
(…and Happy Roast Suckling Pig Day!)
Fellow La Caja China fan, Byron, asked:
Perry, I have a HUGE pig roast coming up. Well the pig is going to be average size, but we are tailgating on the river and I ‘ve invited my biggest customer and his family to join me. I have done a lot of pigs in the LCC and I am good with that part.
Do you have or does any of the cook books have some hits or ideas on the process after the pig is done? In the past it was always family and friends so we just cut it up the best we could and ate it. I need to do this more like a catering event with side and things. Thanks…
Okay, so I did some looking around, and couldn’t really find any illustrated carving instructions that I really liked…so I made my own!
Click this link to download the PDF, Carving a Whole Roast Pig
These directions would work nicely with any of the “Pig Roasting Party Themes” included in my free eBook, the La Caja China Guidebook. And, of course, there are tons of side dish recipes in La Caja China Cooking, and La Caja China World.
Hope this helps!
PS – Before you carve that piggy, you gotta roast it! Check out my step-by-step video, here!
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Question: I need help please. I have La Caja China model #2 and I have now cooked two pigs with no great success.
The first pig was 100lbs and took me over 7 hours to cook on the hottest day of the summer, and I had to put the hams back in because they were still raw. The second pig was 67lbs and, unfortunately had been covered with foil before the top of the box got put on.
I went about cooking and was surprised that I could not get my thermometer above 150. Then, after 5 hours, we uncovered to discover that the foil was on. Took the foil off, which lost a lot of heat. It then took another SIX hours and 8 20lb bags of Kingsford charcoal to reach my desired temperature of 170, and the skin didn’t crisp up that much.
Once cooked, it was delicious, but I can’t get it to cook in 4 hours or less as advertised.
What am I doing so wrong? I read that the meat has to be at room temperature, I think 70 degrees?
But what else can I do?
Hmmm, 160 pounds of charcoal, added over the course of 6 hours, is 26 pounds of charcoal per hour, roughly three times what the instructions call for (after the initial 18 pounds). Something’s not right with those figures…it’s practically a physical impossibility that that much coal would take that long to raise the temp from 150 to just 170.
That much coal should have not only cooked your pig, it should have incinerated it.
(After you’ve read the rest of my response, check out our step-by-step “How to roast a pig in La Caja China video, here.)
What temp was the meat at, when you fired up the roaster?
Second, you’re right, the foil is a killer. I made this exact same mistake myself this summer, and the pig wasn’t done to my liking at all. Slow roasted meat has to hit a “sweet spot” temperature-wise, where it plateaus for anywhere from an hour or more, before it jumps up the the finished temperature you’re looking for.
That plateau is the window where the meat nearest the bone is cooking, and the collagen (hard fat) is chemically changing into the gelatin (soft fat) that creates tender, succulent meat. Foil reflects back a LOT of heat, and keeps the pig from cooking through that plateau (or, at least, taking a LOOOONG time to do so.)
My new policy to to add foil only if (and after) I start to smell something burning. This isn’t a bad thing, as a little char adds to the flavor, and won’t hurt the meat if caught in a reasonable time.
That said, here are only five other things, typically, that prolong cook-time on La Caja China:
1. Temp of the pig at start time. This is the #1 issue I’ve found with delayed cook times. You want the pig to be as close to room temp as you’re comfortable with. The colder the pig, the more heat it sucks out of the box, and the longer it takes for the internal temp of the box to reach it’s “sweet spot.” One of my first pigs still had ice crystals in the meat when I loaded it in the box…it took 12 hours to bring to 185.
2. Peeking. Lifting the lid from the box effectively removes all the cooking heat, and it takes a LONG time to build back up, as your pig is cooling at the same time. Use a remote probe thermometer, and (personal opinion) a metal dust pan and scoop to remove the ashes, instead of removing the lid. NEVER lift the lid until your pig has reach “flipping temp”…which is your finished temperature, depending on what meat-consistency you’re shooting for.
3. Ambient temperature/wind chill. Keep the Caja out of the wind as much as possible. Set up on the “lee side” of the house or garage, or throw together a couple of sheets of plywood (at a safe distance) to block the wind. Cooking in extremely cold weather is just going to take longer, it can’t be helped, so plan ahead for it.
4. Ash build-up. Ashes are an extremely effective insulator. Even a 1/2 inch layer, between your coals and the pan, can cut the amount of heat going into the box drastically. La Caja China’s instructions call for removing ashes roughly every three hours, by lifting the lid and dumping. I like to do so more frequently, about every hour, using the method in #2, above.
5. Amount of charcoal used (especially at the start). Roberto did a lot of research and testing in coming up with the charcoal-to-cooktime ratios, and they should be adhered to exactly. For best results, use Kingsford brand charcoal, not lump, or an off brand (is it really worth risking that $200 pig, to save $10 on charcoal?) and add the exact proportions listed on the box. I’ve cooked any number of perfect pigs, simply following those instructions.
Any of this seem to fit?
Now, ya’all know I love my La Caja Chinas, all three of them, but let’s face it, there is one issue with the Model #1 and Model #2 pig roasters (resolved in the Semi Pro) that can be frustrating…the drippings pan.
For a foodie like me, that broth that gathers in the drip pan under the pig is liquid gold. I dream about how that rich, amazing broth flavors my rice dishes, bean pots, soups, and anything else I can think to pour it into.
But – it’s kinda a pain to get that pan out of the box without spilling it everywhere!
Then, not only am I losing my lovely hog juice, but I’m creating a big greasy mess in the bottom of the box…and who’s gotta clean that up? Me!
So…we were roasting our last piggie in my model #2 at a friends house, and I was whining about getting those invaluable out of the roaster, without making a huge mess, as I’m incapable if lifting the pan out of the box and getting the broth into a container, without spilling it everywhere.
My friend had a Siphon-Mate Transfer Pump new in the package, on his shelf, and offered to let me use it, so I thought…why not give it a try?
First, of course, we took it into the kitchen and pumped hot, soapy water (first), bleach water (second), and clear hot water (third, and forth) through to make sure it was clean, as it wasn’t manufactured with food in mind, lol.
When the piggie was done, sure enough, the drip pan was full within a half-inch of the rim…a guaranteed grease tsunami waiting to happen. Instead, I let it cool for about 20 minutes, until the broth was just warm, but the fat was still liquid, and dropped the intake into the pan, and the output hose into my stock pot.
A half-dozen pumps later and the pan was nearly empty, and easy to lift out without a single drip! The rest of the box was a 2 minute clean-up job with a few paper towels and a little of La Caja China’s degreasing spray.
Clean up of the Siphon-Mate was as easy as repeating the intial cleaning steps.
Best of all, I have 3/4 of a gallon of liquid gold pig broth to flavor beans, pork gravy, and my infamous Pulled Pork Dirty Rice. Needless to say, I’ve ordered my own Siphon-Mate, and can’t wait for it’s arrival!
You can order your own from Amazon.com through our Burnin’ Love BBQ Store!
National Garlic Day promotes the many uses of Garlic. And, there certainly are many uses. It’s a vegetable. Its’ a herb. It’s used in recipes around the world. Garlic has been used medicinally for thousands of years. And, Garlic is believed to ward off evil spirits. About the only bad thing you can say about it, is that it can negatively affect an otherwise romantic evening. (http://www.holidayinsights.com/moreholidays/April/nationalgarlicday.htm)
Garlic is a species in the onion family, relatives include the onion, shallot, leek, and chives. Garlic has been used throughout history for both culinary and medicinal purposes. Dating back over 6,000 years, it’s native to Central Asia, and has long been a staple in the Mediterranean region, as well as a frequent seasoning in Asia, Africa, and Europe.
The irrational fear of garlic is alliumphobia. (Not sure why that’s important, but it seemed like a good thing to add.)
One of my all-time favorite ways to eat this most perfect of weeds, is to cut the top off the bulb, coat the cloves by dribbling olive oil over them, wrap in foil and roast them in an oven at 350 for 1 hour.
The garlic softens and can be extracted from the cloves by squeezing the (root) end of the bulb, or individually by squeezing one end of the clove. Spread a little sweet butter on warm baguette rounds, and schmear with some still-warm roasted garlic. You’re welcome.
In case you need more of a reason to eat garlic, check this out…
Anyway, health benefits, cholesterol, blah…blah…blah…whatever…here’s an AWESOME way to celebrate Garlic Day!
2 quarts water
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 whole large roasting chicken, brined
2 stalks celery
40 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 tsp. tarragon
1/2 tsp. parsley
1/4 Cup butter, softened
1/4 tsp. basil
1/4 tsp. thyme
Whisk the salt and sugar into the water until they’re completely dissolved. Place the chicken in a large bowl or pot and cover with the water. Refrigerate it in the brine for four hours, then remove it and dry well with a clean towel.
Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
Cut celery and carrots lengthwise.
Combine herbs and spices with butter (except garlic). Rub inside the large cavity of bird with 2/3 of the herb butter, and 30 garlic cloves. Rub remaining herb butter in neck cavity with 10 garlic cloves. Rub chicken with butter and place, breast down, on an oiled roasting rack. Place rack on top of the interior Caja China pan (which you want to line with foil). Add a little some water in pan for moisture (not too much).
Tent chicken loosely with foil and place pan in pre-heated La Caja China — be very careful not to touch the metal sides of the interior and make sure you’re wearing your Caja China gloves. Ever play the board game “Operation”? This is a lot like that, only you’ll get a lot more than a buzz if you touch bare skin against the metal…trust me! Insert instant read thermometer in the thickest part of the breast, and close up the box.
Roast chicken for 30 minutes. Open box, flip the chicken so the breast is up, replace foil, close up and add another 5lbs of coals.
Roast another 30 minutes, or until probe registers 160F. Cooking time depends on the size of your chicken. Open the box, remove the foil and replace La Caja China lid to brown top of chicken, checking every 2-3 minutes until it’s as browned as you like.
Remove chicken from La Caja China, re-tent (loosely) with foil and allow to rest 10-15 minutes before carving. Make sure to reserve the pan drippings for gravy.
Serve with my garlic mashed potatoes and chicken gravy (see below.)
Quick mixing flour (like Wondra)
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
Salt and pepper
Pour turkey drippings from 40-Clove Garlic Roasted Chicken into a large container and let cool slightly. Skim fat from drippings and reserve.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, make a roux by combining 2 tablespoons of the skimmed fat and 2 tablespoons of flour.
Cook until mixture is a beige color. Slowly whisk in 2 cups of chicken drippings (substitute chicken broth if short on drippings or if a thinner consistency is desired) Stir in 1 teaspoon of poultry seasoning. Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, stirring constantly until gravy is desired consistency.
Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
And Lastly…(I promise…)
The reputation of garlic as a vampire repellent goes back long before Stoker’s relatively recent gothic creation. Why should this be? It’s true that garlic has long been associated with health and life in general, however why should it ward off vampires specifically rather than all undead monsters?
There are many competing theories as to the origin of the vampire story. Many have to do with disease.
A recent theory tries to associate vampirism with rabies. This works well in general however it fails to explain convincingly the position of garlic in vampire lore. Instead it relies on the idea of rabies sufferers becoming fixated on its smell – an idea that could just as likely apply to the smell of coffee, not a known anti-vampire tool!
Another theory is that vampirism can be seen as symbolic of mosquito bites – and garlic is known in folklore as a natural mosquito repellent.
Mosquitoes suck blood and in doing so spread disease. So do vampires. Some of the symptoms of malaria – exhaustion, fever, anemia – are reminiscent of the reputed effects of being bitten by a vampire without being totally drained or turned. Garlic is a known insect repellent which reportedly works well against mosquitoes, perhaps people saw the similarity with vampires, especially when in their bat form.
On a personal note: It can’t be because of the stink…if you’ve read any of the latest “popular fiction” or watched any of the approximately 247 vampire TV series, you’d figure it out quick…vampires (at least moody teen vampires) can be stink pretty bad…
Happy Garlic Day!
Piggie roasted to perfection on exactly 6 hours while Chris, Jonathan, and I dutifully tended the coals, drank coffee and (I) smoked a fine cigar…it was rough work, but we do it all for our clients.
Of course, Renner and I couldn’t let all that lovely fire go to waste, so we grilled up some Hawaiian rubbed tri-tip for lunch and slapped it on slices his homemade sourdough bread with some habanero jack cheese. Chris gave these and quick turn on the grill, and…yummo!
Lots of great food, incredible desserts, and a wonderful evening with friends and family!