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Pig Roast

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My friend wants to do this for July 4th this year. Being the foodie in the group I got nominated to research it. I've never done this but know I want something that comes out with nice crisp skin. Not really interested in digging a pit, but if that works we can do it. Also I am familiar with the Cuban box thing they do in Fla. I've gotten comments, possibly from this board that clean out of the thing is not an easy task. Because of this and the fact this will probably be a one time deal, I don't want to invest in one of those boxes. So with all those caveats can someone steer me towards a good primer on roasting a whole small pig? Procuring one is not a problem since we live near the West Side Market here in Cleveland and can get one through them easily.

Thanks

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  1. That is amazing! You can procure a whole small pig? I'm so impressed! I can't offer advice, as I've never done it, but I'll be watching this thread. So, how many people are being fed??

    1. http://indirectheat.blogspot.com/2009...

      I've used his (hers?) recipe for the smoked bacon and it came out fabulous! Hope the link works.

      1 Reply
      1. re: JerryMe

        His. Or mine, even. :) Thanks for the plug.

        To reply to the OP. Cleaning the pig roaster isn't all that difficult, though some of the pictures I've seen on the web look like folks are setting up their roaster wrong, and not catching most of the fat in the tray. Just let the roaster cool down, and scoop up the congealed fat. Wipe down. And done.

        I'd highly recommend the caja china method. The skin is *to die for* done that way.

      2. I bought one of the boxes. I notice they have a new one out now with a drain hole. I am used to cleaning lots of smokers, pits etc, this should be no problem. I can always just take it to the self service car wash.

        We are going to do at least four piggys this spring and summer, the first one next month. I am lucky to have a great local pig provider that works with the butcher to give me the size I want and completely ready to go on the cookers.

        Going to be a fun summer, Pinot and Pork - a perfect combination.

        1. I once attended a wedding where a 50# plus pig was roasted on a open homemade spit rotisserie, with a split 55 gal. drum firebox under it, set up in the backyard. I remember the groom, who did the pig and had a friend come over to maintain the cooking during the wedding ceremony, mentioning that it was a bit of an effort but well worth the result. I had to agree, as the porker was great.

          Can't give you any more detail than that, it was some years ago and I don't remember the details, but maybe just food for thought.

          1. The only time I've done it was with a friend for his sister's wedding. We used a bunch of aluminum as siding, basically making a large rectangular box. A cut up 50 gallon drum served as a lid, and we essentially slow roasted it - low temp (225-250ish), lots of smoke, basting occasionally with a vinegar/sugar/salt/spice mixture. Turned out amazing. The pig was about 60 lbs and took (I don't remember exactly) maybe 15 hours.

            The physics were pretty simple - you want low, constant heat that is not too direct, smoke, controlled movement of said smoke across the pig, a bit of liquid, and even cooking in one way or another. The real catch was that he used a motorized spit - I don't know how to get one of these cheaply, and I'm not confident that it would have turned out well without one. His cost a few hundred bucks.

            Wish I was more familiar with other methods so I could help you out more.

            1. We usually dig a fairly shallow pit-- maybe 8 inches deep and a bit larger than the pig and line the edges with cinderblocks (one block high around, with 3-4 blocks high on the ends). We put a couple of sturdy pieces of rebar on either end to prevent the spit from rolling around too much and to stablize the stack of cinderblocks. Wire the pig onto a metal spit (use lots of wire-- as the pig cooks, it gets very tender and threatens to fall of the spit). Put the spit on the stacks of cinderblocks between two pieces of rebar-- if the pig is too far from the fire, lift off a block from the stack-- similarly, throw another block on the stack to move the pig higher. Start a rockin' hot fire in the pit using lump charcoal and throw the pig over the fire. Every so often, when someone is feeling motivated or on their way to the cooler for more beer, give the pig a quarter-turn. Baptize roasting pig with beer periodically.

              I highly recommend roasting the pig with head and feet removed. The feet just get in the way and tend to burn, and gnarly things happen to the head as it roasts.

              I realize that this is not an elegant way to roast a pig. But is sure is tasty and doesn't require destroying your buddy's backyard. Have never set anyone's yard on fire, but I supposed it's a remote possibility.

              1. No need for the box.
                Invest (or "borrow") in some concrete blocks, make a rack out of T-bar snow-fence posts and 4" concrete re-bar mesh (don't worry it ain't gonna be a one-time-thang after you taste it...it'll be at least once a summer, maybe 3, so the initial small investment more than pays for itself).
                Day before, crack the spine of the pig so it lays "flat". Keep that puppy cold overnight.
                Make an above ground pit with the concrete blocks (on earth, not your driveway!) a day or so in advance.
                Morning of the pig picking, line the inside with foil, start a charcoal fire in your pit (about 7:00am). When the coals are ready, split equally into the 4 corners.
                About 8:00am, lay porky on your grate, set on pit, cover with about 4 layers of foil, let her go, adding charcoal in each corner about every 90 minutes or so.

                When the pig comes to temperature (about 4:00pm), remove foil, spread charcoal about a bit, and turn her over for about 10-15 minutes (careful she might burn).

                Flip her over onto a large arborite board and go hog wild!

                My avatar is the first lovely animal to give up its life this way for me.

                Actually, Im just about to grill some home-dry-aged (25 days) rib steaks. I'll get back a little later with more details, photos, and point where you can get all the details. Its not as daunting as you think - afterwards you'll say "how come we never did this before!?"

                6 Replies
                1. re: porker

                  Hey Poker, How big was your pig dressed weight? We'd like to try but don't want to take up our whole day watching the pig. NannyJaney PS Sounds yummy

                  1. re: NannyJaney

                    Dressed, it was about 120lbs (see pictures below).
                    Like I say, the task only SEEMS daunting. You'll ask yourself why you didn't do it sooner.
                    Once the fire is made and the pig is on the pit, covered, there is not much to do except add charcoal every hour or so (and drink beer). No need for "watching the pig".
                    Just make sure the coals are raked to the corners so its indirect.

                  2. re: porker

                    Wasn't the rebar made out of galvanized steel? I'm building my own version of a "Caja China" this week, and it's been tough finding a non-galvanized rack for holding the pig. Anyone have suggestions for what else to make a rack?

                    1. re: Lobstr

                      No it wasn't galvanized.
                      I originally wanted to use chain link, but that was galvanized. I went with the non-galvanized re-bar and concrete mesh.

                      1. re: porker

                        Does anyone know what the dimensions of the official caja china rack are (the rack that sandwiches the pig)?

                        1. re: Lobstr

                          I would guess its the same size as their "oversize grill"; 21"x40".
                          http://www.lacajachina.com/category_s...
                          However this site mentions two sizes of cajas: a Model#1 and a Model#2. Unclear if same rack is used for both.
                          Also, the pig sandwich rack isn't mentioned on the accesory page, but rather replacement parts page, and even there does not specify size...

                  3. Dinner was great! Wife made a soup outta the leftover grilled vegetables.

                    I'd like to take credit on the cinderblock pit method, but I can't. I'd suggest taking a look here:
                    http://cuban-christmas.com/pigroast.html
                    The beauty of the cinderblock pit is that you can put it up in the corner of your yard and leave it there for the summer, or break it down, or bring it to your brother's place, etc.

                    They give step-by-step instructions to what I described above.
                    As I mentioned, for the pig holder, I used two 8' snow-fence posts. Very sturdy.
                    In between, I used 4" re-bar mesh as well as 4 cross pieces of 1/2" rebar (you can pick this all up at a home center, including the blocks).

                    We improved our technique and set-up after each pig-picking.
                    I bought a 4' section of kitchen countertop. After the last turn of the pig (back side down for the final crisping), we remove the "belly" side of the holder and replace it with the countertop section (attached with 6 eye-bolts). We flip the pig right-side-up and detach the holder, leaving the pig on a nice serving board.

                    I was also quite agressive with the charcoal 1st time around. Don't need all that much as the pit, when covered (use LOTSA foil), retains plenty of heat.
                    Stick with briquettes. Although I am a huge fan of lump charcoal, the briquettes burn cooler and longer, a plus for this application.

                    I season the night before only with salt. I had used a mop sauce, but found it discolors the skin too much. Au natural is still plenty tasty and ohhhhhh, that crispy skin.

                    The pig in the pictures was about 120lbs dressed. It fed over 2 dozen with lots of leftovers (of course we also had beans, corn, potatoes, salads, etc etc).

                    I had wanted to do whole hog for many years. We visited the NY Big Apple BBQ a few years ago where I met quite a few pitmasters, including Ed Mitchell. He was doing whole hog and that cinched it for me - I decided there and then that I'd do my own whole hog, and voila.
                    BTW, recruit a friend, its easier on the back!

                    One last suggestion, try a North Carolina vinegar based BBQ sauce to splash on the meat once its picked. I used this and it was fantastic when mixed with the pulled meat;
                    1 gallon apple cider vinegar
                    1 (28-ounce) bottle ketchup
                    2 3/4 cups firmly-packed brown sugar
                    1/4 cup garlic powder
                    1/4 cup salt
                    1/4 cup crushed red pepper
                    1 tablespoon ground black pepper
                    1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
                    (mix and cook for 15 minutes

                    )

                    Good Luck!

                     
                     
                     
                     
                    3 Replies
                    1. re: porker

                      The link above that leads to the 'Three Guys from Miami..." looks to be pretty good. My dad had a hog oven in his backyard for about ten years before they moved.

                      His oven was a bit bigger, 80 concrete blocks and he didn't bother to line it with foil, he just put a sheet of corrogated steel on the bottom. He had two steel fence posts halfway up that supported the hog paneling (that's a term for fencing from farm country). He mostly cooked hogs that dressed out at 200 lbs. just like the ones that went to the pork processing plant nearby. It took about 100 pounds of charcoal and 12 hours to cook.

                      One thing that was different is that we never flipped the hog, maybe because it weighed 200 pounds. We would have the hog in a fiberglass over wooden stretcher that we built and the pig would be resting on a piece of the hog paneling cut to fit and the we would drag the pig from the back of the pickup onto the oven rack and then replace the blocks and cover the whole thing with a 4 X 8 sheet of plywood.

                      1. re: John E.

                        "then replace the blocks and cover the whole thing with a 4 X 8 sheet of plywood."
                        - This would eliminate the pain-in-the-a$$ foil, good idea.
                        I was thinking along the same lines and have a tin-smith rig me a cover that hinged open at the ends for adding charcoal.
                        Speaking about flipping. The Miami guys suggest spreading the coals from the corners to all over the bottom then flip. If you do this, keep an eagle eye on the pig skin - those coals are hotter than you think and that skin can go from crisp to burnt in the blink of an eye (or three beers...).

                        1. re: porker

                          I thought the foil was on the bottom. Anyway, we used the plywood and weighted it down with another block. You can lift it off and lean it on the side. I would think a hinged lid might make it more cumbersome. We only had the charcoal on the side, indirect grilling, more like an oven.

                          I actually wouldn't mind building an oven again and getting a smaller pig and flattening it out and doing the flip thing.

                    2. Be careful with the hole in the ground method..... a Phoenix man fell in one of those New Years eve. http://www.kpho.com/news/22096015/det... I am not entirely sure what the deal is... but considering the outcome, it seems the fire wouldn't be raging after emergency crews had already been on the scene.

                      When it comes to DIY projects.... Asking too many questions, is sometimes an indication that the project might not be for you. This might be such a project.

                      The Cinder Block cooker has been mentioned. One thing to consider is storage, or indeed hauling it in and away. A full pallet of blocks is not as compact, as 5 pieces of plywood. The Cuban Asador, 'Cuban Microwave", "Cajun Microwave", or the Chinese version can be disassembled and easily stored. You might want to consider making Whole Hog a new yearly tradition. Its a lot of research, time and resources for a one time only thing.

                      Another option is "Most of a Hog Cook"... A couple of Shoulder Butts, a Couple of Pork Loins, and a bunch of Ribs. Each cut of meat getting cooked differently, with the methods and techniques most appropriate for that cut of meat. To do something different and over the top with individual cuts... "Butt Bacon" is a brilliant use of a shoulder butt, and Canadian Bacon is a desirable method for cooking a Loin.

                      As for Ribs.... the most distinctive, and memorable Rib experience is "Fred Flinstone" ... "Dinosaur Bone" un sawed-off Beef Short Ribs. Roast Beef on a stick. One bone is plenty for most folks.... you have to buy the full cryopack consisting of 12 bones.

                      Some folks remember the appetizers more than the big hunks of meat. Bacon wrapped Jalapeno 'Poppers' {Atomic Buffalo Turds} are a BBQ favorite. Those are pictured in the middle of the 3rd picture below.

                       
                       
                       
                      1. We are going to do rather small pigs, 50-60 lbs or so. The China box thing works for us since we can move it easily and then put it away.

                        The pig itself is really just for show. On all serious cooks or parties I will have smoked pulled pork, ribs and brisket that I have done on my Fast Eddy FEC-100, all this stuff will be in chaffing dishes or at least in a Cambro waiting for dinner time.

                        I might bring a piggy to a tailgater this fall, will see how easy the China box transports etc.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: duck833

                          The 50-60 pounder is a lot more feasible for a first timer. It will fit in a smaller cooker, and the cook time will be shorter too.

                          Many people will not remember the Pig being 50 lbs.... they will remember it being 250 lbs. Of course, if You make this an annual thing the Pig might actually be 250 lbs someday. You friends aren't going to all this trouble outsmarting you into going "whole hog" so you can do it just once. ; )

                          I haven't gone Whole Hog yet, but its on the must do someday list along with real Creme Brulle, Beef Wellington and boning a turkey, chicken and duck and stuffing one inside the other... then wrapping it in a bacon weave.

                        2. Here's a great article from Garden and Gun magazine about some guys who roasted a 175-pounder. The photos are wonderful and it's a damned good read.
                          http://gardenandgun.com/article/going...
                          You may not want to do one this big, but there are some good ideas and hints in here - especially about just enjoying the experience.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: MakingSense

                            Wow - great info here. I have nothing to add at the moment, am simply browsing because we are planning a pig roast at the end of May and I'm a little nervous about the undertaking! A friend has a pig box, we're anticipating doing a 100lb pig, as we'll have about 90 people (and other sides, etc as well). From the research I've done, it seems that will be enough - but if any experienced pig roasters have a different opinion on size of pig=amount of food for a crowd, let me know! In the meantime, I'm reading these posts and cruising for ideas!

                          2. i know that this thread is about a year old, but it has some good info and i would like to see more added.

                            we are planning to do a whole pig in about 3 weeks. would like to use the "hawaiian" method of burying it in the ground with lots of banana leaves and/or soaked burlap, etc.

                            wondering if there is any advice on how to determine pig weight to feed 50 +/-; cooking time;seasoning; etc.

                            are there any good instructions on line?

                            all help will be appreciated. we are near temecula in southern cal, and if anyone can help with sources that would also be extremely beneficial.

                            thanx in advance.

                            10 Replies
                            1. re: justanotherpenguin

                              After all the help I got from other Chow posters, it's only fair to give back what I learned after my pig roast last year. Here's my primer on pig cooking (just my opinions, of course) -- hope it helps:

                              I roasted a 50 lb pig (weight of the pig after being gutted, incl the head).  Along with other food in the feast, it easily fed about 50 people with LOTS of leftovers.  In researching how to roast a whole pig, I found four basic methods.  I went with #4.

                              1) "Hawaiian" method.
                              Bury the pig in the ground with hot coals and hot rocks.  Dig it up when it's done.  Luau.  PROS: Once pig is in the ground, requires no active work.  CONS: very long total time, requires digging a pretty deep pit, burning a fire down for hours and hours to produce hot coals, finding suitable rocks that can be heated in those coals then inserted into the pig, then burying it completely.  Pig comes out moist, but skin isn't crispy.  It essentially bakes/steams in the pit.  Biggest problem, though, is not having any way to control the heat.  You just bury it, then dig it up and pray that it's done.  If it isn't done, you're screwed.  As a virgin pig roaster, I nixed this one.
                              http://homepage.mac.com/juggle5/trave...

                              2) Spit method.  Pig is put on a spit directly over a fire.  Pros: Crispy skin.  Cons: requires a heavy-duty rotisserie setup.  Turning a 50 lb. pig isn't easy.  Requires constant monitoring and work while it cooks.  I nixed.
                              http://www.firepit-and-grilling-guru....

                              3) Cinder Block Oven method.
                              http://cuban-christmas.com/pigroast.html
                              http://www.mycottagejournal.com/a-pig...
                              Cinder blocks are stacked up in a rectangular pattern to create an oven.  Pig is splayed flat and sandwiched in a frame (so it can be flipped).  Foil covers the top.  Heat source is indirect -- hot coals are inserted into the bottom corners of the "oven."  PROS: pig skin gets nice and crispy (which is arguably the best part of the pig), the pig oven is easy to assemble and break down, total cook time is pretty quick.  CONS:  needs a hard flat surface, need to build a sandwiching pig frame (I had a tough time finding non-galvanized metal at Home Depot -- ***Do NOT use galvanized steel in heat. Gives off toxic fumes), heat control is possible but not easy -- you have to remove a cinder block and shovel in more hot coals.  This method came closest so far to what I was looking for -- until I discovered method #4.

                              4) The "Cuban" Caja China method.  
                              https://www.lacajachina.com/Articles....
                              http://www.offalgood.com/site/photos/...
                              The pig is splayed flat and sandwiched in a simple frame (simpler than in method #3), then it goes into a box (caja china) with a charcoal tray (steel sheet) on top, and charcoal is burned on that sheet.  So the heat comes from the top down.  Cooks for 4 hours or so, then the pig is flipped so the skin crisps up.  PROS: doesn't require a yard -- can be used anywhere (I did it on a deck), total control over the heat source (just add more charcoal on top as needed), skin comes out perfectly crispy, cooks quickest of all methods.  CONS: requires a box, but can be bought for about $300, which I recommend. 

                              Or you can build a box yourself, which is what I did.  But that require a good bit of planning -- hardest part was finding a non-galvanized steel sheet metal piece for the charcoal tray. I had to go to an industrial metal supply place.  For the sandwiching frame, I used two large oven-type racks.  Ultimately, paying $300 for a prefab Caja China (www.lacajachina.com) isn't that much more expensive. 

                              I went with method #4, and I recommend it wholeheartedly.  I used two probe thermometers with wires that came out of the box -- one that was stuck into the pig, and another that monitored the "oven" temperature.  Foolproof.

                              My caja china box: I used 3/4" plywood to build a box 24" wide x 48" long x 18" height.  Inside lined with heavy duty aluminum foil.  Used 1x3 furring strips of wood to make a frame for the sheet metal, looked like a medical stretcher.  The sheet metal was 22 gauge nongalvanized steel (again, do NOT use galvanized steel, aka zinc).  Inside the box, I put disposable aluminum roasting pans down to catch the juices. 

                              I cooked a 50lb. pig in my homemade caja china, it took about 4 1/2 hours cooking time, and it was unbelievable.  I'll try to add some pix later.

                              Using a Caja China:
                              http://indirectheat.blogspot.com/2009...
                              http://www.bsbrewing.com/blog/2007/02...
                              http://www.foodiemoment.com/2010/02/0...
                              ***video 
                              http://www.ehow.com/video_2344096_tur...
                              http://www.stevedolinsky.com/site/epa...
                              http://vimeo.com/5802241?hd=1

                              4a) A modified version of the "Cuban" Caja China method is to dig a rectangular pit in the ground and line it with foil. Basically, the pit is the same as a box. Then put in a splayed pig sandwiched on a rack (as above), put a steel sheet on top, then burn charcoal on it.  Heat source is still on top.  This is the traditional Cuban method.  See http://web.archive.org/web/2005031915...
                              I thought of doing something like this, digging a pit, then putting down one layer of bricks or cinder blocks around the lip so that the sheet metal charcoal tray would have a flat surface to rest on. But digging was too cumbersome.

                              Other good links:
                              Here are instructions for a "Cajun Microwave," which is basically just a caja china.
                              http://www.instructables.com/id/How-t...

                              I've got LOTS more if anyone's interested. More details of my actual box construction and a report of the cooking procedure. I'll post more later, along with some pix.

                              1. re: Lobstr

                                Great post, thanks.

                                1. re: Lobstr

                                  thank you - great information. would love to see some photos.

                                  1. re: Lobstr

                                    Here's more about the construction of my homemade caja china box and how I used it (see my earlier post, method #4). Oh, happiness...

                                    MATERIALS:

                                    Charcoal tray -- For the steel sheet, 16 gauge (as recommended by other posters) was way too thick. I used a 22 gauge non-galvanized sheet (it warped during cooking, but I'm sure it'll hold up to at least a couple more uses). I found a scrap piece that was just short of 24" x 48" from M&K Metal in Gardena, CA. Cost me $5. Make sure it is NOT galvanized (burning on zinc leads to nasty toxic fumes).

                                    Box: I intended to buy 1/2" plywood, a whole sheet, and have them cut it into the pieces I needed, but then I found perfect pieces in the scrap bin.
                                    3/4" plywood in 24" widths. Perfect. Cost: $9, including them cutting it to size
                                    Screws: for the box (8 x 1-1/2") and to secure the steel sheet to the frame (drywall screws): $9

                                    Wood for top frame: (2) 1x2x8 furring strips: $2.24
                                    (2) 1x3x8 furring strips: $2.86

                                    For the sandwiching rack: (2) ~16.5" x ~24.5" (for full sheet pan size) icing/cooling grates (like oven racks -- not the thin waffle-grid cooling racks): $20
                                    [note: this was the hardest thing to find]

                                    So, total for materials was about $49 (not incl heavy duty foil). Awesome.

                                    Once constructed, it ended up looking like a box with a medical stretcher on top. Or, more descriptively, like the Ark of the Covenant from Raiders. The Pig Ark is what we took to calling it. See photos.

                                    ------------------

                                    I lined the inside with heavy duty aluminum foil, making sure to line the top edges of the box where the lid contacted it.
                                    The finished box sat on four cinder blocks (or brick stacks) just to keep it off the ground and have it at a manageable height.
                                    I bought two sheet pan racks (not sure what they're normally used for, as they weren't like those thin waffle-grid sheet pan cooling racks -- they were thick gauge, like oven racks). They were full sheet pan sized inserts. Bought from East Bay Restaurant Supply in Oakland for $20. I thought of using cheaper alternatives, but this is the rack that held the pig, and I didn't want to take any chances. The two racks were then sandwiched around the pig and held together with S-hooks.

                                    Why use the sandwiching-rack assembly at all? The main purpose is to allow you to flip the pig toward the end of cooking (so that the top skin can crisp up). It also allows the pig to be positioned off the floor of the box, resting on four foil-wrapped bricks, so heat can circulate underneath. After flipping, I took off the top rack since it was no longer needed (the bottom rack was enough to hold the weight of the pig) and so there wouldn't be "tan lines" from the rack.

                                    Under the pig were a few disposable roasting pans to catch the drippings.

                                    Line the edges of the coal pan/tray (where it meets the wood frame) with a "snake" of foil to keep the wood from burning.

                                    --------------------

                                    INSTRUCTIONS:

                                    The day before the roast, I finished building the box, then did a test burn with a whole chicken. Crack-a-licious. We also prepped the pig: cracked the spine using a sledge hammer and monster chisel (so that the pig would lie flat). Easier than I thought it would be. Then we injected the pig with homemade criollo marinade, using an injector I bought at Bed, Bad, & Beyond.

                                    The day of:
                                    It cooked in about 4 hours. The box got up to 277 degrees at its hottest, and the pig got too hot too quickly, so we actually had to vent the lid it to keep it from getting too hot. I started with lump charcoal since it produces less ash (and no need for ash management), but this brand of charcoal sparkled and jumped (may have just been a cheap brand). For subsequent charcoal additions, I used briquettes. The box got so hot that ash management was never really a concern. We had one thermometer in the box and one in the pig.

                                    Line the edges of the coal pan (where it meets the wood frame) with a "snake" of foil to keep the wood from burning.

                                    0 hour: started with charcoal to cover the top
                                    1 hour: added more charcoal
                                    2 hours: added more charcoal
                                    3 hours: added more charcoal
                                    3.5 hours: flipped the pig, removed the top sandwich rack (top of pig). Ideally, the pig temp should be 140-150 degrees. Scored the pig skin, sprinkled with salt (note: do not oversalt -- it's already been injected with marinade).
                                    4 hours: pig all crispy and delicious. Pulled the pig out on the rack and transferred to table.

                                    The pig got to 180 degrees before we flipped it over (Note: the pig temp shot up quickly -- I couldn't believe it). I wanted to flip earlier, around 150 degrees, but figured the longer time was more important to help melt the pig fat better. So at 3.5 hours, we flipped the pig, then removed the top rack (so that the top of the pig could crisp up without the grate pattern in it like tan lines), and salted the skin. It cooked another half hour or so, checking on it occasionally. The pig came out better than I could've imagined -- golden, brown, awesome. The skin was perfectly crisp and crack-a-licious.

                                    If I were pig, this is how I'd want to go.

                                     
                                     
                                     
                                     
                                     
                                     
                                     
                                     
                                     
                                     
                                     
                                    1. re: Lobstr

                                      Another great post. Thanks for the photos. I may try this method. Looks like you did well by that pig.

                                      1. re: Lobstr

                                        Great couple of posts. I'm partial to the cinder block pit method, but because thats the only way I went so far. I'll probably make a caja for the sake of doing it - add to my BBQ repertoire as it were.
                                        Do you get any smokiness to the meat using the caja? Also, how do you clean it?
                                        Thanks.

                                        1. re: porker

                                          Thanks porker, and thanks for your various posts last year -- great help when I was researching.
                                          Unfortunately, the basic caja china method doesn't incorporate smokiness (since it's a closed box/oven system with the heat source). You can buy an electric smoker unit to attach to it, but I don't know how well it works, and it requires some special wood pellets. Some folks have tried putting smoke chips in a pan inside the box, but that may be problematic because there's fresh airflow if it's all contained inside. Someone with more smoke experience could probably give a more detailed explanation of the potential problems there.

                                          I'd love to try the cinder block pit method for, like you said, adding to my repertoire, and to see if the smokiness is worth the extra work.

                                          One bonus of the caja china method that I didn't describe above is that you can also double duty it as a regular BBQ grill while you're cooking the pig inside. Just rig up a rack above the charcoal tray.

                                          If/when I build another one, I think I'd build a hinged side door so I could slide the pig in and out instead of having to remove the charcoal tray and accessing from the top. But that would be more complicated design, whereas the one I built was about simplicity.

                                          As for cleaning... I lined the inside with heavy duty foil and put disposable roasting pans on the bottom to catch the drippings, so all I needed to do was remove those and toss 'em (keeping the juices of course). Next time, just re-line.

                                        2. re: Lobstr

                                          Great pix, Lobstr, you are truly a chowhound. I very fondly recall cooking a whole pig on a rental, tow-behind bbq pit [on a steel mesh rack] when in school at Chapel Hill, NC; we did it 'eastern' style, with a pepper/vinegar sauce, applied every few hours with a mop from a bucket. The cooks starting drinking beer when we fired it up early in the morning. Cooked all all day over indirect heat. Long ago, so I can't recall the size of the pig, but (s)he was a big guy/gal, much enjoyed by a large part of our particular school's class .....

                                          1. re: RxDiesel

                                            Thanks, RxDiesel. I forgot to mention one aspect of the construction of my box: the all-important bottle opener. You can see it one of the photos above. The box just wouldn't work the same without it. Structurally speaking, of course.

                                            1. re: Lobstr

                                              Took me a coupla minutes to scroll to picture #9, but yes sir, there it was, the incorporated bottle opener. You're right, the all-important bottle opener should have been a more prominant construction item!
                                              I think making your own device also keeps you thinking on how to improve the design. I'm hoping to get a local shop make me a stainless steel hinged "cover" with small, slide-away corners for adding charcoal - this to replace the layers of foil.
                                              But I must remember to have them weld a bottle opener to it!

                                    2. The most important thing for a crispy skin (besides proper heat) is to salt the skin generously 2-3 days in advance of roasting. Roberto Guerra, owner of La Caja China, shared that tip with me a couple of years ago, and it works great!

                                      1. Salt (skin side only) heavily, rest 3 days.
                                      2. Wipe down this skin and excess salt with a wet towel.
                                      3. Allow the skin to dry completely, and the pig to come to room temp before roasting.

                                      I do this and the skin comes out perfect.

                                      -Perry

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

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: pperkins

                                        Perry, how long before roasting do you typically take the pig off ice in order to let it come to room temperature (obviously it'll depend on size, but any rules of thumb)? And are you worried about that so-called danger zone of temperature if it sits at room temp too long? Last time I roasted a pig, I didn't let it come all the way up to room temp (with the obvious tradeoff of longer cooking time).

                                        1. re: Lobstr

                                          To answer my previous question about bringing the chilled pig up to room temp:

                                          After doing lots of research, I've come to the conclusion that most people won't officially give you advice that veers from official USDA recommendations... if they even give you advice. That's because no one wants to mess with the messy issue of food poisoning. You know, liability and all. Essentially, it comes to how comfortable you feel with your meat (yes, laugh). Most backyard chefs have raw meat that sits in the so-called temperature danger zone longer than their lawyers would like. And for the most part, it's OK (CYA disclaimers of my own here -- at your own risk, blah blah...).

                                          Just remember, soft/raw eggs are also a big no-no according to the official lawyer-ly code. But we all do it anyway (and include the same CYA disclaimers).

                                          Everyone stresses how you should start roasting with a pig that's at room temp. Just like how you should let a raw steak come up to room temp before cooking it -- aka "tempering". Well, I'll say it for the record -- it takes a really damned long time for a chilled pig to warm up to room temp if you just let it sit at room temp. Last time, I had the unfrozen pig in ice in the bathtub overnight. I took it off the ice an hour or two before roasting in the morning. After 1.5 hours, it barely got above 48 degrees F. And because I was all freaked out about the danger zone, I just started the roast while it was cold. (still turned out OK, but took longer)

                                          Next time, I won't be as freaked out to let it sit. Yes, I know I'm inviting critics to tell me all about their experiences with food-borne baddies. But I feel comfortable letting good meat come up to temp -- I'm talking about home cooking, not commercial operations. It's about your own comfort level here.

                                          Next time, I have another strategy to try:
                                          On the morning of the roast, since the pig is already in the bathtub, why not just turn on the hot/warm water and let it soak, thereby hastening the tempering process? The only downside is then having to dry it off well before roasting, but I can live with that if it 1) saves time, 2) makes a better cooked pig, 3) theoretically keeps diners more alive, and 4) makes the worriers less worried.

                                          And no, I'm not giving you official advice. That would make my lawyer unhappy.

                                      2. Old post, but I thought you might enjoy a picture of my piggies going to the roast...

                                         
                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: porker

                                          Haha this is funny! Last year SO's folks did a pig roast at their mountain home, and unbeknownst to me, they were storing the pig in ice in the bathroom, in the tub. I went in to do my thing, and was a little creeped out by the little piggy staring at me. He was tasty though.

                                          1. re: juliejulez

                                            I picked them up with my buddy and did a quick stop at a full-sized grocery store on the way home.
                                            He went in, I stayed with the truck and pigs. He said it was pretty funny: as he walked in, EVERYTHING stopped and EVERYONE was slack-jawed looking out.

                                          2. re: porker

                                            Awesome. That had me laughing.