Tag Archives: burning

How to prevent burning on a La Caja China whole pig

La Caja China whole pig

Got a couple of great questions today from JW, over at Chowhound. He asks…

Hey Chef Perry. Great Video! I am cooking a pig next week. In your opinion, what do prefer best. The Cuban way with the mojo, or something else.

Also, when I do our block parties pig, the parts that stick up the most get extra crispy/burnt.

Any way of making it more even?

Thank you! – JW

JW, thanks!

While the Cuban version is delicious, as a Georgia transplant, I personally prefer a Southern “Pickin’ Pig” with just salt, pepper, smoke, and an occasional spritz of apple-juice and cider vinegar. I use a couple of less pounds of coals per round, and roast for around 8 hours, looking for an internal ham temp of 190-195, before flipping.

RE: burnt spots – two things I do…

La Caja China Pig

First, for a long cook like this, I take a very quick peek (just lifting a corner and checking with a flashlight) every couple of hours. If I see one end getting darker faster, I’ll pivot the coal rack 180d to re-position the hot spot.

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Second, if it’s getting two dark for my liking, I’ll patch those areas with foil (just enough to cover the problem). Typically between the 5 and 8 hour mark.

Removing ashes from La Caja China

A final trick – adding fresh coals will really jack up the heat if you’ve just dumped ashes. I usually put on fresh coals from my chimneys, spread, and wait about 1/2 hour before scraping the insulating layer of coals beneath. This tends to moderate the heat spikes that causes burn spots.

Hope that helps!

Chef Perry
La Caja China Cooking
La Caja China World
La Caja China Party
La Caja China Grilling (Coming Soon!)

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Common Grilling Problems

Grilling tips

Our friend Joanne asks:

“I have trouble cooking anything on the grill. I either burn it or it’s not done enough. I’m guessing a thermometer would help me too. Can you recommend a good one?”

Joann – They’re all pretty much the same, the important thing is to keep them calibrated. Anything from Cash & Carry, BB&B, or any “kitchen store” should be fine.  Here’s the one I use… (FYI – everything in our Amazon store is an item that one of us (Terry, Chris, and I) have tested or use regularly).

With grilling it’s usually one, or a combination, of four problems…

1. Too high of heat for the food. A lot of time we crank it up and either the outside burns before the inside cooks, or the inside is raw when the outside looks perfect.

Always keep an “indirect heat” area on your grill, with one burner on med-low (or with just a few coals) and if the internal temp of the meat isn’t high enough and you’re concerned about burning, move the food to that area and tent loosely in foil until the temp comes up to your desired doneness.

2. Not enough “babying”. Unlike food cooked on the stove-top, which often needs to be “left alone”, food on grills are at the mercy of flare-ups and temp spikes. You have to be constantly monitoring your food. Is there too much flame under the food? (move it or use a spray bottle of hot water). Is one area of the grill cooking faster? (rotate the food between all areas of the grill). This is referred to in grilling lingo as “multi-zone cooking“.

3. Was the food prepped correctly? Food that is still chilled in the center (especially with bones) is going to cook unevenly, and this is especially true on the grill.

Some folks don’t like to hear this in our sterilized, bacteria-phobic society, but most meats need to be removed from the refrigerator and allowed to rest at room temp at least 30 minutes (and up to an hour, depending on thickness) if you want them to grill evenly. A chilled chicken leg is basically a hunk of meat wrapped around a ice-cold spike.

The outside layers WILL burn before the bone warms enough to allowed the meat touching it to even start cooking.

4. Saucing too soon. Most sauces are heavy in sugar, either natural or added. Sugar burns at high temps.

Food should basically be cooked through, the grill temp lowered, the food sauced (I like the dunking method over the brushing method) and then the food returned to the grill, turning often and redunking as needed, until the sauce had glazed. This is another good place to alternate between multiple zones.

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