Tag Archives: cajita

Pig cooking too slow in La Caja China

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?


My Response:

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?



Filed under In The Box Recipes, Q & A, Technique

La Caja China Pig Roast PDF Checklist

Heyya Peeps,

Here’s a little PDF I put together, based on the last several pig roasts we’ve done at Burnin’ Love BBQ.

If you own a La Caja China, or a similar style roasting box, please take a look, and let me know if there’s anything that should be added to the list.

I plan to print the final version and keep a copy with my La Caja China for future reference!


– Perry

La Caja China Pig Roast Checklist


Filed under Media

Brisket Stuffed Poblano Peppers

Heyya Peeps,

Here’s a great side-dish to grill over the coals while your whole pig, briskets, or pork shoulders are roasting inside your La Caja China (or, to just grill over coals, if you haven’t gotten your roasting box, yet.)

I try not to wrench my shoulder while patting myself on the back, but these are GOOD.

“The poblano is a mild chili pepper originating in the State of Puebla, Mexico. Dried, it is called a chile ancho. The ripened red poblano is significantly hotter and more flavorful than the less ripe, green poblano. While poblanos tend to have a mild flavor, occasionally and unpredictably, they can have significant heat. Different peppers from the same plant have been reported to vary substantially in heat intensity.”  (From Wikipedia)

Brisket Stuffed Poblano Peppers

4 Poblano peppers, whole
1 cup smoked brisket, diced or shredded
1lb ground sirloin
1 Tbs Bandiola Barbecue Spice
1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
½ lb mushrooms, diced
½ cup brisket broth* (optional)
1 sm onion, diced
1 cup Mexican cheese blend, shredded

Pan fry ground sirloin over medium heat with Bandiola Barbecue Spice, pepper flakes, and onion, until beef is crumbled. If you have brisket broth, add it to the burger and onions and allow to moisture to cook off. Add mushrooms and shredded/diced brisket just before beef is done. Cook until mushrooms soften.

Drain and allow to cool slightly.

Grill peppers over high heat 2-3 minutes on each side until charred. Cool slightly. Place peppers in a large  resealable plastic bag; seal and let stand 5 minutes to loosen skin. Remove charred skin from peppers. For pure awesomeness, toss a couple of oak chunks on the coals when you fire them up.

Cut the tops off each pepper, reserve, and gently scrape seeds and ribs out with a teaspoon (leave sides intact.)  Set peppers aside.

Stir together burger/veggie mixture with cheese. Spoon evenly into peppers, slightly over stuffing (be careful, if the sides are too soft, they can burst), place caps on top, and pin in place with 3 toothpicks.  Toothpicks should be soaked in water 10-15 minutes.

Grill over medium coals, 8-10 minutes or until filling is thoroughly heated and cheese is melted. If the peppers start getting too dark, move to a cooler spot on the grill and cover.

Serve, topped with a dollop of crema (Mexican sour cream), if desired.

Great with brisket, steaks, chops, old boots…whatever. If you have leftover filling, it makes a killer omelet the next morning!


*By the way – brisket broth is the freakin’ elixir of the gods. Save it, freeze it, and use it in this recipe, or to make amazing burgers, meatloaf, soups, and stews. It’s awesome!


Filed under Appetizers & Sides, On The Grill Recipes

La Caja China World – Roasting Box Recipes from Around the Globe


June 16, 2011

Elk Mountain Books is pleased to announce the release of:

La Caja China World: Roasting Box Recipes from Around the Globe

by Perry P. Perkins

Publication Date: Jun 11, 2011
ISBN 1463563167
Page Count: 158
Binding: US Trade Paper
Trim Size: 7″ x 10″
Categories: Cooking / Methods / Barbecue & Grilling

From the author:

La Caja China, the Cuban roasting box, has become the toast of food writers and celebrity gourmets, including Food Network’s THROWDOWN Chef, Bobby Flay.

In La Caja China Cooking: The Secret to Perfect Roasting, we took a gastronomic tour of America.

With this new collection of recipes, your La Caja China becomes a magic carpet, allowing you to take your friends and family to the far corners of the world, and experience the delicious wonders waiting for you there!

In every culture and country that we researched in gathering this collection, we found people who enjoyed gathering together with loved ones, lighting a fire, cooking meat over it (or under it), and eating together.

Not coincidentally, we think, these folks shared a common passion for life and laughter, as well.

In La Caja China World, we invite your taste buds to join us on a globe-trotting adventure with dishes like:

Grilled Tri-Tip & Chimichurri in Argentina
Whole Roast Pig & Coconut Rice in Bali
Roast lamb & Potatoes in Greece
Beef Short Ribs & Scallion Salad in Korea
Christmas Goose in Sweden

If you’re looking to roast, grill, bake, braise, smoke, or barbecue; whether you’re cooking for a crowd, or creating memories with your family – look no further than La Caja China World!

La Caja China World is available from our eStore, as well as from our official Amazon.com Storefront.

Buy both La Caja China Cooking & La Caja China World, together, and get FREE shipping from Amazon!

Plus – Purchase your copy of La Caja China World by Friday, June 24th, and enter* for a chance to win a $50 grab-bag of your choice of La Caja China accessories! We’ll even pick up the shipping!

*To enter to win the grab-bag, participants must forward a copy of their e-receipt of purchase for La Caja China World, along with full name, mailing address, and personal email address, to editor@elkmountainbooks. All entries must be received by midnight Sunday, June 26th, 2011. One entry per copy ordered.


About the Author

Perry P. Perkins is a freelance writer and work-from-home dad, born and raised in the Pacific Northwest (with a little time in Georgia.)

Perry has written several books, including two novels, four cookbooks, and two short-story collections. He writes regularly for a number of outdoor and travel magazines, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and several online foodie sites, including his own blog: www.burninloveblog.com

Both Perkins’ father and grandfather were professional chefs, and he was raised with a passion to cook, grill, and barbeque. One of three pit-masters behind Burnin’ Love BBQ, a local catering team, his favorite cooking equipment is La Caja China.

All of Perry’s books can be found at www.perryperkinsbooks.com

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Filed under Press Releases

How to grill the perfect Hot Dog

If you’re anything like me (no offense) you grew up on hot dogs, that favorite of backyard grillers everywhere. Sadly, many a tube-steak that hit our plates were charred on the outside, chilly in the middle, and split and twisted in decidedly unappetizing shapes.

But fear not, we’re gonna fix that!

Claims about hot dog invention are difficult to assess, as stories assert the creation of the sausage, the placing of the sausage (or another kind of sausage) on bread or a bun as finger food, the popularization of the existing dish, or the application of the name “hot dog” to a sausage and bun combination most commonly used with ketchup or mustard and sometimes relish.


Around 1870, on Coney Island, German immigrant Charles Feltman began selling sausages in rolls. The term “dog” has been used as a synonym for sausage since 1884 and accusations that sausage makers used dog meat date to at least 1845.

According to a myth, the use of the complete phrase “hot dog” in reference to sausage was coined by the newspaper cartoonist Thomas Aloysius “TAD” Dorgan around 1900 in a cartoon recording the sale of hot dogs during a New York Giants baseball game at the Polo Grounds. (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Picking the perfect dog*:

Continue reading…



Filed under On The Grill Recipes

Peking Duck ala La Cajita China

Duck has been roasted in China since the Southern and Northern Dynasties.  A variation of roast duck was prepared for the Emperor of China in the Yuan Dynasty.

The dish, originally named “Shaoyazi,” was mentioned in the Complete Recipes for Dishes and Beverages manual in 1330 by Hu Sihui, an inspector of the imperial kitchen.

The Peking Roast Duck that came to be associated with the term was fully developed during the later Ming Dynasty, and by then, Peking Duck was one of the main dishes on imperial court menus.

The first restaurant specialising in Peking Duck, Bianyifang, was established in the Xianyukou, Qianmen area of Beijing in 1416 [Wikipedia]

Beijing’s most famous dish, Peking Duck is traditionally served with Mandarin pancakes. I’ve modified this dish slightly for roasting in La Cajita China.

You can find step-by-step recipes in my cookbook, La Caja China Cooking, as well.

Peking Duck ala La Cajita China

2 – 5 to 6 pound duck
12 cups water
1/4 C powdered ginger
6 scallion, cut into halves
1/2 C honey
1/4 C rice wine vinegar
1/2 C sherry
6 tablespoons cornstarch, dissolved in 6 tablespoons water
Scallions for garnish

Clean ducks. Wipe dry and place each duck on a “beer-can chicken” stand. Set in a cool room in front of a fan for 4 hours to dry. (See note.)

Bring a large pot with water to boil, and add ginger, scallion, honey, vinegar, and sherry.

Boil 10 minutes, then pour in the dissolved cornstarch, stirring constantly.

Place one duck in boiling water, count to five and remove.

Place the second duck in boiling water, count to five and remove. Repeat for 10 minutes.

Place ducks on “beer can” racks again, in front of fan, for 6 hours until thoroughly dry.

Turn every 30 minutes.

“Pre-heat” La Cajita China with 10lbs of charcoal. When all coals are covered in white ash, oil the roasting rack and place ducks, breast side up, on rack.

Place the rack in the roasting pan with 2 inches of water in bottom, and close up the box, and add another 5lbs of charcoal.

You goal temperature inside the box is 350 degrees.

Roast 20 minutes.

Turn ducks, add 5lbs of charcoal, and roast 20 minutes more. Turn breast side up again. Roast 5 minutes more, until crispy and browned to your liking.

Remove ducks from La Cajita China and allow to rest 10-15 minutes.

Use sharp knife to debone. Serve meat and skin immediately on a pre-warmed dish.

The duck is eaten hot with hoisin sauce rolled in Mandarin Crepes. Garnish with diced scallion.

Each duck serves 4 to 6.

Drying: I set my ducks up on “beer-can chicken” stands (instead of hanging them by the necks – the traditional method), in front of a fan, and turned them every 30 minutes. Worked perfectly!





Filed under In The Box Recipes

La Caja China Cooking

Elk Mountain Books is pleased to announce the immediate release of “La Caja China Cooking” by Perry P. Perkins.

Click on Image to Purchase

La Caja China, the Cuban roasting box, has become the toast of food writers and celebrity gourmets, including Food Network’s THROWDOWN Chef, Bobby Flay.

In “La Caja China Cooking” Pit-master Perry Perkins takes you on a gastronomic tour of America, from Miami’s classic Cuban dishes, to traditional Texas and Carolina BBQ, to the crisp, fresh flavors of the Pacific Northwest.

Perkins includes grill-top favorites, amazing side dishes, and step-by-step Caja China instructions for “in-the-box” crowd-pleasers like:

~ True Texas Brisket
~ Pacific Northwest Salmon
~ Southern Roast Turkey
~ Carolina Pork Ribs
~ Memphis Whole Pickin’ Pig

So, fire up the coals, pick your favorite recipe, and dazzle your guests with these simple, yet mouth-watering dishes.

Wonderful things can happen when you think inside the box!

Product Details

  • Paperback: 164 pages
  • Publisher: Elk Mountain Books (August 14, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451598017
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451598018
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 7 x 0.4 inches
  • Foreword: Roberto Guerra
  • MSRP: US $14.95

About the Author

Perry P. Perkins comes from a long line of professional chefs. As a third generation gourmand, he focuses his love of cooking on bar-b-que, traditional southern fare, and fresh Northwest cuisine. Perry has written for hundreds of magazines, and his inspirational stories have been included in twelve Chicken Soup anthologies, as well.

Perry’s books include the novels Just Past Oysterville, and Shoalwater Voices, Elk Hunters Don’t Cry, and his new short story collection, Four From Left Field. Perry, his wife Victoria and their young daughter Grace live in the Pacific Northwest, and you can read more of his work at www.perryperkinsbooks.com.

All of Perry’s books are available on this page at Amazon.com


Filed under Reviews

La Caja China’s Rotisserie Kit

Hey all,

Here’s a nice (and very short) peek at the La Caja China’s rotisserie kit.

These run about sixty bucks, and fit models 1, 2, & 3 (the Cajita.)

From the website:

Cook chickens or sausages while you cook inside the box. This portable rotisserie cooking system is designed to be used to cook great meals over any Caja China, open fire, or on the ground. It runs on two D size batteries and can be used virtually anywhere.

I’ll be ordering one next week, so watch for a review soon!

– Perk

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Filed under Hardware, Accessories & Add Ons, Videos

Fritas (Cuban Hamburgers)

Hey all,

Roberto Guerra from La Caja China was kind enough to share this recipe with me. I grilled these up on the Cajita and they were awesome!

The seasoned curly fries (my version of  julienne potatoes) gave a nice crunch, and the chorizo adds a spicy kick that takes this burger over the top!

This is, hands down, one of the best burgers I’ve ever had.

Here’s the recipe, just click on the thumbnails for larger images:

Oh, and you can find this, and many more, step-by-step recipes in my cookbooks, La Caja China Cooking, and MEAT FIRE GOOD, as well.

Cuban Fritas

Recipe by Roberto Guerra

This Cuban burgers are great to cook on the top grill while you roast the pig inside the box. The chorizo really make it special.

4 lb ground beef
2  lbs ground chorizo
2 lb ground pork
¾ C milk
¾ C bread crumbs
1 tsp paprika
3 Tbs minced onion
2 eggs
4 tsp salt
1 tsp Worcester sauce
½ tsp black pepper

Combine all the ground meat and chorizos.

Soak bread crumbs in milk, beat eggs and add to the milk together with all the remaining ingredients.

Add to the meat mixture and mix well using the hands. Shape into medium hamburgers, and place them in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Grill over hot coals, about 5 minutes per side. Keep a spray bottle handy, as the chorizo can cause impressive flare-ups.

Serve on medium size rolls topped with julienne potatoes.

PS – I also tossed a handful of oak chips on the coals about 5 minutes before grilling…’cause I could.


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Filed under On The Grill Recipes

The Best Roast Turkey. Ever.

This is a recipe that I adapted for La Caja China from my father’s, Master Chef Frank L. Perkins, turkey recipe. The secret is in the brine! I’ve included instructions for both La Caja China, and a standard gas grill.

Southern Roast Turkey

3  12-14lb turkeys, frozen
Salt and pepper to taste
Smoked paprika
3 C melted butter
1 ½ C salad oil
9 C fine sea salt
9 C white sugar

Start with 3 – 5 gallon buckets. Boil 12 cups of water with 9 cups of fine sea salt, and 9 cups white sugar. Allow to cool. Pour 4 cups of seasoned water into each bucket.

Put your frozen turkey in the bucket, and fill with water until you have totally submersed your turkeys, put a weight on each turkey to hold it down. Cover your buckets with towels and leave your turkeys like that over night.

Take the turkey out of the water the next morning, rinse them clean, and pat dry.

Sprinkle turkeys generously with pepper and paprika both inside and outside.

Place turkeys on top of the rack, breast up, and attach top rack using the 4 S-Hooks and tent loosely with foil. Attach probe from a wired thermometer and run wire under short top frame.

Cover box with the ash pan and charcoal grid.

Add 16 lbs. of charcoal for model #1 or 20 lbs. for model #2 and light up. Once lit (20-25 minutes) spread the charcoal evenly over the charcoal grid. Cooking time starts right now.

After 1 hour (2nd hour) add 10 lbs. of charcoal.

After about 1 1/2 hours, open the roaster and baste the bird with the stock inside the pan to ensure it has the right amount of tenderness.

After 1 hour (3rd hour) add 10 lbs. of charcoal.

Do not add any more charcoal; continue cooking the Turkey until you reach the desired temperature reading, on the thermometer of 175 f.

Remove foil and flip the birds. Cover the box again and brown the top of the turkeys 15-20 minutes, to your liking.

Remove birds and pans from La Caja China, reserving the leftover stock for use with your dressing. Drain the excess fat and save for your giblet gravy.

You can find step-by-step recipes in my cookbook, La Caja China Cooking, as well.

For a gas grill:

Place the turkey, breast side down, on a wire rack in a large heavy-gauge foil pan.

Place the pan on the grill, away from the source of heat. Close the lid.

Cook for 11 to 13 minutes per pound, until the turkey registers an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) in the thigh and 170°F (77°C) in the breast.

Allow turkey to rest 30 minutes before carving and serving.

Serve with cornbread stuffing and giblet gravy.


Place a shallow, disposable aluminum pan, slightly larger than the turkey itself, beneath the rack under each bird. Not only will this save you some clean-up later, but it will also catch some wonderful drippings that will make the best turkey gravy you’ve ever had. Thanks, Dad!

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Filed under In The Box Recipes