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
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…
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.
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.
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.
In light of this momentous occasion, I’m going to offer each of my La Caja China Cookbooks, directly from my e-store, at 20% off the cover price! (Be sure to use the links and coupon code, below). These are the ONLY cookbooks on the market for the Cuban roasting boxes, and feature dozens of delicious recipes that I’ve personally created and tested, from across the country and around the world.
Nothing roasts a pig faster, or easier, than La Caja China…but there’s a LOT more to explore that just the whole hog. Here’s a little about the cookbooks and a favorite recipe of mine, from each…
Oh, and join me on Twitter tonight to chat during the episode, just search for #BizarreCaja, and join the conversation!
The secret to perfect roasting
Authored by Perry P Perkins 20% Coupon Code: MUFRQDBX
Recipes and tips for using La Caja China to prepare fabulous dishes from around the world!
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.
I 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. I can grill steaks, braise chickens, and roast prime-rib that rivals any restaurant, and do it all in my own backyard!
And, of course, I can roast melt-in-your-mouth whole pigs that send my guests into fits of gastronomical joy.
Even more importantly, I 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, and several full-size ovens. Not only that, but I can do it anywhere, anytime!
La Caja China isn’t just about great barbecue and roasting, it’s about friends and family, it’s about creating memories, and… let’s be honest… it’s about being “that guy” (or gal) who can make the dinner, holiday, or party, a memorable event.
Roasting Box Recipes from Around the Globe
Authored by Perry P Perkins 20% Coupon Code: MUFRQDBX
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 hungry crowd, or creating memories with your family – look no further than La Caja China World!
About the author:
Chef, cookbook author and food blogger, Perry P. Perkins comes from a long line of professional chefs. As a third generation gourmand, he focuses his love of cooking on barbeque, traditional southern fare, and fresh Northwest cuisine.
Perry has written for hundreds of magazines, everything from Writer’s Digest and Guideposts, to American Hunter and Bassmaster Magazine. His inspirational stories have been included in twelve Chicken Soup anthologies, as well.
“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?
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…
Twice Grilled Oysters…and a Little History
Chinook Indians gathered for centuries along Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula to harvest oysters and other seafood. They called it “tsako-te~hahsh-eetl” or “place of the red-topped grasses.”
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…
Twice Grilled 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.
Cook oysters 5-8 minutes, checking periodically. When an oyster has “popped” (the lid of the shell has opened, remove the oyster from the grill and set aside until cool enough to handle.
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.
Drizzle on teaspoon of seasoned butter over each oyster and return to the grill. Cover and allow to cook 10-15 minutes. Finished oysters will be a deep grey with browned and blackened edges.
Remove from grill and allow to cool until the shells can be handled. Serve.
Re-grilling the oysters at a low heat with butter infuses them with a rich, nutty flavor that is completely unlike the taste of a “once cooked” oyster.
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.
Yesterday, I had the honor of sharing this amazing device with none other than my grilling guru, Mr. Steven Raichlen, (author of “The Barbecue Bible”, which is my gold standard for bbq/grilling cookbooks) who had posted the following message on his Facebook page:
“Yes, I’ve used caja chinas & they give you amazingly moist tender pork. Drawback is you don’t get a wood smoker flavor.”
Well, you know I couldn’t let that go…so I (very politely) replied that you could, indeed, get great smoke flavor in anything you roast in La Caja China, and pointed him to our review of the AMNPS. This morning, the awesome Mr. Raichlen posted the following…
“This in from Perry P: a smoker device you can use with a caja china. I stand corrected & and we all stand to eat like kings!”
Well, needless to say…my hat doesn’t fit too well this morning!
In honor of my 5 seconds of fame, the equally awesome Todd Johnson, over at A-MAZE-N Products, LLC (owner and creator of the AMNPS) has generously offered to donate a brand new A-MAZE-N Pellet Smoker, as a prize for the best barbecue photo posted on our Facebook page.
1 photo per person. (G-rated, must be your photo, preferably with no minors in the shot.)
We’re looking for finished foodie shots of meat on the grill, in the Caja China, in your Weber, your pit…you name it. Show us what you would add smoke to, with your free A-MAZE-N Pellet Smoker, the next time you barbecue!
Contest ends Wednesday, February 29 (‘cause that’s leap-day, and I thought it was cool.)
Please do not post contact/mailing information, we’ll contact the winner.
Oh, and just to tease you…in June, I’m going to give away a MAJOR PRIZE here on Burnin’ Love BBQ (no, not a leg-lamp) for the best photo taken using the AMNPS! Seriously…this is going to be a biggie!
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.
No worries, my daughter is in a “Blues Clues” coma right now, so I’m free and (relatively) uninterrupted, lol.
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.
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 tip for getting awesome pork shoulders/legs with super crispy skin and a buttery center, in either your smoker, bbq, or oven.
Once you’ve smoked or roasted your rubbed and brined shoulder to perfection (10-12 hours at 235°F in your oven or smoker), remove the pork from heat and tent with foil.
Let your shoulder rest at room temperature for at and hour, untouched.
Crank up your oven to 500°F and allow to preheat. Return the shoulder to the oven and roast until skin is blistered and puffed, rotating every 5 minutes, about 20 minutes total. Remove it from the oven, re-tent with foil and allow the meat to rest an additional 15 minutes.
Serve by chopping in the kitchen, or just bring it to the table and let guests pick meat and crispy skin themselves, serve with a variety of dipping sauces, and some warm potato rolls or cornbread on the side