Tag Archives: La Caja China Cooking

La Caja China Guidebook: Free eBook

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La Caja China, for all the pig-related press, is one of the most versatile pieces of equipment I’ve used in a lifetime of cooking and barbecue

With it, we can prepare everything from holiday dinners like St. Patrick’s Day corned beef and Thanksgiving turkey; ethnic delights like Malaysian Satays and Italian porchetta sandwiches, to Kalua pig and Moroccan lamb. We can grill steaks, braise chickens, and roast prime-rib that rivals any restaurant, and do it all in our own backyard…or yours!

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And, of course, we can roast melt-in-your-mouth whole pigs (see the video) that send our guests into fits of gastronomical joy.

Even more importantly, we can prepare these dishes for crowds that would normally require a smoke house, a four-foot deep pit dug in my yard, multiple gas grills, or several full-size ovens. Not only that, but we can do it anywhere, anytime!

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Got questions about brining & injecting, best ways to deal with hot (or cold) weather cooking, the little secrets chefs use to get next-level results?

This free La Caja China Guidebook is your window into the best assembly and preparation tips, and 5 years of chef tested techniques for cooking and serving your pig, lamb, turkeys and pork shoulders, as well as delicious grilling and side recipes.

I love food, I love cooking, and I love La Caja China…and I want to share that love with you.

Please consider me your personal chef “hotline” for anything you want to cook in, or on, your magic box!

Enjoy!

Chef Perry
La Caja China Cooking

Here are some of my most popular “how to” ideas and work-arounds that I’ve come up with in nearly four-years of frequent cooking with La Caja China…just click on this cover to download your free PDF version of  my La Caja China Guidebook

Caja China GuidebookLa Caja China Guidebook
Tips and tricks for getting the most from your Magic Box!

If you’re looking for great recipes for cooking on your “magic box”, check out my cookbooks La Caja China Cooking, La Caja China World, La Caja China Party! available in paperback and Kindle eBook on Amazon.com at:

www.perryperkinsbooks.com

 

MY KITCHEN Outreach ProgramBy the way, if you enjoy our recipes, please subscribe to our free newsletter! We’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each Friday.

Plus, you’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk kids, in our MY KITCHEN Outreach Program.

 

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Easy smoking in La Caja China – A-MAZE-N-PELLET-SMOKER review.

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Every once in a great while you come across a cooking/bbq add-on that is everything a good accessory should be…simple to use (read: idiot proof) and simple to maintain, making the job at hand less (not more) complicated.

Something that’s 100% effective.

Something that truly lives up to its own marketing hype.

This weekend I found just such a product – the “New” A-MAZE-N-PELLET-SMOKER (AMNPS) by A-MAZE-N-PRODUCTS.

First, a little background…

I already own two models of “smoke units” for my various smokers, grills, and La Caja Chinas.

Each is basically effective, in that it imparts a good smoke flavor to the meat that’s cooking. The first is attractively priced at around $50, but very complicated to use, has a major learning curve, and requires the use a proprietary pellet “cartridge” to use. The second is less complicated, allows for non-proprietary pellets/chips, but is 8X more expensive as the first.

Both require an electrical plug in.

http://i0.wp.com/burninlovebbq.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/post2.jpg?resize=262%2C196Now, I can complicate a whole pig roast (see my step-by-step video) with just a pig and fire…without tossing in a, sometimes moody, smoke gadget. When it comes to bbq, I’m definitely more Fred Flintstone than James Bond. I want something that’s a no brainer, I want it to be something I don’t have to make a special plan for (I do a lot of cooking in campgrounds, in the mountains, and at the beach, where electricity can be problematic), and I don’t want to spend an arm and a leg to get it.

Finally…I’ve found something that fits all of my requirements, and requires no “Mods” or drilling of holes in my La Caja China.

The AMNPS is a light weight, durable and portable smoke generator designed to burn pellets or sawdust. The new AMNPS will produce smoke during cold smoking and hot smoking, tested up to 275°. They are versatile enough to be used in just about any smoker or a grill.

At less than fifty-bucks, with no moving parts, no electricity required, and no “special needs”, the AMNPS is built to perform flawlessly for the biggest idiot around…and this weekend it did just that in my La Caja China Semi Pro, at our annual church camp-out and pig roast!

I left the two end rails off my La Caja China for airflow (this creates a ¼ inch gap at either end) and set the smoker on a small piece of foil, directly on top of, and centered on, the pig rack. I used a mix of apple and alder wood pellets, filling the channels of the AMNPS about 2/3 of the way up…lit the pellets with a torch, though a small hole in the end of the smoker, and closed up the La Caja China.  That’s it!

Literally, if you can open a bag of pellets, and light a propane torch…you have mastered all of the skills required to use the A-MAZE-N-PELLET-SMOKER.

Note: It took me a while but the “MAZE” in “A-MAZE-N”…it’s a maze…get it? I told you it was idiot proof!

So, my only concern was that the heat from the underside of La Caja China’s coal pan would be intense enough to get all of the pellets smoking at one time, which would defeat the purpose of a long, slow smoke. My worry was for naught…I peeked at around 2.5 hours (I know, I know, I always say “no peeking” but these were special circumstances!) and the AMNPS had run about ½ the course. I checked again at 5.5 hours and it had burned to the end.

So it works…you don’t have to peek for yourself. Rule #1 – No Peeking!

The mix of pellets gave a perfect subtly sweet/smoky flavor to our 85lb pig, creating a beautiful 1/2 to 3/4 inch “smoke ring” on the shoulders and hams. In fact, my pastor, who’s also a foodie and bbq junkie, took one look at the pellet smoker, and spent the rest of the weekend trying to talk me out of it!

I doubt I’ll ever use either of my other “smoke units” again…I’m totally sold out on the AMNPS. I’ll be updating the “smoking” recommendations in all of our cookbooks in the next few weeks, to recommend this pellet smoker…that’s how serious I am about it.

If you have a La Caja China, another brand of pig roasting box, or any smoker or grill that requires a smoking accessory, you need an A-MAZE-N-PELLET-SMOKER.

Tell ’em Perry sent you!

Okay, I gotta go eat some leftover pig now.

Happy Q’ing!

-Chef Perry

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How to get super crispy skin on whole roast pig

Caja China crispy skin

A friend of mine asked about how to achieve that super crispy “pig candy” skin when roasting a pig in La Caja China.

First of all, just following the directions on the box itself is a great start, and will get you a yummy crisp skin. For that “potato-chip” crisp that makes Cuban and Fillipino lechón so amazing, however, I suggest a couple of things above and beyond the typical recipe.

The first two steps can be used with any “whole hog” cooking method, while the third is specific to La Caja China style roasting boxes.

The fact is, the dryer skin is when you start cooking, the crisper is will turn out.

That lovely crunchy skin on Peking Duck comes from air-drying the duck’s skin prior to cooking. Similarly, there are a couple of things you can to to get super-crunch results with your pig. crispy pig skin

#1. After marinading (or if not marinading, then the night before roasting) pat the entire pig down with paper towels to remove excess moisture. Then, rub the skin generously with a salt-heavy rub, or straight sea salt. I recommend a fine grind, as it will adhere better. Personally, I prefer to inject the pig (or whatever I’m roasting), instead of marinating it externally, as soaking in liquid for hours is kinda counter productive to drying the skin, lol. It’s also a lot less messy. http://i1.wp.com/burninlovebbq.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/p9110317.jpg?resize=396%2C266 #2. As you bring the pig to room temp (a must), set up an oscillating fan – or, preferably, two – pointed at the uncovered pig, to help to help “air-dry” the skin as much as possible. If your fan(s) can’t cover the whole carcass at one time, move them around every 30 minutes or so. http://i1.wp.com/burninlovebbq.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/article1.jpg?resize=331%2C271 (Yes, I know these are ducks…but you get the idea! Btw, here’s THAT recipe –Peking Duck ala La Cajita China)

#3. When you flip your pig to brown the skin for the last 30 minutes or so, pat the skin down again with paper towels, give it another sprinkle of rub, and (most important) set the coal tray back on at a slight angle so that there are gaps on both sides of the box.

This will allow any excess moisture cooking out of the skin to escape the box, instead of being contained and “steaming” the skin.

Watch your pig carefully at this point, as a dry skin will brown (and burn) much faster than one with a high moisture content.

Check out our video for a step-by-step on roasting a whole pig.

Hope that helps, lemme know if you have any questions!

– Chef Perry

PS – I like this Q&A so much, I’m going to update my free ebook, “La Caja China Guidebook” with this info! Thanks!

PPS – If your first try or two for crispy skin doesn’t turn out perfect, DON’T THROW THAT SKIN OUT! Instead, bag it, let it cool (or freeze), then, when you’re ready for an awesome snack, cut the skin into 2×2 squares, and place them on a rack , skin up, over a foil-lined cookie sheet.

Sprinkle lightly with salt or rub, and roast in a 300d oven for 3 hours or until deeply tan and very crispy. Allow to cool until just warm, and serve with a dipping mix of cider vinegar, salt, and red pepper flake.So FREAKIN’ good!

MY KITCHEN Outreach ProgramBy the way, if you’re enjoying this recipe, please subscribe to our free newsletter! We’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each Friday.

Plus, you’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk kids, in our MY KITCHEN Outreach Program.

 

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Brining vs. Injecting Pork

Injecting Marinate La Caja China Pig

Lee asks:

Here in the UK we don’t tend to inject our meats so can you tell me if using a brine solution makes the pork taste salty.What are the benefits of using the brine? – Thanks again, Lee

Lee, you bet!

Brining turkeys

Brining whole turkeys for The Father’s House Street Ministry each Thanksgiving,

As far as injections, it’s all a matter of what you consider “salty”. You certainly don’t need to salt the cooked meat, but it is in no way off-putting, as long as you follow a tested recipe.

Brine, because of the salt content, will give greater flavor than a marinade, the salts open the proteins in the meat and they absorb more moisture, so brined meat will be juicier after cooking. (And more forgiving to over-cooking!)

Personally, I think that pork benefits best from both marinating AND brining. Think of it as two separate techniques, the injection moistens and flavors the deep muscle tissue, while the marinade adds flavor to the exterior of the meat, and to the skin. For a whole pig, I’ll typically do a “dry marinade” ie: a thick spice paste, or a dry rub.

Meats that improve with a good brine:

Chicken & turkey (whole or cut)
Rabbit (or any non-red game meat)
Pork (especially boneless picnic ribs)
Smoked Salmon/Fish

Fatty meats like beef and lamb are generally not improved by brining.

My basic brine = 1 cup coarse Kosher or sea salt + 1 cup sugar (white or brown) + 1 gallon purified water.

Bring water to a high simmer, add salt and sugar to dissolve, and allow to cool to room temp before adding the meat. You can increase or decrease the amount of brine, as long as you have enough to completely submerse the meat, by modifying the brine ingredients in these proportions.

For more on brining, check out this post: 4 Tips for Better BBQ

My favorite injection is Cuban Mojo (moe-hoe), that I learned from my friend Roberto over at La Caja China (recipe below), for a more traditional brine, check out My Family’s Favorite Brined Turkey, here!

Traditional Cuban Mojo

Recipe by Roberto Guerra

This classic Cuban seasoning sauce makes a flavorful marinade for meats and poultry. Traditionally this is made with sour oranges, cumin, lots of garlic. With larger cuts (pork shoulder, or whole pig & lamb) it can be injected into the meat 12-24 hours before cooking.

Mojo Bacon Skewers1 C sour orange juice
1 Tbs oregano
1 Tbs bay leaves
1 garlic bulb
1 tsp cumin
3 tsp salt
4 oz of water

Peel and mash the garlic cloves. Mix all the ingredients and let it sit for a minimum of one hour.

Blend all ingredients and let it sit for a minimum of one hour, strain and inject, or place meat in a cooler and pour marinade to cover overnight.

You can replace the sour orange juice with the following mix: 6 oz. orange juice, 2 oz. lemon juice.

I use this recipe for my all-time favorite appetizer as well, Mojo Shrimp Skewers.  Mojo is also a traditional dipping sauce for Cuban Tostones (twice-fried plantain round) – which are freakin’ awesome. That recipe is included in my cookbooks, La Caja China World, and La Caja China Party!

To make this mojo into a marinade, add the above recipe to 1 ½ gallons of water, and 13 oz. of table salt.

Injecting pork shoulders

How to inject:

Put your pork shoulder in a pan or baking dish, fill your syringe, and inject in 4-6 spots. Pick a spot, stick the needle deep into the meat, and slowly depress the plunger while pulling the needle out, this allows the meat to close behind the needle.

Refill and repeat 4 times in various spots, until you’ve used 1/2 of the injection. The pork won’t hold all of the solution, so it’s okay for some of it to run out.

Flip the shoulder and repeat, then set the butt aside. Repeat the process with the second pork butt. Here’s the injector I use, and here’s the one I WANT, lol. BTW, if you’re just starting out, La Caja China has a great injection package that includes the injector, mojo, spices, and more…

LCC-S1876-2

After injecting, sprinkle the rub generously on all sides, and “rub” it in to help it stick to the meat.  Cover meat and refrigerate 24 hours, allowing to come to room temp before cooking.

Okay, pit-masters…got any tips to add?

Enjoy!

-Chef Perry

MY KITCHEN Outreach ProgramBy the way, if you’re enjoying this recipe, please subscribe to our free newsletter! We’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each Friday.

Plus, you’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk kids, in our MY KITCHEN Outreach Program.

 

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How much is enough? BBQ for a crowd.

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One of the most frustrating aspects of cooking for a crowd is the fear of running out of food.

I HATE seeing an empty pan on my serving table!

So, how much should you buy? Too little, and you risk running out, too much and you’ve spent more than you need to (this looks especially bad to a catering client!)

Here are some general guidelines to help you calculate how many people you can serve with that raw chunk of meat on the butcher’s shelf…

When planning a meal, it is always better to purchase too much meat than not enough. Always be prepared for people with larger appetites.

One trick I use is to add a “mystery” guest for every 4 confirmed. In other words, I plan 5 portions for 4 people, 10 portions for 8, 15 for 12, etc. If there are leftovers, the cooked meat will keep in the refrigerator for several days or the unused portions may be frozen for long term storage.

How much to cook in La Caja China

Luau pork shoulders in La Caja China

Approximate BB

(Raw weight)
Pork, Shoulder Bone-in                        3
Pork, Back Ribs                                    1.5
Pork, Country Style Ribs                     2
Pork, Spareribs                                    1.5
Pork, Whole                                          1.5
Beef, Standing Rib                               2.5
Beef, Ribs                                              2.5
Beef, Tri-Tip                                         4
Chicken, Whole                                     3
Lamb, Leg (bone in)                             1
Turkey, Whole                                     ¾


MY KITCHEN Outreach ProgramBy the way, if you’re enjoying this recipe, please subscribe to our free newsletter! We’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each Friday.

Plus, you’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk kids, in our MY KITCHEN Outreach Program.

 

When planning a meal, it is always better to purchase too much meat than not enough.

Always be prepared for people with larger appetites.

One trick I use is to add a “mystery” guest for every 4 confirmed. In other words, I plan 5 portions for 4 people, 10 portions for 8, 15 for 12, etc.

If there are leftovers, the cooked meat will keep in the refrigerator for several days or the unused portions may be frozen for long term storage.

Happy Q’ing!

-Chef Perry

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“La Caja China Party!” Now Available!

La Caja China Party!

Just in time for Christmas!

  • 13 Themes
  • 85 Recipes
  • 160+ Photos

This is it, the best of my three La Caja China Cookbooks, and fully illustrated…perfect for using the magic box to create amazing memories for every occasion! In the box, on the grill, sides, desserts, and the perfect drinks!

Get your copy now, directly from the publisher!
(3-5 business days to be listed on Amazon.com.)

Chef Perry P. Perkins
Author
“La Caja China Cooking”
“La Caja China World”
“La Caja China Smoke”

MY KITCHEN Outreach ProgramBy the way, if you’re enjoying this post, please subscribe to our free newsletter! We’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each Friday.

Plus, you’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk kids, in our MY KITCHEN Outreach Program.

 

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Why Should You Buy La Caja China BBQ?

A shout-out for my boys at La Caja China…


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President’s Day and Barbecue

Coming up on one of my favorite barbecue holidays…Presidents Day!

Oh sure, you can have your Memorial Day, and Independence Day, and Labor Day, but the problem with those are, everyone else is barbecuing as well! It can be hard to get enough folks over to justify a decent pig-pickin’ when every Weber on the block is burnin’ dogs.

Besides, Presidents Day has such a fine history or barbecue…

“When George Washington “went in to Alexandria to a Barbecue and stayed all Night,” as he wrote in his diary for May 27, 1769, he won eight shillings playing cards and probably ate meat from a whole hog, cooked for hours over hardwood coals, then chopped or “pulled.”

By the early nineteenth century at the latest, a sauce of vinegar and cayenne pepper (originally West Indian) was being sprinkled on the finished product.  This ur-barbecue can be found to this day in eastern North Carolina and the adjoining regions of South Carolina and Virginia, virtually unchanged.” (Adapted from Holy Smoke: The Tar Heel Barbecue Tradition, by John Shelton Reed, Dale Volberg Reed, and Will McKinney to be published by the University of North Carolina Press, forthcoming 2008.)

Says Steven Raichlen, author of “Planet Barbecue” and host of “Primal Grill” on PBS, “Our presidents were known to be big fans of the laid-back pastime as well. George Washington’s diaries abound with references to barbecues, including one that lasted for three days. George Washington was a major barbecue buff, and when Abraham Lincoln’s parents were married, their wedding feast was a barbecue.”

Lyndon Johnson built his campaign around Texas-style barbecues, a variation on an old tradition: In the 19th century, roast pig and whiskey were staples at political rallies. Having combined generous amounts of Kentucky bourbon and slow-roasted pork on occassion myself, I can say with some authority that this is a wise political tactic…after several hours you would passionately cast your vote for the pig, if someone put a ballot in your hand!

In fact, President Johnson had a full-time barbecue chef, Mr, Walter Jetton, employed on the LBJ Ranch full time. I have his cookbook…it’s highly amusing.

Ronald Reagan engaged the BBQ catering services of Wayne Monk of Lexington for the 1983 Economic Summit in Williamsburg.

Even President Obama, who, having grown up in Hawaii, is likely to have an undeniable love of pork…I mean bbq of  course…got into the action with Iron Chef Bobby Flay, grilling up some fine looking steaks at the White House for the Young Men’s Barbeque in 2009. (Hope they were good…we payed for ’em! lol)

So, in tribute to my favorite bbq holiday, here’s how you can prepare some fantastic, White House worthy pulled pork barbecue of your own on your gas grill or La Caja China (click links for recipes.)

And, of course, if you can get a herd of hungry revelers over, you can go whole hog…but I’d put the bourbon away first, if I were you.

And here’s my favorite “traditional” bbq sauce recipe, from …which is probably pretty similar to what Ol’ George sunk his wooden teeth into, at those all-night poker parties!

Perk’s Tradition BBQ Sauce

1 cup white vinegar
1 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Combine the white vinegar, cider vinegar, brown sugar, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper in a jar or bottle with a tight-fitting lid. Refrigerate for 1 to 2 days before using so that the flavors will blend. Shake occasionally.

Enjoy the day!

-Perry

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Thanksgiving Barbecue Menu

May all your holidays be filled with the blessings that life can bestow. And though, for all of us, in different ways, this has been a tough year, try to remember something my father taught me. Something I reflect upon that occasionally has helped me through a tough time…

At your moment of greatest suffering, when everything seems it’s darkest, somewhere in the world, some unsuspecting turkey is about to have a fistful of stuffing shoved deep into his eviserated body cavity…

In other words, things could be worse. Happy Thanksgiving!” – Bon Saget

Here’s the Burnin’ Love BBQ Plan…

Appetizer 1: Mojo Shrimp Skewers
Grilled seafood makes a great appetizer before a big dinner because not only it it a light, tasty snack that won’t dull the tastebuds, it’s also quick and easy grilling for a chef who’s in full-bore production mode.

2 lbs sliced bacon
64 raw prawns, tail off
2 C Traditional Cuban Mojo
¼ C Adobo Criollo Spice
32 skewers, soaked (if wooden)

See Instructions here.

Appetizer 2: Caprese Tomato Bites
I like to follow a hot appetizer with a cold one and, since the following salad recipe has none of these ingresients, this balances nicely.

1 pint cherry tomatoes, about 16
2 mozzarella cheese sticks
16 fresh basil leaves, small
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt

See instructions, here.

Salad: Wild Greens tossed with Balsamic Viniegrette

Turkey: Mojo Brined Turkeys in La Caja China

(2) 12-14lb turkeys, thawed and rinsed
Mojo Brine
Peanut oil
1/2 cup Adobo Criollo spices
Water to cover

See instructions, here.

Cuban Tostone Stuffing

6 green plantains
Vegetable oil
1 lb. thick bacon, diced
6 cloves garlic, chopped
3 sweet chili peppers, seeded & diced
1 sweet onion, diced
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup chicken broth
Salt & pepper to taste

Sides: Garlic Mashed Potatoes & Giblet Gravy, Simple Grilled Asparagus

‘Nuff said.

See instructions, here.

‘Course, if you wanna try something completely different…but still savor the flavor or Thanksgiving, try your hand at our Turkey Explosion Recipe!

1 pound sliced bacon
1.5 pounds ground turkey
1 tablespoon each sage, garlic powder, salt, pepper
1 cups breadcrumbs
1/2 sweet onion, diced fine
1/4 lb Mushrooms. sliced thin
2 stalks celery, diced fine
2 Tbs fresh minced garlic
1/4 cup sweet cream butter
1/4 cup turkey rub (see below)
3/4 cup cranberry barbecue sauce (see link)

See instructions, here.

…and, of course…it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without the WKRP Turley Drop!

Happy Thanksgiving all!

-Perry

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Skinnin’ a pig? Puerto Rican brilliance!

Hey all,

Just got this email from Scott…

“Thanks for taking the time to read this! I have a quick question: We are roasting a 70 lb pig in a La Caja China Roaster.

My partners mother-in-law is Cuban and tells us that there is an old Puerto Rican recipe that calls for REMOVING the skin from the pig prior to roasting, then seasoning the meat, and placing the pig back “into” the now separate skin, then roasting as usual.

Now I am not a fan of this, but I figured I would ask if this is something you would suggest? I mean, might it dry out the meat?

Thanks – Scott”

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