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Caja China advice?

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The Chowhound Team split this tangent was from its original location on the Los Angeles board. Please share your tips on using the Caja China pig roaster.

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That's exactly what we are doing for the first time. Any tips about the caja china?

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  1. Yes.

    When you get your pig, you will need to remove the hoofs and the head. A reciprocating saw (sawzall), obviously with a clean/new blade, works great for this purpose. (Of course, your butcher may be willing to do this for you.)

    In addition, in order to get the pig to fit within the grates in the caja china, you'll need to split the spine. You do this by cutting through the spine length-wise (perpendicular to the ribs) with a cleaver or machete and a hammer. This enables you to spread the pig out flat for roasting.

    As for marinade, you can get fresh Cuban bitter oranges at some of the local Cuban grocery stores (there's a place in the San Fernando Valley), but they don't have them year round. They also sell a bottled marinade that looks artificial and gross, but is probably delicious. You really need a big hypodermic needle to get the marinade into the meat, because it won't soak through the skin or the inside of the carcass very well.

    The stainless steel pan that sits inside the caja China is too shallow and will very likely overflow. You might want to get some deeper aluminum foil roasting pans to put inside to catch drippings/juice. There will be a lot of roasting juice, and it's a shame to waste it.

    Lastly, don't underestimate the time it takes to carve the roast pig. It took us around 45 minutes -- it's a lot of work. (Boy is it good.)

    Hope this is of some help, and good luck!

    10 Replies
    1. re: David Kahn

      It sounds fantastic. We are really excited.
      Thanks for the tips, David.

      1. re: David Kahn

        I would second David's recommendation to inject with marinade. I've had the chance to try several Caja roasted pigs, and injected meat tastes better.

        Be careful about oversalting the skin, though. IMO, the crispy crunchy skin is the best part, and it'd be a shame to make it oversalty in an attempt to season the meat.

        1. re: David Kahn

          I've done 4 pigs so far on mine. You're in for a treat. David is right in all respects except I've not had the pan overflow. I got a huge horse hypo from my vet for the marinade and it still took awhile to inject since there's only so much the surrounding tissue can absorb. Also, be nice to yourself and let it cool off for a half hour before you start carving. My only tip: don't tell your post-dinner worshipers that all you had to do was explicitly follow the directions printed right on the freaking side of it.

          1. re: Spot

            Sorry, one more thing. It gets really scary hot, so when you flip that baby, use leather gloves and potholders, be very careful, and explain to the person helping you exactly how you are going to do it -- where the coals are going, which way it's to be turned, etc.

            1. re: Spot

              Agree on all counts, and Spot raises another good suggestion. A whole pig is heavy and awkward, even when cool, and when it's fresh out of the oven hot, it worse. You absolutely need at least two people for much of the preparation and cooking process. At times, three people would be even better. (And of course, it helps enormously if they are sober.)

          2. re: David Kahn

            how long should it take to cook a 75 lb pig? it seems like some websites/posts suggests it should take 3-4hrs. i've done 70-100 lb pigs a couple times already and they seem to take closer to 8-9hrs. i've got model #2. it'll be 60-70 degrees out, and the pig will be on ice all night...any thoughts/insite would be much appreciated. Thanks!

            1. re: dannyboyk

              I know it sounds unlikely, but it will take only about 3 1/2 hours. Just follow the directions explicitly.

              1. re: dannyboyk

                Hi
                the secret to the cooking time is having a 70degree internal temp(taken from the thickest part of the leg) before you start cooking the larger animals. i cook about 6 pigs a month for special events and i have been using the box about 6 years now.

              2. re: David Kahn

                AS A SOUTHERN SOUTH FLORIDA COWBOY, I HAVE TO RELATED HOW WE COOK 25-30 100 LBS+ WHOLE PIGS IN THE CAJA CHINA. WE ALWAY COOOK THE ENTIRE PIG, HEAD,FEET, TAIL ETC. WE GO TO THE SLAUGHTER HOUSE AND PICK OUT THE LIVE PIG THAT WE WANT. WE PREFER SOWS FOR THE PURITY OF MEAT FLAVOR AND MUSCLE TONE. THE PIG IS THEN TAGGED, PAID FOR, AND TAKEN UP STAIRS FOR PREP. WE ALWAYS ASK FOR THE HEART AND LIVER TO BE IN A SEPERATE PLASTIC BAG. THESE ARE COOKED AS A SPECIALTY HERE IN LITTLE HAVANA. WHEN WE GOT HOME, WE SPLIT THE BACKBONE MORE TO SPREAD THE PIG EVENLY. WE THEN FILL THE CAVITY WITH 1-1/2 GALS OF REALLY GOOD MOJO. THERE IS A BRAND NEW CLEANED AND STERILIZED RUBBERMAID HORSE TROUGH WHICH WE LINE WITH CLOSED 10 LB BAGS OF ICE. THE PIG IS PLACED ON TOP. WE INJECT EVERY POSSIBLE PLACE WITH MORE MOJO FOLLOWED BY INSERTION OF FRESH GARLIC CLOVES. THE PIG IS THEN COVER WITH ADDITIONAL SEALED 10# BAGS OF ICE AND THEN WITH HEAVY BLACK PLASTIC OR TOWELS TO MAKE A REFRIGERATOR WHERE IT SITS FOR AT LEAST 12-24 HOURS. THE CAJA CHINAS ARE SET UP SIMPLY AS PER THE INSTRUCTION PRINTED ON THE SIDE OF THE BOX. THE PIG IS UNCOVER, RUBBED ALL OVER WITH FRESH MOJO AND WIRED INTO THE RACKS. A LARGE 100+ PIG REQUIRES A LITTLE MUNIPULATION BY CRACKING THE FEET SO THEY FIT. THE PIG IS PLACED IN THER BOX BELLY SIDE UP AND ONCE IN THE BOX, THE CAVITY IS FILLED AGAIN WITH ANOTHER GAL OF MOJO.
                WHEN THE PIG IS READY TO BE TURNED OVER BY TWO (2) PEOPLE. THE WHITE, WHITE COLOR OF THE SKIN MAY SHOCK YOU, BUT JUST WAIT. JUST BEFORE CLOSING UP THE BOX TO CRISPIN UP THE SKIN, WET MOP THE SKIN WITH A VERY HEAVY SALT WATER MIX. CLOSE THE TOP WITH THE NEW COALS ON AT AN ANGLE TO LET OUT STEAM AND KEEP IN THE HEAT TO DO IT'S MAJIC. NEVER OPE THE BOX DURING THE FIRST 3 1/2-4 HOURS OF COOKING. WHEN CRIPING UP THE SKIN TO YOU LIKENESS YOU WILL NEED TO PARTIALLY OPEN THER TOP A LITTLE MORE TO TAP THE SKIN. BECAREFUL AS IT WILL BE REAL HOT. WHEN IT'S READY, THE WHITE SKIN WILL BECOME A RICH DAARK GOLDEN BROWN WITH A DISTINCTIVE THUMP. REMOVE THE PIG ONTO THE CARVING TRAY AND UNDO WIRES AND THE RACKS. YOU MUST LET THE PIG SIT UNCOVERED FOR 20-30 MINS. THE SKIN WILL STAY CRISPY AND THE MEAT WILL BE TENDER, MOIST AND SOOOOOOOOOOO DELICIOUS. IT WILL FALL OF THE BONES WITH A COUPLE OF STRONG LARGE FORKS INTO SHREADS. WATCH OUT FOR THE SKIN GRABBERS AS THEY DECEND FROM NOWHERE. THERE'S PLENTY FOR EVERONE. REMEBER IF YOU'RE GOING TO CUT OFF HEAD, FEET, ETC. YOU MIGHT AS WELL JUST ROAST A HUNK OF FRESH PORK. WE MAY DO THINGS A LITTLE DIFFERENT HERE ON THE FARM, BUT THEN THIS IS THE AREA WHERE 1000'S OF WHOLE PIGS ARE ROASTED EVERY YEAR. YOU CAN GO INTO ANY SUPER MARKET SUCH AS PUBLIX, WALMART ETC AND GET WHOLE PIGS FROM BABY SUCKLINGS TO 125# OR MORE. GOOD GRILLING AND ENJOY

                1. re: southernpig

                  I have now done 3 pigs. For 40 people, a 50 pound pig was more than enough and it fits without having to cut anything off. I injected the pig the night before with bottled Mojo from Miami, to which I had added some salt, to create more of a brine. Extra brine was poured in the cavity. I put the pig in plastic in the Caja China with ice under and over the pig. In the am, I pulled out all the ice and let the pig come to 70F. We took the advice and put the digital thermometer in the thigh and flipped the pig when the temp was 185. This took about 5 hours. We salted the skin after flipping, with kosher salt. We did the slashes, and shook the coals to get the ashes out, as suggested, to increase the heat. It all worked perfectly. But getting my friends to wait 30 minutes before carving is just impossible! They are like vultures!! the pig was perfect and the only surprise was that it took longer to get to 185 than we thought it would.

              3. One last tip for food safety during prep. Keep the pig properly chilled by laying it on top of 20 lb bags of ice, then lay more bags of ice on top of the pig until you're ready to cook it. This is how BBQ competition cooks do their thing at contests.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Professor Salt

                  Thanks everyone, great tips. I feel much better !

                2. One thing the Caja doesn't do is add any smoke flavor to whatever's cooked inside. I just saw this cold smoke generator on one of my BBQ forums, and thought that it could be jerry rigged inside the Caja, if one wanted smoke flavor.

                  http://www.macsbbq.co.uk/CSG.html

                  One would have to be handy with tools and create a removable shelf to place this device inside the Caja. It would have to be taken out temporarily while the pig is being handled. It ain't perfect, but I'm just sayin - for those who want a roasted pig with perfectly crisp skin and smoky meat, this might be just the thing.

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: Professor Salt

                    I thought I cooked it with the head on, NO?

                    1. re: mendogurl

                      You can. Some guests might not like it. Your choice.

                      1. re: Professor Salt

                        Oh.
                        Well, they can leave. LOL.
                        Thanks Professor.

                        1. re: mendogurl

                          In our case, our pig was about 100 lbs, and I don't think it would have fit in the caja china with the head still on.

                          1. re: David Kahn

                            Okay, as the day grows closer, some questions arise.
                            We have a Caja China that holds the 100 pound pig, our pig is 50 pounds.
                            Can I roast 6 chickens simultaneously? ( I have the rotisserie attachment)
                            Slit the skin or don't slit the skin ?
                            Anyone have a good Mojo recipe?

                            1. re: mendogurl

                              On cooking chickens and pig at the same time, almost certainly not a good idea. They will be done at different times, and you don't want to be opening the caja china any more than you have to.

                              1. re: David Kahn

                                That's what I thought.

                                One last question David, how long did you marinate your pig. I am going to MOJO him tomorrow and then pack him in ice in a bathtub for a Sunday dinner roast.

                                1. re: mendogurl

                                  That sounds about right. Since you're using a hypodermic rather than waiting for the marinade to soak through the meat, I think you don't need as much time. I think we injected ours about 15 hours or so prior to roasting. One last thing, I'm not sure if anyone mentioned, but you need to have the caja china on a reasonably level surface for the roasting, or you'll have lots of problems.

                                  Good luck btw; hope it comes out great!

                                  1. re: David Kahn

                                    Thank you David for all of your help.
                                    Piggie is all injected and rubbed down, marinating in a bathtub of ice.

                                    Yummmmmmm.

                    2. re: Professor Salt

                      There are several methods for smoking in La Caja China. I use the smoke pistol (available from La Caja China or on Amazon), there's a new product called a "Smoke Daddy" that I intend to try out soon, and then there's the redneck (my fallback) method of simply placing a small pan of chip or pellets in top of the upper rack (above the pig). The heat from the coal tray creates a nice, long smolder. I've done this a half-dozen times with whole pigs and briskets, and it works great!

                      -Perry

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

                      1. re: pperkins

                        OK, an update. Bought a 50 pound pig from Golden Gate Meat Company, SF, CA. Injected it with Mojo purchased in MIami, that i added some salt to, to create more of a brine, the night before and salted the skin. Brought it to 70 the next day. Put it in the box per instructions and inserted the digital probe. Added charcoal per instructions. At 3 hours, not done, at 4 hours not done and got very nervous as 40 people are WAITING. at around 4.5 hours, we were at 185. Flipped the pig, shook out the ash and crisped the skin perfectly in about .5 hours or a little more (got fuzzy here as shots of tequila were starting to get involved). The pig was perfect in every way, very moist and not too salty, just delicious! My husband thinks that if we shook the ash out each time we added coals, it might have made it go quicker, but I liked it just the way it was. FYI had lots of leftovers, maybe 5-7 pounds. I think I might do a 40 pounder next time.

                         
                    3. Does anyone know what temperature the inside of the caja china should be when cooking a whole pig? I'm building my own version, and I'll have two thermometers (one for the pig and and one for the oven). Also, any thoughts on what I could use as a rack? I thought about using rebar mesh, but that stuff is all galvanized steel.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Lobstr

                        Just this last weekend I built a homemade china box. We cooked two chickens last night to test and it worked great. Temps went as high as 390. I have read elsewhere that between 250 and 350 is pretty good. For a grate I found a 4x8 fence panel that was pretty heavy duty. Ended up cutting it in half and folding each half over double. We shall see if it's strong enough on Aug 14th. :)

                        jb

                      2. My recommendation is to use injected marinades if you use marinades at all.

                        Some famous chef posted a video with his instructions to marinade in liquid. That causes the skin to be overhydrated and rubbery when cooked.

                        What's worse is the marinade he used contained sugar which caused the skin to burn. In his video he abrubtly ends it after the scene where the pig is flipped. You never see the pig taken out or eaten - probably because it was a rubbery burned up mess!!

                        I've used a steak cubing device to prick the skin all over and rubbed with a little baking soda to help break down the skin and cause nice crisp bubbles. I might try some lye water in a few weeks on my 4th pig.

                        In the last 30 minutes when you are crisping the skin, don't put the coals back on the cooker straight. Sort of turn it a few degrees left or right and leave a crack open in the cooker to allow steam to escape, otherwise the skin becomes steamed and rubbery.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: BillHoo

                          Ok all, I have cooked 2 whole pigs in my Caja China. The first was perfect, with nice crispy skin. We injected it with Mojo, but I don't recal rubbing the skin with anything. The second pig, the skin was rubbed with salt the night before. The skin was leathery and we blamed the salt, as it does draw out moisture. Now I am thinking we didn't put enough coals on after flipping, to raise the temp, and maybe we should have it slightly open to decrease moisture?? Thoughts?

                          1. re: piggyjeanne

                            the skin becomes leathery for several reasons: 1. the pig was flipped too early and the skin didnt get to gel stage 2. fire not hot enough or pan has too much ash under the coals (which lowers the box temp significantly) 3. remember if the skin gels properly and you flip for crackling it has to dry out ,which is why you slit the skin it is to allow the excess moisture to get out from under the fat/skin layer after that it will get to a dry leather like stage right before it starts to crackle. leaving the top open will make it crisp a little better but your loin sections will get super dry as they tend to be the driest parts when to pig is done cooking. i would leave on the lid and just allow time to get it crisp ,the steam in the box wont affect it that much if the coals are screaming hot on top. my recommendation is to get a good thermometer setup and that will help you alot. i flip my pigs at 185 degrees inner leg temp at the deepest part and we get great crackling and really moist pig. i am not sure if we can suggest brands on here but i use thermoworks dual temp thermometer. i hope i am not to jumbled with my advice. regards

                            1. re: piggyjeanne

                              a pic of my pig

                               
                              1. re: piggyjeanne

                                Garistone is right. After the flip, you most likely didn't have enough heat from the pan and/or didn't roast long enough. Leathery skin is just a stage before getting to crispy crackle-iciousness. The last addition of coals after the flip is specifically for crisping up the skin, so make sure to scoop out excess ash (which insulates) and add enough coals. And like Garistone said, don't worry about leaving the lid ajar. There's moisture in the box, but the skin is so close to the heat source, it'll still crisp. If you check and the skin is still leathery, just put the lid back on and go longer. And finally, don't blame the salt rub -- it would only have helped, not hurt.

                            2. Will leaving the head on cause any problems?
                              I can get my hands on a Caja China and was thinking of doing a pig roast where I would leave the head on for the full effect.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: dave_c

                                roasting with head on is fine. some people wrap the ears so they dont turn to charcoal but it part of the process. the most important advice is make sure your pig is 70 degrees internal temp on the thickest part of the leg before you start cooking. depending on size of pig an internal temp of 60 degrees can add up to 3 hours cooking time. have fun

                                1. re: dave_c

                                  Leave the head on! A whole pig roast won't be the same if you have a headless pig. No personality. Might as well just get some pork shoulders at that point. Also, the cheek meat is arguably the tastiest part.

                                  As for info and a good method for making sure the pig comes up to temperature before roasting (70 degrees), see my previous post: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7005...
                                  It definitely makes a difference if you've planned ahead for that. On the day, however, if your pig is still only at 60 degrees and it's game time, just start roasting. Yes, it'll take longer, but it'll take a WHOLE lot longer if you keep waiting for it to come to room temp before putting it in.

                                2. breaking out my caja china after a few pigless years. i have an amazing pig enroute--almond and acorn grazed, goats' milk finished duroc. (rubs hands together in delight!) because of the special pig, i am thinking of ditching the mojo, and either going without, or doctoring up a provencal, rosemary and thyme laced marinade to inject. anyone done something similar? suggestions, tips or trucs gladly accepted. it's been a while since i've done a whole pig.

                                  11 Replies
                                  1. re: chez cherie

                                    nobody? darn...picking up that pig on friday, and still trying to decide what, if anything, to inject instead of m ojo. may go with an herbs de provence and sea salt rub, and no injecting, but would love to hear some ideas on a provencal-inspired mojo!

                                    1. re: chez cherie

                                      If you've got a pig that good to begin with (ooh sounds good), I wouldn't do too much to it. Good instincts to skip the mojo. You want to taste the real porcine deliciousness of that fine animal. I'd still inject it with a simple salt brine, though. At least in the leaner parts. Then maybe tuck some herbs into the internal cavity where they won't burn, mainly to perfume it. Sounds like you don't need much more than that except maybe a serving sauce/glaze on the side (a light apple or other fruit-based sauce, compote, or even salsa).

                                      Where did you get the pig, Cherie? Sounds like awesomeness there.

                                      Oh, If you need, I offer my taste-testing services free of charge.

                                      1. re: Lobstr

                                        ordered it from a place i heard about right here on chowhound, of course!
                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/852960
                                        posted by harrynsuz on june 30, about 3/4 of the way down the thread. called and spoke to kent the butcher, and our short conversation convinced me that i needed to meet him in person. he sounds like a character AND the real deal. driving out to his place friday to pick up the pig for roasting saturday.
                                        i like your fruit compote suggestion, and there are gorgeous stone fruits around still--might do some sort of plummy thing. thanks for that idea.

                                        1. re: chez cherie

                                          How much does it cost from Kent? I assume it's a fresh (not previously frozen) pig?
                                          Please let us know how it goes.

                                          1. re: Lobstr

                                            should be right around $300. totally fresh--i think he is slaughtering today.
                                            will keep you informed--i'm so looking forward to this! been too long since we've done it, and before we got the pigs from restaurant depot. really hoping this is an extra-delicious pig, since rd is close and (comparably) cheap---we will be driving about an hour to pick it up. i had a dream last night that it was alive, in my driveway, and i was feeding it saffron!

                                            1. re: chez cherie

                                              Good omen, I say. Looking forward to the post-game report.

                                          2. re: chez cherie

                                            whooo doggies, that was "some pig!" i absolutely loved the experience of driving up the country roads to santa paula, and meeting kent short (old fashion country butcher)--what a real deal guy he is! he told me about our pig--runt of the litter (about 70ish lb), raised near lake piru, nut-grazed and goat milk finished. we discussed the mojo issue, and he told me his grandpa used to say "if the meat needs more than salt and pepper, ya might as well feed it to the dog!" he also told me that a friend of his who has done a number of pigs in the caja recommends injecting any flavorings AFTER the pig has cooked--when you flip, rather than when the pig is raw.
                                            we decided to go with a little injection---white wine reduction, steeped with garlic, shallot, bay, rosemary and thyme (and salt). injected about 1 cup into shoulders and hams when we flipped it. this was an incredible feast--by far the most delicious and meaty pig we've ever done in the box. we reduced the juices from the box, sweetened it up with a little maple syrup, and drizzled a little over the meat. just terrific!

                                             
                                             
                                             
                                             
                                            1. re: chez cherie

                                              Nicely done. So what's your final verdict, comparing Kent to closer/cheaper options?

                                              1. re: Lobstr

                                                no question--i'll go with kent in a heartbeat. the guy is the real deal--a pleasure to meet and talk to, as he knows so much. i think he said he's a third generation butcher--not many of those around anymore. he knows the guy who raised this pig--what it ate, where it lived its happy life...he talked about the breed and why he likes it, stuff his grandaddy said...i just loved the whole thing he's got going there.
                                                besides being able to have that experience, the pig was just delicious. we've gotten pigs from restaurant depot, and they were good. but this pig was terrific. at under $4 a pound, i'd say it's a great bargain!

                                                1. re: chez cherie

                                                  That IS a bargin! Mine was over $5 a pound! Maybe I will go find a farmer the next time, it would really add to the experience and flavor!

                                                  1. re: piggyjeanne

                                                    Let me start by saying that I am Cuban. I have been reading and could not help to answer this because you just made a BIG MISTAKE. I understand is is hard to try something new, but guys...

                                                    MOJO AND PORK IS THE BEST FOOD COMBINATION EVER CREATED IN HUMAN HISTORY

                                                    What you are doing is a big mistake, honestly, you have to try the mojo at least once in your life.... but you have to do it the right way, with sour oranges (I do not know about the lime and orange juice combination, I do not trust it) Sour orange flavor is very unique. YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE ME. it is not because I am Cuban, but when I tasted the whole pig properly done with mojo for the first time in my life I thought it was the best thing I had ever tasted. But again you have to follow the instructions on how to do it DO NOT USE THE BOTTLED COMMERCIAL MOJO and DO NOT ADD PEPPER we Cubans do not use pepper on anything, it alters the flavor of the meat completely. Whoever puts pepper on mojo or any other Cuban dish was not born in Cuba...

                                                     
                                    2. Need some advice on pulled pork in Caja China...i'm planning on feeding about 50 people. I was thinking a 40 pound shoulder would do the trick. How long would i need to cook this beast til it hits 195? Would it be easier to use smaller shoulders, 8 to 10 pounders?

                                      Any Advice would be awesome
                                      -paul-

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: klaceo

                                        klaceo, you might find this helpful. the guy whose site it is has written two books on cooking with the caja.
                                        http://burninlovebbq.wordpress.com/20...

                                      2. Im doing 2 pigs this weekend a 70 LB in Model #1 and a 100 LB 1 in model #2. Thise are both the max amounts listed for each model. The customer support at La Caja Chinna says to just follow the steps of cooking times along the side of the box. I've only cooked about a 50 LB pig in a La CaJa China model #1 twice before. I followed the cooking istructions along the side of the box and it turned out perfect. My question is how can a 70 LB pig take the same amount of time in the box. Wouldn't more weight mean more cooking time? Also I would like to get the pigs to room temp. Any idea how long that will take if it will be in a cooler with ice bags on top the night before.
                                        Thanks for any help!

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: rrleonard19

                                          I brought 2 different pigs to room temp. The first time, I took the ice off around 9 or 10 AM and it was only around 65-70F outside where I had the pig and it never did get to 70 before I cooked it! The second time, I took the ice of at 6AM and it was about 85 by 11 and the pig was already at 70! So it depends, I guess, on various things. As far as cooking time, turkey is sort of the same way, if you believe what you read. 2.5 to 3 hours for an unstuffed bird regardless. I can't verify, but have read this- I think Sunset magazine did a study of this.

                                          1. re: rrleonard19

                                            It really does cook that fast. A bigger pig takes a bit longer, but it's not a linear equation. I'm sure someone has/will do some scientific tests, but I believe there's some pressure-cooker effect going on inside the closed box which allows it to cook that quick. Best to stick a probe thermometer in the pig to monitor the internal temp w/o having to open the box.

                                            As for bringing the pig to 70 degrees, that can be frustrating, especially if it's not that warm in the morning. If you have it in a bathtub, just turn on the warm water. If it's in a cooler, maybe you can do a similar thing by removing the ice, turning on a hose and letting it fill it with room temp water while allowing the water to drain out so there's a constant flow (convection).

                                            1. re: Lobstr

                                              Thanks Lobstr and piggyjeanne. It seems like there is no exact way to perfect this with all of the other elements involved. We will have plenty of beer for everyone so that will help pass the extra time if needed. I'll let you know how it turns out. Starting at 4AM Saturday morning before the 11AM kickoff!

                                            2. re: rrleonard19

                                              Hi it all depends on internal temp of pig before leaving out i have left pigs out overnight and they still didnt come up to temp before roasting. a litle tweak i have developed to speed up the process when the temp is not up to 70deg is to make a basic salt sugar brine and heat it up then inject the hot brine into the thick hams and shoulders. what i have found with whole animals is that the longer you keep it chilled is the longer it takes to thaw, i think it has something to do with how deep the chill is meaning it could be chilled but not ice cold down to the bones. try the brine in a pinch it has always worked for me. i used a full metal commercial marinade injector just in case you are wondering, i think lawrys salt company brands them. hope this helps

                                            3. Wow - I am amazed at the amount of knowledge on this subject - I have nothing to add - Save for Bobby Flay did a thrown down in Miami with the caja might be a good source of information...

                                              1. I've done numerous large pigs in my La Caja China and have never had one take longer than four hours. I use heavy duty foil the length of each side, (folded a few times) on each edge and seat the ash pan in the foil. This really helps keep steam and heat in.

                                                Tip - I would never remove the head.

                                                Tip - Yes, mojo is great, but nothing makes a roast pig taste quite as good as an overnight soaking in salt water. When the water tastes like seawater, it's right. (If you don't know what sea water tastes like - do yourself a favor and go to the ocean.)

                                                Another tip - Forget crisping the skin in the box. When it's done, put the ash pan/coal grate back on the box and place the pig, skin side down on top of the hot coals. It won't take long at all. Looks and sounds great too. Just watch it carefully. (If you haven't done it, don't knock it. It works wonderfully.) You may want to add a little charcoal; spaced out about the size of the pig 30 minutes out if you want to do this.

                                                Most important tip - USE a wired thermometer probe!. It takes the stress and guess work out of the equation.

                                                1. To the folks who have done whole pig roasts:

                                                  How far in advance of serving have you FINISHED the roasting, and what did you do to hold it? In the past, the roasts I've done were served immediately, but now I'm doing one for my wedding, and, for obvious reasons, I have to finish it all a few hours before dinner time.

                                                  Could be 4 hours before serving. I'm thinking of leaving just a few coals on top to keep warm, but I'm worried about it drying out. What do caterers do?