La Caja China – The Odyssey


Are you holding on to something? Maybe you should sit down, a good sit. MeatHenge Labs is proud to introduce our very own La Caja China Roasting Box. This year we’ll be able to roast a 100 lb pig. Since I figure I’ll need a little practice, turkeys get to go first. My eyes are vibrating along with shaky hands as I get this down on monitor. The Caja China is a portable plywood box lined with steel. The marinade injected meat goes inside on a rack over a fat tray. Once loaded, a charcoal tray goes on top. In this tray goes maybe 14lbs of Kingsford charocal briquets. It’s kinda like a pressure cooker, a big pressure cooker. There is no smokey flavor, just roasting like in a big fricken’ oven. This is a fine wonderful thing.



It showed up last week unassembled, two boxes. No instructions. Well, since I bought it off their web site, the instructions must be there too. They were, it would have been nice to have printed instructions though. I found that since the wood they used was green and a bit warped it didn’t go together quite as they had planned, plus I ended up with pieces that weren’t listed on their parts list. Interesting. With some heavy breathing, heavy pounding of hammers and some grief I got the sucker together.

I did a little reading on their web site about marinating, cooking times and technique. I found it all a bit vaque for my taste and had to rely on my own skill to get things together in the right order on time. They included a Marinating Syringe, which seemed fine. I tried Tony Chacere’s Butter Injectable Marinade and found the fake butter flavor quite nasty. This caused me to come up with something on my own. Please read yesterday’s entry about injecting the pork butt for a closer view on what I actually used. But suffice it to say the slurry really needs to be strained through a fine sieve. See? The saltier the better.

Here we find Madam Crepinette (The Meat Fairy) introducing our two lucky contestants. There really wasn’t much to dressing the turkeys. Wash, dry & inject. Caja China makes a strong point about making sure the meat you put in the oven is at room temperature. Which is how you install meat in a smoker, not cold or frozen. I suppose the marinade sat in the bird for about an hour before roasting. I smooshed the marinade & some of Tony Chacere’s Creole spice rub over the birds. Easy.

Here we see the assembled Caja China. For size reference I added a load of Tiny E.

This portion of the day took some thought, so I opened a Pabst Blue Ribbon and sat down for a while. You see, there are printed instructions ON the side of the box itself. I determined these were really for a pig. I went back to the web site to see if I could glean anything useful. Again, I found it vague. I suppose I really wanted a step by step procedure and some theories as to how things work. As near as I could fathom one started 14 lbs of charcoal evenly spread over the lid. Breast side up for an hour, then flip for another 1.5 hours. Add another 4 or 5 lbs of charcoal for that last 1.5 hours. I was very concerned about using too much charcoal and roasting for too long. Why? Because this damned box was designed for roasting 100 lbs of meat and all I had was 28 lbs of turkey. Finally I had to stop torturing myself and get to work. Onward.
Initially I thought I was going to use those chimney charcoal starters for the first 14lbs. That didn’t make sense very quickly and I used my Weber Tool Storage grill for starting charcoal. Yes, I used the dreaded fluid. It had to start ALL of the charcoal evenly. I used a garden shovel to turn them a few times so they all greyed together and not in one spot.

Another point I didn’t find covered in the instructions was anything to do with ‘seasoning’ the box. When you buy a new smoker or cast iron fry pan you always rub with oil first. I decided to follow my instincts and season the box, easy enough.

When the charcoal had greyed, in went the rack and in went the birds. It was all coming together and I was feeling a little less crazy about the whole thing. Man, I’m glad I decided to try this out first before doing it at a party.

On went the lid and using the garden shovel once again, loaded up the charcoal in an even layer.
Val from Babalu blog was nice enough to send me an email with a few pointers. Using a bit less charcoal, cooking it slower and longer than recommended and most of all, Ash Management. You must keep the ash to a minimum. Which is tough because that charcoal on the top generates enough heat to melt you hair from 3 feet away. Once again, I found these finer points missing from the web site. I say, keep this beast at least 5 feet from anything remotely flammable. Plus you want more than just ‘leather gloves’. You want insulated elbow length leather gloves. I found mine at Ace Hardware in the Fireplace department, they’re cool. They’re RED. Red leather is cool.

This is what I found after the first hour. It is time to flip and do some Ash Management. At first glance they look a little singed, but trust me, they’re FINE.
I used my red leather gloves to flip the meat as well. Using forks or sticks is too dicey. You need to flip and move fast.
Add another 4 or 5 lbs of charcoal. I didn’t preburn this load and it worked out just fine. However, if you think the existing charcoal won’t be enough to start a fresh load, you MUST preburn your charcoal to keep the oven temp rolling along.

At this point I was feeling VERY happy about this whole situation. Everything was dialed in to perfection. Here we see our turkeys completed after the turn 1.5 hours ago. That’s a total of 2.5 hours for 28 lbs of turkey and a 20 lb bag of Kingsford.
Take another close look people, that’s DRIPPINS down there. Do you have ANY idea how great this is? Let me lay it down. Not only did we cook our turkeys outside, freeing up the kitchen/oven, but we now have what we need to make a quart of world class gravy. It was like being born again. This was clearly what everyone who cooks for the holidays needs. EVERYONE. Cooking only pigs with this box is a waste of resources. We have roasted meat, we have gravy and if you rolled corn/taters/vegies up in foil pouches with sauce and laid those on the open coals of the Caja china you’d have an entire meal. Heck, do up a loaf or 3 of garlic bread in foil and roast that as well. Toss on some more coals AFTER the meal and heat up a pot of water for fresh coffee.
This Caja China is a complete package. Just like Miss America, a complete package. Same thing.

Next time stuff those cavities with home made sausage. Now THAT will make some Gravy, hoo YAH !!!

I’ve never had breast meat this juicy drippy. Not even when I lined the breast meat with bacon and cooked it upside down. Admittedly I haven’t had deep fried turkey, yet. But you can’t get gravy from a deep fried turkey, which is why I haven’t bothered. You can’t get decent gravy from a smoked turkey either. No gravy, no cook.

fini
UPDATE: December 29th 2006

Holy crap! Here our good Meathenge buddy Mr. Bannister steps up with this load of chickens in his roaster. He tells me there’s going to be a whole pig in there this coming weekend! Dang. Thank you sir for this beautiful meat image.
Biggles

227 thoughts on “La Caja China – The Odyssey

  1. That looks absolutely delicious. Ive only made pigs in my Caja China, but, come Noche Buena, I’ll throw in a gobbler next to the yearly porker. Excellemnt work Biggles!

  2. Wow! This is an impressive saga. And your photos show a perfectly assembled Caja China, no ragged edges or bumps or dips. Finished product appears perfect and the charcoal tray snugs in on top just like it was made to do.
    The object of the lesson, the turkeys, look just as good as you describe and the final photo, with nice slices covered in gravy is enough to make this hungry person go in search of turkey in a bottle aroma just for the effect!
    Send samples of the last photo please!

  3. is this what you ate today whilte i was working? i find meat marinater injectors a bit ‘vaque,’ aussi. the first and only time i tasted injected meat (that i know of) was last thanksgiving when my uncle made deep-fried turkey. i’ll have to measure his vat to compare to your’n.

  4. Thanks for taking me through all the questions I had about TURKEY roasting in La Caja China. This was a great help having never done it before. I’ve done lots of Injecting for deep frying turkeys, so this will be a new experience. Do you see any problem with adding a pork shoulder in with the turkeys?….might make a strange gravy?
    Thanks again….Stinky Pete

  5. Thanks for the great info and GREAT pictures. I saw an episode of B.Flay and heard about the grill. I am chinese myself and the cripsy skins of the pig (which orignated from china) amazed me. I was tempted to buy it RIGHT away. But after reading your posts, it’s not as easy as it seems. It’s not like something u can do everyday just for a single guy meal. Do you think the smaller model would help? like less coal to cover? however I really wants to roast a pig

  6. Yeah know, it’s a good question. If I was to do it all over I would not have purchased the caja china. For several reasons.
    First off, there is no smoky flavor. It’s like a convection oven and uses intense heat from the charcoal above. The only flavor you will be receiving is from the intense heat, the meat itself and any injectable marinades you use. If that sounds fine, then you’re set. If you’re local to the San Francisco Bay Area, I may be willing to sell mine. I’ve only used it twice and have no plans for the future.
    As far as buying a smaller one, for less fuss? I don’t think it matters much. You’re still going to have to scrub it down after each use. That and having to buy HUGE amounts of kingsford
    briquets. Even buying cheaply at a Home Depot, you’ll still burn 20 bux worth of charcoal a pig. You want to also keep in mind this is a VERY VERY VERY dangerous way of cooking anything. It’ll singe the hair off your arm from over 3 feet away, for hours. Any pet or child or drunken friend could lose their life or half their body due to this contraption. Surely you can do better.
    Biggles

  7. I have used the lacajachina for 3 big pigs 80#. Came our perfect every time. Used less charcoal and cooked longer than they suggest, but it’s all in the marinade and garlic. We put slits in the his and belly and stuffed in garlic slices and used “Goya” brand MOJO marinade. Definately have to put it thru a seive to get the particles out for the syringe. Bought good syringes from Cabelas.com and they are cheap.
    I can be big mess to clean up, but it is an experience with the pig. We had a cuban theme party and everyone bought a cuban dish and it was a big hit. Yes it is a lot of heat, but any animal will stay away from the heat, and dah…it is an open charcoal grill, so why would you get too close without gloves. Would like to try try a lobster/clam bake with seaweed, potatoes, corn and sausage. Anyone tried that yet and how long?? I have called Lacajachina and they are going to call me back with directions… I hope!

  8. Hey David,
    It’s good to hear from you. I still haven’t tried a pig, they cost more than I gambled for. It does do an EXCELLENT job of cooking, no doubt. I missed the smoky flavors, it’s part of the meal for me.
    If you want to take a few pictures and do a write-up, I’ll post it on Meathenge. If’n you care to. Let me know. Take care and thanks again for stopping by.
    Biggles

  9. To Whom it may concern.
    Would you please tell me how much this grill is. And also where would I be able to buy this La Caja China Grill?
    Robert M. Donofrio
    Pensacola Florida

  10. Wow…thanks for the comments.
    My carnivore friends & I (we eat vegtables too) are going to purchase the smaller model for intimate gatherings.
    We feel if we want the SMOKEY flavor we can use Liquid Smoke or maybe add some wood chips within the box. We will experiment when it arrives.
    We live in Arizona and during the summer we may not need to use charcoal…can just put the box outside and let it heat up!
    Thanks for the website & say HI to the MEAT FAIRY for us!

  11. No experience with this type of “grilling”, but in order to get true smoke flavor couldnt you cut a round hole in one side of cooking box attach ductwork in an elbow to a cast iron pan filled with hardwood sawdust sitting on a hot plate? Its the principle used in cold smoking, but the heat of the oven will increase smoke flavor intensity so some thought may have to go into sawdust burn time and number of uses during total cooking time. This could be the best of both worlds with gravy and smoke flavor -again too much smoke in the gravy may be too bitter or intense.

  12. Hey Steve,
    Nope.
    You could install a skillet with smoking chips, but you’d need an intake an exhaust for the box. As it sits, it isn’t designed for this. You’d change the entire dynamics of the box and the way it does business.
    It’d be easier to redesign everything and rebuild the entire box, than it would to get smoky flavor in.
    If you’re willing to stop by and spend some time I can work out the details. But I only have one good hand at the moment and don’t have the fortitude. This is’nt the box you’re looking for.
    Biggles

  13. I am thinking about buying both the big model and the smaller one. I was wondering if you think that the smaller one is big enough for an average size party or do you think I should purchase the bigger one also? By the way I am glad I found this website and i will keep coming back to read the posts.

  14. Mark,
    You need to sit down and do some math. What, for you, is an average sized party?
    For me, an average sized party at my home is about 60 people give or take.
    Will your main attraction be the meat? Or will you be providing sides and other main dishes? Or will they be bringing dishes to share?
    If you plan on the caja china being your ONLY source of cooked meat? You should buy the large one.
    Personally, I feel you’d be limiting your meat love by only providing one kind of roasted meat. Which is why I have a smoker or two and a grill or three. The grill can provide food quickly and directly, whereas the smoker will provide smoky love every hour or so, if you plan it right.
    This all depends on the size of your parties and I don’t recommend you putting all the eggs in one basket. Do the Caja, do some grilling and have the smoker going. Cover all the bases and you’ll be a rockstar.
    Biggles

  15. I built the frame for a La Caja China. I was going to buy the grease/seasoning pan and rack, but after viewing. I think I need to rethink my design. I thought the grease pan was large enough to cover the side walls. I need to either rebuild with stainless on the inside. Any hints…

  16. Hmmm, the grease pan didn’t wasn’t large enough to touch the side walls. Just large enough for whatever your cooking, it needs to be able to be removed easily.
    The rack needs to keep the meat out of the fat, maybe 4″. There was a rack for the top of the pig too, so you could flip it easily enough and still have your rack for it to rest on. This is a must, you cannot just flip the meat and hope it doesn’t stick or fall to pieces.
    The roasting box came in pieces. The four walls and bottom were all separate and the thin sheet metal (not stainless) was already attached to each panel. All you did then was screw it together.
    The sides may have been a 1/16″ thick, but I doubt it, probably a 1/32″ thick. Thin sheet metal was all, shiny though. I really don’t know whether the sides are stainless or not. I doubt it.
    I think I’d rather dig a hole, start a fire, toss in the old bed springs and throw the meat on.
    Biggles

  17. I too was sceptical of la caja china, but brand new I roasted a 100 lb pig and it was excellent. I had so many people saying it couldn’t be done in that short of time but about 10 wrote the name and website down after the results.

  18. Hey Gary,
    Oh, it delivers on its promise, no doubt. That fricken box is HOT and it’ll get your piggy juicy crispy in no time.
    I finally sold mine because I realized I wouldn’t have enough money or friends to roast a 100 pound pig and there are no smoky flavors. Still a good unit.
    Biggles

  19. since money is a little bit of an issue, I am going to build my own box using concrete hollow blocks, was wondering if the steel plate inside would help retain more heat or the concrete wall would be sufficient enough to retain the heat. thanks for the feedback…
    james

  20. Hey James,
    It would depend upon how thick the steel was, as to how much heat it would retain. I wouldn’t worry about it because the Caja China’s walls aren’t that thick anyway.
    What you DO want to consider? Is clean-up. Since your oven will be stationary and basically unmovable, clean-up should be a key concern. I would line your oven with thin sheets of steel that could be removed easily so you could scrub them down.
    In fact, you wouldn’t even really need to cement the blocks in place, not sure if you were even planning to.
    You’ll also need a good sized steel tray and rack for the bottom. Something to catch the drippins’ and keep the meat from stewing, you’ll want room for the heat to circulate around the meat.
    Something to consider, I’m not sure how the concrete blocks will deal with the stress of heating/cooling over time. I’m sure they’ll fracture and have to be replaced. You may want to consider the far smaller, fire brick. It’s like pumice and doesn’t retain heat, remains cool to the touch.
    HA !!! You could line the inside of your oven with heavy gauge commerical aluminum foil and just TOSS it after each time !!! That, right there would be the way to go, surely.
    Biggles

  21. Hey Biggles,
    Have you seen this variation?
    http://www.asadorcubano.com/pages/2/index.htm
    It’s slighly different than the LaCaja Roaster as the heat is from below & the box opens from the top. You can can use combinations of kingsford & wood(hickery,oak,mesquite)pieces? Kinda pricey at 290.00 for wood & sheet metal but it looks like it can handle large swine with no problems. Also looks pretty easy to build Too! ;) I have a pitts & Spitts, New Braunfels smoker, Various grills etc but nothing large enough for a 40-60 lb swine.
    Let me know what you think of this Roaster.
    Sal

  22. Hey Sal,
    That’s not pricey, sorta. My Caja China box was 350 delivered, 55 bux for shipping. So, it’s right inline there.
    that looks like a GREAT roaster, I like the idea of being able to add smoky flavor to the meat. The Caja China has no smoky flavors.
    I don’t see a fat tray. I’d want to know more about how it deals with the fat drippings? Large beasts like pigs have a lot of fat and having that soak on to the ground or hitting the ground at all isn’t such a great idea. I’m sure they’ve got something, but it isn’t visible in the images on their site.
    Something to keep in mind here, when considering buying one of these boxes. Pigs ain’t cheap and even the small ones feed many people. So, make damned sure you got the money and the friends/family to make it go.
    Biggles

  23. I’ve cooked several pigs in La Caja China with great results. Tips: cook longer than the directions specify and use more charcoal (the cheapest you can find).
    Clean up tip: a car wash…fast, easy, and effective.

  24. I enjoyed your recount of your encounter with la Caja China, but you should know that you can’t season stainless steel. You will wind up with a sludge coating on the surface

  25. Hey Frog,
    I would think that would depend upon your definition of Season.
    I understand stainless doesn’t have pores that soak up oils and create a non-stick coating as with cast iron. And honestly I’m not convinced that 18/10 stainless there. Otherwise this box would be hundreds more.
    I did it due to my 27 years of curing pits and related. It’s tough to break an old horse of bad or stupid habits.
    And I’m not so worried about the sludge. I’ve got 60 year old cast iron skillets on my wall with ‘sludge’ on them and not one family member in all those years has had any problems, that I know of.
    Besides, I sold the sucker! HA !!
    In any case, thanks for stopping by. I hope all is well and take care,
    Biggles

  26. I first saw La Caja China on TV when Bobby Flay cooked with it. The dish looked great, but how much of it was the magic of TV. I just got off the phone with my brother who lives in Florida and low and behold, he just bought La Caja China. He said he did saw ducks in it for Christmas dinner and said they were incredible. For New Year’s he is going to do a leg of Lamb. I am intersted in getting a Caja China, but would like to see one first. Are there any stores in the Arlington, Virginia area that has them? Thanks Lit’l Jer

  27. Hey Lit’l Jer,
    As far as I know, you must purchase them directly from the fine caja china people in Florida.
    The meat it roasts is amazing and it does live up to the hype. The turkeys I did were flat out juicy and wonderful.
    The downsides are, no smoky flavor and you really should fill the sucker up with meat. So, it isn’t something for the casual hosting meat meister. Make sure you have a use for it, then just buy it. It’s only money!

  28. I am Lit’l Jer’s brother and let me tell you. Yes the big box is good for the large pig but since my parties/gatherings are not quite as large as Dr. Biggles go with the small Caja China. Ducks, Turkey, Leg of Lamb Pork Shoulder, absolutely incredable. Want a little smoke flavor just add (smoke flavor) any super market carries it. I have had my caja china for about two weeks and almost every meal is now cooked outside. No mess, no fuss just keep buying more charcoal.

  29. I haven’t tried this yet but did see an episode on the food network. I don’t think the high heat is a concern as people now are getting the deep fried turkey mishaps under control. I am placing an order for three of these boxes for my catering business. We rent pull behind grills and smokers to those who dont want to shell out the duckets for a full cater and don’t have the big units to feed hundreds at a time and I think this would go along with the other rentals. What do you guys think? Rent it for a weekend for a lot less then buying, then make up your mind on the purchase. We have even rented out turkey friers by themselves. I like your site here, maybe you can open it up to more aspects of bbqing and smoking, recipes and such??

  30. Hey Brian,
    Well, I think if I had been able to rent the caja china I would have saved myself a lot of money.
    If someone was renting them close to me, I would have rented it.
    I haven’t done a deep fried turkey yet, haven’t been interested. See, I love gravy and you don’t get gravy when you deep fry. However, you get gallons of juice when using the caja china, gallons.
    Meathenge is always open to more grilling, smoking, recipes and so forth. The problem is me. I work full time and at the end of the day? I go home and clean & cook for my family (2 boys and my wife). I do what I can, when I can.
    If I could find a capable co-author to help out here, that’d be fine too.
    Take care and thanks for stopping by!
    Biggles

  31. Hey Biggles..thanx for the speedy reply. I think the cooker will do well on rental. We help set up whatever up we rent out and give advise on safety and always pass down ideas and recipes to make a rental a worthwhile experience/expence. It also takes the headache out of not knowing what a smoker, inderect cooker, deep fryer, grill or beer butt cooker takes to keep up and use. Rent it and find out I say..and it has worked. Do try the deep fried turkey, don’t let that option slip past your plate. Gravy can always be made with the other parts. Try this: Buy a pack of turkey drumsticks, bake them, use those fine drippings for your gravy and saturate that wet white deep fried breast meat with it. Believe me, you’ll be sold. Only an hour to completely fry a turkey, average is 3 minutes a pound at 325 degrees. I also have a full time job, I work for the county here building and maintaining our fine roads in Tulare County, Porterville, CA. I do a lot of the cooking as well, not just because I need to, (wife is in school, RN program) I like it. I will gladly help to co authur on some ideas, I have a ton of ‘em! Weather it’s cooking help or how to use any type of cooker from smokers to dutch ovens and deep pits, or how to make rubs and marinades I’ll give my know how. Bar B Que’ing is my passion, I love it. Have you gotten on the beer butt chicken craze yet? Don’t get me started… Brian.

  32. After reading about your adventure with the box, and seeing several articles, I knew I wanted one. I just purchased a Caja China #1 box and tried it out for a party. I ordered the over sized grill and brined 6 pork shoulders the night before. I had the meat out at room temp and started my adventure. Because I was in a rush, I didn’t realize that I put in the shoulders fat side up. After the 2nd hour when I was supposed to turn, I noticed this. I turned them around and let it go for another hour and half. I did the charcoal to the instructions and then removed the meat when time was up.
    I found that the meat was under cooked and that the skin wasn’t crisp. I know why the skin wasn’t crisp, but am leary on trying the box again.
    I really want to do a pig and have nice crispy skin, but should practice on more shoulders first…
    Do you have any suggestions to make the meat come out like yours?
    Thanks,
    Christopher

  33. Had a lamb cooked in Lucio Blanco, Mex. and it was delicious. This was a homemade box and looked like this cooker.
    They used 2 piles of mesquite about 6 inches high and the same wide and added as they needed to. The mesquite was lit on top of the box and in about 3 hours it was done and delicious. Also, my friend put some whole tomatoes, peppers and onions next to the coals on top then his mom made a dynamite salsa with this.
    Haven’t bought one yet but I’m going to. Also don’t which of 3 to buy. HELP!!

  34. Hey Jerry,
    You need to buy the one that will suit your needs. I bought the largest one and it was a dumb move. I don’t have 120 friends to feed on a regular basis. Just buy the one that will suit your needs.
    Biggles

  35. I bought a large box and in it we have prepared chickens and turkeys with great success. We inject the turkeys with a habanero salsa marinade and it comes out very moist, juicy actually! Only problem is the time. My friends and I are used to doing briskets, Texas style, low and slow. About 8 hours or as we measure it, one case of beer for the two of us. This China Box is done before we even get a buzz. The gravy by the way, is the best!! Thanks for the cooking tips on the turkeys. 80 lbs. of turkey in 2 1/2 hrs, it was incredible

  36. Hey Brendan,
    If you get a chance, would love to have that injection marinade, sounds GREAT.
    Uh, yeah. The box cooks way fast, not like a good 12 hour brisket. Nope.
    Biggles

  37. Biggles, get ready.
    14 lbs. Roma tomatoes
    10 lbs jalapenos
    7 lbs. serrano
    2 lbs. Habanero
    6 large yellow onions
    4 heads garlic
    juice of 5 limes
    2 handfulls of salt
    1 handfull of pepper
    Roast all the peppers and veggies, (we use a pearburner torch)
    grind all of this up with a meat grinder
    makes 35 lbs. of really good salsa.
    For the marinade take a cup or two of salsa and mix it with a cup of melted butter and then whizz it up in a blender till it’s thin then inject away.The salsa freezez well, although it seems to lose a bit of the heat. It is great laid directly under the skin of chicken before grilling.

  38. We used to grind this stuff by hand but it became tedious for Sam the cranker and my fingers, I being the stuffer, would be numb for days. I and two others bought for Sam’s birthday an industrial grinder out of Houston. Allied-Kenco is the store. Visit their website, you’ll fall in love. It has meat everything!! Anyway this monster will crank out 400 lbs. of ground substances an hour. My little friend Daphne took one look and said the exact same thing, “you guys don’t screw around”. But the salsa can use more lime if wanted. Here’s a hint, nuke the garlic for 20 seconds and the skin pops right off. Neatest trick I’ve seen. We use that salsa for everything, it is rather addictve. I hope you enjoy it!

  39. Hey Brendan,
    400 pounds?
    I think maybe I’ll scale the recipe down a bit.
    Hey, nice trick with the garlic. I ain’t heard of that one. I hope our Hello Kitty Microwave can do the job. My wife bought it before I had a chance to blink.
    Biggles

  40. A few of us are looking to try to build a Caja China box. If anyone has built one could you email me the basic directions if possible? I have access to the metal and welder required to make anything with metal so we just need a basic design.
    Cheers!
    Mike

  41. Just bought the Lajachina box , model #1 and can’t wait to use it. Having trouble finding whole pig in the 60-70lb. range..The butchers can only sell 100 and up pound pigs..They will sell 1/2 of the pig and then cut in in 1/2 again to fit inside the box and flip tray..
    What cha think???

  42. Hey Mandy,
    Sounds fine to me. Just make sure you rub the cavity area with extra virgin and have some fun with herbs, shallots/garlic, citrus and some fancy chile powders. I say, get to it!
    Biggles

  43. Needin help for “Smackin Good Ribs”…
    Any suggestions for rubs or marinades for ribs to cook in the “BOX”…the pamphlet that came with the “BOX” suggest for regular ribs to roast 1 hour per side….what it I wanted to cook them in a standing rib rack ( thus no flipping) ….??? Would you cook them the same length of time??? or just one hour????
    Thanks for a great website!!!

  44. Hey Mandy,
    I would do what the Caja China people say first. Once you get that down, then move on to other ways.
    I have a basic rub recipe I put together from others many years ago. I know it sounds simple, but after roasting with meat for a while, the stuff is good.
    This amount will season 1 rack of pork spare ribs.
    4 tsp Paprika
    2 tsp Onion Powder (never garlic powder, nasty)
    1 tsp Salt (not a fan of sugar, can burn if you get a temp spike)
    2 tsp black pepper
    1 tsp cayenne
    1 tsp chile powder
    This is your starting point. From here you can really go many directions. I’ll usually add a few tsp of oregano, other chile powders, other’s rubs. I really really really like freshly ground celery seeds, oh yes. You can also put in some cumin and a 1/2 tsp of cinnamon. Be careful with the cinnamon. But if you do it right, everyone will notice how good the rub is, but won’t be able to tell what it is.
    The important thing to do is KEEP NOTES. Keep notes of your rubs and keep notes of your cooking times/temps. Don’t get caught up in doing other things, pay attention to what you’re doing.
    Sounds as though you’re going to have a GREAT meal. Let us know how it turns out, eh?
    Biggles

  45. This is a wonderful website. After reading it I’ve decided to purchase the small one. Can’t wait and will be using some of your suggestions. Will let you know how it goes. I know you’re busy Dr. Biggles- but save some time for us please!!! Alexandria, Virginia

  46. We tried our new Caja China # 1 today with 8 small chickens. Flavor was great but flipping was a little difficult, and they did not brown. There must be some tricks we missed.
    Do the chickens need to have both sides of the grid around them or can they be turned by hand (on only one rack)?
    We put them in, sandwiched between the two grids, then started the charcoal up top. After one hour, we flipped them. After 30 more minutes, they were perfectly cooked but the skin was not crispy. What is the secret there? Any help most appreciated!

  47. Hey Pat,
    Remember, my words are not gospel. Just see if they make sense and follow.
    I believe sandwiching your food between the two grids is for the whole piggy. Or a large fish. But not chickens or turkeys. Set them on one grid and turn them one at a time, that’s how I did the turkey and yes, it is difficult. Personally, I found it EASY to sacrifice some inexpensive oven mits or leather gloves and use your hands to move the birds. Move FAST.
    As far as not browning, in your case I’d say the heat wasn’t intense enough. Was the top of your caja fully coverd in charcoal? Did you do ash management and make sure the coals had air around them? You do NOT want them lounging in ash.
    I would increase heat and/or time by 30. Maybe only do 4 chickens the next time, just to see.
    Biggles

  48. Thanks, we’re trying another round tomorrow. Got rained out today. When do you start timing the first hour….when coals are grey or when lighted? Is it ok to mix, as in try a small smoked pork shoulder or a fresh hock or two with the chickens? Also… when checked unit today…half the darn edge of the charcoal grid had separated at the weld points! It had torqued when cooking, and this must have caused some looseness. Can I wire it together??

  49. Hey Pat,
    Remember, learning to cook with a real fire, outside is all about improvising and using your noggin. Do what it takes to the job done to the best of your abilities. If nothing else, you’ll learn.
    You start timing your meat when the meat goes in the hot box.
    Only mix meats that have the same cooking time or are the same size. If you put a chicken in with a 12 lb pork shoulder, you will fail.
    My lid torqued too, but when it was laden with charcoal we were FINE. If it lifts up when cooking? Find a rock or a brick and hold that corner down. Just remember it’ll be blistering hot when you remove it.
    Good luck and have fun!
    Biggles

  50. I tried out the small one yesterday with 4 chickens. Used a Thai cilantro marinate for 4 hours before. Absolutely fab!! I put some juice in the bottom of the roasting pan for moisture, and although hesitant, stuck like glue to the timing. I also used a digital thermometer. Moist meat and beautifuly carmelized skin. So easy with very little tending and lots of socializing. Love this roaster. Next, onto pork shoulder!!

  51. I used the small La Caja China yesterday for the first time. Cooked 4 chickens which were marinated for 4 hours in a spicy Thai cilantro marinate. I also butterflied the chickens and placed watered down lime juice in the roasting pan for moisture. I adhered to the time limit, and to qwell my anixiety about that, also used a digial thermometer. Yummy. The meat was moist, the skin carmelized and crispy. What a treat. And so little tending and lots of socializing. Love the roaster. Next. Onto pork shoulder!!!

  52. Hey LaMora,
    Hey, that’s great! Yeah, it is kinda tough just letting the suckers cook without peeking. But you’ll get used to it soon enough. The pork shoulder should be AMAZING too.
    You may want to consider stuffing the pork shoulder. Slice it open and leave a henge. Rub liberally with your favorite spice rub or two. chop up fresh cilantro or swiss chard. Layer in a load of fresh garlic. Put in toasted, sliced pine nuts or walnuts. Then top it off with fresh lemon zest. Close meat and tie up with cotton string. Rub outside with extra virgin, then more rub.
    Happiness will follow.
    Biggles

  53. I was just wondering if there is any insulation between the wood and thee metal liner? I have been building a cajun microwave which is very similar. Some people recomended 1/2″ fire brick, but from some poor photos I have seen, it appears that there isn’t fire brick in most. Also, I was wondering what the general dimensions are for a box that would roast a 100# pig.

  54. Hey Monty,
    There wasn’t any insulation in my china box. Surprised me, but it seemed to w9ork just FINE.
    I don’t remember exactly the dimensions of my box, I sold it quite a while ago. If I were you, I’d go find the butcher that will be selling the piggy and find out the dimensions of the pig you’re going to be purchasing some time in the future. Sometimes they can only get a certain size or whatever. Go ask, then cut your wood.
    Biggles

  55. Dr. B
    Thanks for such a quick response! I have been searching all over the internet for a few weeks trying to see a picture or talk to someone that has had a box. I started fabricating the box yesterday afternoon, oddly enough. After a short time I realized that the brick idea couldn’t be right. Dang thing would weigh too much!
    I had been concerned about the smoking effect and was planning on getting some chips started and then placing them in the bottom of the box. I found a sight claiming La Caja China is lined in marine grade aluminum. Don’t know what that is for sure but I was going to check into it at the gasheet metal shop. I am going to put a grill on top for cooking and then I think I can rig a crank assembly to flip the pig without opening the box. It sounds like with most people the pig is always under done, I was suspecting that there was too much opening of the box or opening it too soon. A common problem I have seen with prime rib cooks. Well, I’m going to get outside and start redesigning without the brick. Hopefully, I can get this thing out to a Raider’s Tailgate party by fall.
    Thanks again,
    Monty

  56. Hey Monty,
    Naw, fire brick don’t weigh nothin’. I think it’s pumice or something volcanic. Regular bricks would crack and fall to pieces quickly with the intense heat, then cooling. But I wouldn’t bother with the brick.
    I don’t know about the marine grade aluminum either and the guy who would know is out of town. It’s got to have something to do with the blend of metals er something. Boats can have a horrible problem with electrolysis and corrosion due to the harsh environment. The aluminum in the caja box was quite thin, so don’t get something crazy thick like a 1/4″ or something.
    It sounds as though you’re putting a lot of effort in to this first box. I would suggest making a simple one to get the design down so you can cook your food well. Then, once that is done you can make all the fancy attachments.
    Cooking with the Caja takes time, skill and a lot of effort. You really have to learn how to NOT peek, let it cook long enough BEFORE you turn the pig and you MUST ABOSLUTELY MAKE SURE YOU DO YOUR ASH MANAGEMENT. If you don’t get rid of the ash along the way, the temperature will drop quite a bit. Sounds like you’re doing fine. Remember, keep it simple.
    Biggles

  57. I do have a propensity for grandure. I’m glad I can keep the brick out. I just found some 24 guage stainless for $14 a sheet. It was left over from a job, so that looks like what I’ll be using. We assumed that the original designer of the box was looking for the next step up from aluminum foil which would be 26 guage sheet aluminum. Marine grade simply for durability. I figure I can’t go wrong with stainless. I’ll get a picture out when I’m done.
    Monty

  58. I just saw the La Caja China box featured on a show w/ Al Roker on the Food Network. It was love at first site. I’ve been doing some research on the building plans and will start my “box” project tomorrow. It seems simple enough. The metal lining issue just seems to be more for easy clean up than anything else. Most pictures I’ve seen do not even have a metal liner. I think I’ll use heavy duty aluminum foil at first to keep it very simple. I’ll have to figure something out for the coal tray lid though. (any ideas?) The whole thing is just one big presure cooker since there are no steam vents. I don’t plan on making it big enough for a whole pig because I’ll never use it for that, I just want it big enough for 2 turkeys or 2 big pork roasts, probably 3 feet long. I just googled “caja china” for image results and there seems to be plenty of good pictures for me to reverse engineer. I’ll let you all know how it goes.
    Branon

  59. When I saw one on Boy Meets Grill, it sounded good, but now I think I will pass and get a Big Green Egg instead. The Egg won’t cook a whole pig but I have never had occasion to and there are other grills for that. The Egg uses less charcoal and can cook fast or slow and has smoke and you can add your favorite apple wood etc. Also the egg is easier to start and you can control the heat and when finished save the unburned charcol and it is safe for pets, children and druken guest. Thanks for sharing the experince. kept me from making a mistake.

  60. Hey Branon,
    I’m glad to hear there are other links out there. When I first bought the box, there was ONE blog that mentioned it. I don’t remember the name, but he’s Cuban and lives in Florida and that was it. I had to guess my way through the whole thing.
    Biggles

  61. Hey Roger,
    I would most certainly get a green egg over the china box. That being said, there are tons of great smokers out there that will do what you require. And you’ll never go wrong with the egg.
    Biggles

  62. Brandon, how did the box turn out? Dr. Biggles, any ideas about getting smoke in the box? Did the wood chip tray work? What about a homemade box for smoke?

  63. Hey Scott,
    I never got that far. The box just isn’t designed to have smoke/air circulation.
    If I were to do a whole pig, I would either bury it in the ground or build a rotisserie cage/spit action over real wood coals. That’s how I’d do it.
    Biggles

  64. Dear Biggles,
    Last questions, is the box completely sealed? If I use lightweight aluminum or steel would I weld every edge or do they spot weld it? Or is it just metal sides that just reflect heat? I would think it would be sealed if you have juices in the bottom, and to keep moisture from leaving. Or is that just a tray on the bottom to remove later? Thanks
    Scott

  65. Hey Scott,
    No welding and it’s pretty much sealed tight. I don’t think it wise of me to give out any proprietary information, but that should handle your needs. Yup, fat tray! I love the fat tray. When I did the turkeys I wound up with several gallons of turkey fat. This I froze and was SET for any holiday gravy making needs.
    Biggles

  66. Just got our La Caja China put together. A little bit of a problem with pre drilled holes not matching, but nothing a drill & bit couldn’t fix. I also ditched the silly wing nuts (to hard to get real tight) and spent 5 bucks at the local hardware store for a box each of 1/4″ hex nuts and lock washers. This really sealed the box up good and tight. Thanks for the info on cook times and charcoal etc., as I found this to be pretty none existant on info sheet in box. (unless your’re doing a whole pig). Great site. Do you really have to inject the meat, or will it not be juicy on it’s own? Thanks, Flyin Hawaiian

  67. Hey Flyin,
    Yeah, I remember the holes not matching up as well. It was a real bitch, the wood was so green and wet. And warped. But after some fighting it all came together fine.
    Here’s the scoop. See, the caja china doesn’t allow smoky flavors. This will be a lost dimension in regards to flavors. So, to make up for a lost dimension, another is added. The injectable marinade adds some flavors, juicy goodness and will help with the breakdown of meaty tissues. You can surely try it without it, but I wouldn’t.
    Biggles

  68. Aloha Biggles. We tried the box yesterday, with 2 whole chickens and 2 racks of pork ribs (about 12 lbs. of meat). Used 15 lbs. of charcoal 1st hour and 5 more for the 2nd hour. It was done in 2 hrs. Very good. We did 1 chicken injected and 1 just plain. They both turned out great. I’ve never cooked a chicken so moist. Ribs got a little dry on the long rib, but the short ribs turned out perfect. Next time I’ll wrap the ribs in foil for the last 45 minutes. We cook a 100 lb. pig next weekend for our yearly family reunion. It will be great not having to dig that imu and lug in 1/2 a cord of wood and 300 lbs. of lava rock. Mahalo for the tips Biggles.
    Flyin Hawaiian

  69. Hey Hawaiian,
    Yeah man, that box really puts the cookin’ on and you’re welcome for the hep. I wish upon you great success this coming weekend, it will be a great day.
    Biggles

  70. As a true Texas bbq fanatic, I’ve had up to 7 different types of grills on the patio. The guys all understand, and the gals think I’m an idiot. But for me, sitting outside, having a cold beer and a cheap cigar (Phillies Chocolate or Honey only $2.79 a box of 5)watching the grill and contemplating winning the lotto, life can be good.
    I had been researching the La Caja China, and came close to purchase. I’m now glad I didn’t. What I did get was a Big Green Egg. Yep. It’s made out of high tech ceramic, and will grill, smoke, roast, and oven bake. Cooking times are reduced as the temps are more evenly maintained than your kitchen oven.
    For pigs and large meat gatherings I do something quite different. Years ago when I came back from Vietnam, I lived in El Paso so decided to go down into the interior of Mexico for a while. I lived with some Indians for almost a year, and one thing they taught me was how to dig an underground oven. Essentially there’s three parties involved here. The hold digging party (at least the first time if its in a back yard), the fire building fire (each time), and the cooking time. I have put 285 lbs of meat down there, cooked for over 20 hours, and had everything come out falling off the bone.
    Now, in Mexico they used local ferns to wrap the meats, and I can’t do that here in Texas, so I will make a rub and/or baste and wrap in aluminum foil, put that inside a couple of wet burlap bags, wrap a clothes hanger around to lower and raise, then put in down. Seal off the top completely, let sit, and voila. I vary the depth of the embers for how much meat I have down there, plus the cooking time, but the lowest time is 18 hours, the longest 24. I’ve put goat, backstrap, ribs, turkeys, hams, etc., all down there at once and it ALL comes out great. The shape of the hole and the fire bed and cooking times are essential, after that its just enjoying.
    Not many city Mexicans know of this method, but a lot of the country citizens are familiar with it.
    So, for me, its the Big Green Egg for general use now, and “the hole” for large gatherings. By the way, that Big Green Egg is so damned good I got rid of all the other grills, including my expensive Weber. BGE is headquartered in Tucker, Georgia, and have a huge anual BGE rally with Eggheads coming from all over the place, like a doggone motorcycle rally (which I ride, too!!).
    Keep on grillin’.
    Pat

  71. Hey Pat,
    Thanks for stopping by and laying it all down. I couldn’t agree more about cooking the whole animal. Digging a hole is the best way to go. But the caja is something nearly everyone can do, as long as you have a back yard. I’m really glad I sold mine, I don’t have enough money or friends/family to do a whole pig. Silly me.
    And as far as the BGE is concerned, that’s a world class pit right there pally boy. No need defending that here, you’re among friends.
    Did me up a slab of pork spares on Saturday, very tasty. Der.
    Thanks again Pat and hope all is well.
    Biggles

  72. Greetings Dr. B
    I have been following your site for some time and found many tips on the LCC. My husband bought me the big one for my birthday and I made my first meal in it. Did 3 large pork roasts. They turned out wonderfully tender. I hate to do any clean up so I lined the large dripping tray with foil. It made clean up a breeze. I also used less charcoal and cooked them a little longer. I will do even less next time. We are going to make turkeys when we fire it up for the next party.
    The only thing I would do different next time, is wait til the weather cools off a bit. We had record temp yesterday and I thought I would melt when I was doing ash control. Plus I am going to find another way to dispose of the ashes. We just put it in an empty Weber kettle, but found it hard to tip. I will try our local feed and grain store and see if there is a large oval container to use.
    Thanks again for keeping all of us informed. Happy Q’n.
    YNLover

  73. Hey YN,
    It’s good to hear from you and your great results. That box can really put out some great roasted meats. I loved the fat tray, excellent for gravy makin’s for the future. Cheers and good luck!
    Biggles

  74. I bought my wife a box for her birthday, we tried it for the first time on labor day weekend. Oh my what a great idea! we cooked three pork roasts in it, and now I want to cook ecverything in it.I can’t until Thanksgiving, the turkeys are going to be great.

  75. Hey Dennis,
    So I hear. You’re quite the guy for going such the distance. I hope you guys didn’t singe off yer eyebrow hairs!
    It’s such a great way of cooking large pieces of meat. Perfect for the holidays!
    Biggles

  76. HI, I HAVE A CAJA CHINA AND I’VE ONLY PUT CHICKENS. I BUTTERFLY THEM. CAN YOU DO THAT WITH TURKEYS? THE CHICKENS CAME OUT GREAT.. M. SERRANO

  77. Ola Doc B,
    I am the proud owner of 3 Big Green Eggs, 1 Primo Oval and an Orion cooker, which appears to cook much like the caja china except that wood chips can be used in the base of orion cooker for smokey flavors. Based on the Orion approach http://www.orioncooker.com I am wondering if I could place inside the box slide in rails on both sides and directly below the caja china cooker. I was thinking I could use a waffled stainless tray similar to the charcoal waffled one on top so as to not effect heat distribution but be able to place wood chips close to the fire but inside the cooker. Make sense? I understand the premise behind roated pig versus smoked but I just believe you got to put some wood to pork and not in the form of liquid smoke. Has anyone tried wood chips in any form with the caja china? Thanks from South Carolina!

  78. Hey David,
    I don’t believe it would work out. You’d really have to redesign the caja china to make it work right. See, the caja china is basically a hugeass oven that completely closed, radiant heat I think. One of the secrets to the box is that you DON’T OPEN IT to peek.
    If you added wood inside and got it to smoulder, you’d need air intake and exhaust. Otherwise you’d get the creosote to condense on the meat and it’d be nasty bitter. If you actually did get an intake and exhaust for the smoky air, then you’d lose the oven’s ability to cook the meat in such a short amount of time. At least that’s how I figure it.
    Biggles

  79. 2 comments about the cooker:
    The charcoal grate is too light, it collapsed (bent) with 20lbs of charcoal and the heat. Needs to be made of heavier metal. I’ll probably use heavier expanded metal mounted on a frame made of bed frames. I seasoned mine as recommended with oil and added a thermometer to the lower portion of the box. After wiping down the entire inside of the box, added charcoal and after an approx. 45 minutes to an hour reached 300 degrees. This should give you an approximate cooking time for whatever you cook. Haven’t cooked anthing yet, but got used to how it works. Plan on using it for Thanksgiving this year. It does get hot…
    Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

  80. I purchased my cajachina a few months back. Entered my first BBQ contest and really impressed the judges. Cooked 75 pound pig,5-15 pound shoulders ,and 12 slabs of babyback ribs. Thing does what it says, onlookers pestered the heck outta me trying to find out where they could get one!!!

  81. I have used my caja for whole pigs and whole lamb. I want to do a 14 lb turkey (or 2) – what should the cook time be? Biggles initially describe 2.5 hours for 28 lbs of turkey (2 – 14 pounders?) – but that seems a long time. Any advice would be appreciated – turkey day is fast a’comin. For smoking, I just purchased a Backwoods Smoker (Fatboy) – WOW! Ribs and shoulder came out primo the first run – on to brisket this weekend. It was pricey but it is beautiful.

  82. Hey Cole,
    Sounds as though you’re having all kinds of fun, dang. Nice going !
    Tukeys are big birds, even the smaller 14 pounders. And you need enough time to brown the skin. It really isn’t that long. That being said, I’ve always been a HUGE fan of doing a test run before doing the holiday meal. Even if you’ve done it before. You need to make sure you have all your implements and timing down. Cooking food outside will vary in times from summer to autumn. Run a few through there first and see. Besides, it’ll give you enough turkey juice to supply you with stock for years to come!
    Biggles

  83. Hi:
    Wonderful site!! I tried a roasted pig at the house of a cuban friend on a recent trip to Florida. I, always love the way the cuban cook pork, but I never knew the way they cooked it. Well, I was for a surprise this time. He showed me the Caja China, and I fell in love. Upon my return to NJ I am ordering one. I may have to wait until May or June to use it (hope that a break on the weather may let me use it before)My question is simple: Do you think that I can use the Box to make a pig for New Year/ it will probably be around 30 F in this area, but am willing to risk frostbite for it. My concern is that the low temperature will not let the pig be cook well enough. What do you think?

  84. Hi:
    Wonderful site!! I tried a roasted pig at the house of a cuban friend on a recent trip to Florida. I, always love the way the cuban cook pork, but I never knew the way they cooked it. Well, I was for a surprise this time. He showed me the Caja China, and I fell in love. Upon my return to NJ I am ordering one. I may have to wait until May or June to use it (hope that a break on the weather may let me use it before)My question is simple: Do you think that I can use the Box to make a pig for New Year, it will probably be around 30 F in this area, but am willing to risk frostbite for it. My concern is that the low temperature will not let the pig be cook well enough. What do you think?

  85. Hey Ricardo,
    I wouldn’t hesitate to use it. However, I would most CERTAINLY buy a few turkeys and do a test run to see what the lower temperatures do to your cooking time. This way when it’s time to cook the pig you already have an idea as to how everything works. You don’t want to be flying blind while everyone waits for their supper.
    Biggles

  86. Hi:
    Good idea! It will give me the “EXCUSE” (He!He!) to use my new toy (as my wife,likely, will name the Box). I will try 4 chikens( to close to Thanksgiven for turkey) as a treat for work. Will let you know how they come up. Any recomendations for marinades or injections? Thanks.
    Ricardo

  87. Hey Ricardo,
    My marinade injections all sucked, for the most part and the needles were so cheap they didn’t last long. I never went back to them, so I don’t haev any recipes. Sorry about that!
    Biggles

  88. I have a 24 lb and a 17 lb turkey that i am going to cook in my Caja China. Would I take the smaller turkey out at 2.5 hours and take the bigger one out at 3.5 hours?

  89. Hi,
    Great website! I liv ein Orlando,Florida and I ma looking to purchase a “Caja China.” Does any of yo have information on where to find oen around here? Thanks!

  90. Hi,
    Great website! I live in Orlando,Florida and I am looking to purchase a “Caja China.” Does any of you have information on where to find one around here? Thanks!

  91. I am cooking 18 four pound chickens this weekend in my LCC. I’m stuffing sage and butter under all the skins and putting a hand full of garlic cloves in each one along with half a lemon. I have in the past placed LARGE rosemary sprigs in the box to add a nice scent to the meat. Does everyone agree I should start “breast down” and then flip them over in an hour?
    I have done about 15 pigs in it but this is my first goup of chickens. Also I had a friend that suggested hanging mesquite chips by a wire near the top of the box (inside)to add smoke. What do you think?

  92. Hey JB,
    Yeah, brown breasts at end. You bet.
    You could try doing the wood inside, but not where you care about the meat. It sounds like a good idea. But the problem with using smoking wood where there’s no intake or exhaust spells bitter flavors. This would be creosote buildup. If the wood isn’t combusting properly AND has a way for the smoke to escape, it’ll just condense on the food and walls of your cooker. I’d say, leave that idea where it lays.
    Biggles

  93. I tried one of those ORION cookers this Thanksgiving. I placed 4-5 chips of mesquite in the cooker. It was awesome! To me a Orion is a very small round LCC. I may wait because this is a big party. I think it would be worth an experimental run later. I sure like the mesquite taste. Just have to be careful it can get bitter. It is best in small doses.

  94. JB,
    As much as I enjoy the mesquite, I think I’d opt for another less resinous smoking wood. Uncharcoaled mesquite can get out of hand pretty darned quickly, even in a pros hands.
    Got any almond or oak? Fruit?
    Biggles

  95. Monsieur Biggles, I just finished injecting a 75 pound porker and I cannot wait until daylight to put him in the Caja. This will be my 7th roast!!!!!! I so look forward to weekends and football!! Woot, woot!

  96. Hi All … Did the la caja china thing twice. Both times it was great. One with the original brine and one with a cajun brine (with orange and lemon juice), both being deeeelish. The cooking times require adjustment from when I spread the coals out on the first batch. I start timing from there and is accurate from that point. The only bad thing was that all the crispy skin was gone as soon as it was cut off. Next time I will have to say”step away from the pig”.

  97. I got 20 chickens done to perfection this weekend. It took 2 1/2 hours because it was cold. I used Digital Probes to tell when they ready. Best chicken I have ever had.

  98. Hi! Been using my caja china and checking this thread since xmas 2004. Family gatherings are 90-120 so its perfect. We usually do turkey, chicken or lots of ribs. Ribs are great in the box! WE have a pernil (pork shoulder) and a turkey ready for tomorrow. Its gonna be a challenge to cook those two at the same time but I am confident and up to the challenge. For turkey I usually pour a can of beer on the dripping collector and then I up the heat for the last 20 minutes or so. Crispy, brown and moist inside!. Witht he pork, I don’t think I will drop the beer. I did use the same adobo and mojo for both meats. Will post later witht he result.

  99. Hi all!
    Fascinating posts on the pig cooker/caja china. I needed a project so I’m building a reverse engineered replica of a caja china/cajun microwave.It’s basically finished except for the metal liner, juice tray and charcoal tray. I could use some advice on materials. I’m planning on hot rolled steel (16 ga) for the coal tray, stainless or cold rolled steel for the juice tray and galvanized sheet metal for the box liner. Any suggestions or comments on these materials? I’m a little concerned about the galvanized (zinc) sheet metal contributing an off flavor. Also thinking about installing a smoke “drawer” to allow for inserting smoking wood blocks. Anybody have any experience with this?

  100. Hey Ed,
    Stay away from the galvanized. My boss the college degreed chemist told me what happens when that stuff combusts and refused to allow me to use it on a repair on my grill.
    The walls of the box and the juice tray can be something easy to clean (shiny) and thin enough only to hold their shape when moving about. I don’t know what kind of steel they used, but it wasn’t fancy.
    However, the coal tray is something different. They used a very thin steel that should have been, as you say, 16 gauge steel. Then use that diamond webbing of steel for a support for the coals so the ashes can fall beneath.
    Biggles

  101. Have read all entries looking for a marinade for a lamb. Anybody have one?
    Also the following comments. 1) In using pigs north of 60 pounds, we’ve had to saw off the legs just below the shoulders and hams to fit the unit. I’ve taken to buying multiple hams and shoulders rather than whole pigs. 2) The charcoal grate is weak. I keep four bricks on hand and that seems to help.3)Enough with the smoke already—the meat tastes fine, perhaps a little too subtle flavor fo those used to eating nothing but carbon.

  102. Hi Doc, A Bobby Flay episode (probably from the past) aired today (2/21/07) on the FC and I just had to find out more about the LCC. Did A Google search and happened upon your site. With keen interest, I spent the better part of an hour reading all the feedback, tips and ideas! I don’t think the “box” will suit my needs (I don’t cook for the neighborhood) but I’ll look closer at the Orion cooker and the BGE. I currently have 5 outdoor cooking units (gas, charcoal, smokers) between 2 homes but I’m looking for something new to light my fire! Thank you all for your enthusiasm over the love of cooking! I’ll be back often to enjoy the feedback and perhaps add some of my own!
    Best drooling from CT to FL, George

  103. hi, i’m thinking about building a caja china (medium size) and lining the box with galvanized metal(sheet metal)gauge 22. is this gauge thick enough. any suggestions?? what about being food safe. i heard that they emit a lot, but a lot of heat. i am afraid it may char my box if don’t use a heavier metal. thanks

  104. First off, I want to apologize to everyone. I’ve been in hell for about 14 months. Only recently been able to respond.
    Hey George,
    Yeah, it’s a pretty boring cooking technology.
    Xavier,
    Stay the frick away from galvanized anything for cooking. The wafts will kill you.
    Emiting heat from the caja china is like saying the 426 Hemi 4 barrel carbed v8 has power.
    I’m not impressed.
    Biggles

  105. hi doc, if galvanized metal ain’t good. what else can i use????? and what gauge???
    what type of metal is used in “the caja china” form miami????

  106. Hey Xavier,
    Any steel ya want, buy what’s inexpensive. Something that rusts would be fine too. Just rub it with oil before your first burn if it rusts.
    22 gauge should be just fine. While the briquettes do get seriously hot, the oven itself just gets to a hot roasting temperature. Your wood will not ignite. The metal in the caja china was quite thin and it works great.
    I don’t know what type of metal they used. It was shiny, thin and din’t look like really good stainless. Heck, you could line it with fire brick if you want!
    Biggles

  107. Cooked my first pork loin in the La Caja china today. What a easy way to prepare meat. Taste great and is very tender. Can’t wait for this weekend to try it again.

  108. ” I don’t know what type of metal they used. It was shiny, thin and din’t look like really good stainless.”
    I just made one with 5/8″ plywood covered with roof flashing (sheet metal).
    First run is this weekend; very excited.

  109. Clam Bake Question
    David O B or anyone else.– Did you ever try that clam bake in a LCC? I want to try that out next week and would love some pointers.

  110. Hey Andrew,
    I recently read on the web somewheres it was aluminum. To be honest, it felt like aluminum and it was quite soft.
    Ezra,
    Hmm, Clam bake. Not I!
    Biggles

  111. Great Write up and comments section.
    We have had the LCC less than a month now and have roasted 2 pigs (80lbs no hean and 70lbs head on)
    The first one took several extra hours and Came down to it being 53degree (the meat that is) when we started. The second one came out great and we started it off at 70 Degrees as suggested.
    The next time we used it we did pork ribs and boy did they come out fantastic. Picture on our little family blog at : http://sloanefamily.blogspot.com/

  112. Last summer I began researching smokers and smoking. I have only smoked once and that was last summer with some friends on a little entry level smoker. From that initial experience I have been sold, but haven’t been able to pull the proverbial trigger on a purchase.
    Anyway, I stumbled upon the LCC due to a mention in my local newspaper. Therefore, I have been doing as much research as possible on this intriguing product. I have three questions maybe someone could answer for me since their appears to be many knowledgeable smokers/roasters here:
    1) As an initial smoker/roaster purchase, is there any one smoker that I should definitely begin with? The Little Green Egg and The Orion Cooker sound intriquing and useable for a rookie.
    2) Would a newbie like me be able to handle cooking with the LCC? I realize that it is a roaster and not a smoker, but the food output sounds incredible!
    3) I read here that the LCC couldn’t be used as a smoker. However, I noticed on the LCC website that they are selling The Smoke Pistol and selling it as if it could be used as an accessory to the LCC. I understand The Smoke Pistol concept because last summer I thought of purchasing one for my grill. But I wonder how this would be used with the LCC when the main cooking driver is a full seal? Maybe because The Smoke Pistol uses compressed wood? Possibly there would be enough smoke that would escape as to not make the meat bitter?
    Any thoughts and answers would be much appreciated. Happy grilling, smoking and/or roasting!!

  113. I have rented a La Caja box and did a 90lb Pig..and two “Rounds of Beef” in it,22-23lbs. each. rented it to see how it worked. Cooked everthing in no time at all.Had 150-200 people over for our Company Pig Roast. They LOVED IT! Cost me $135.00 bucks to rent it. Ok Now I want to buy! Can anyone e-mail with sights so I can buy?
    Thanks–Nick

  114. Just ordered the large LCC. Can anyone tell me if the 100 pound limit is live weight or dressed weight of the pig. Also what is the maximum length of a pig so it will still fit in the box. This is a great site.
    Thanks,
    Hickory

  115. I did a 58lbs pig in my box this weekend. And I borrowed another LCC and did 17 chickens. It was a big dinner. I used thermometers in both. The pig was cooked in 2hours and 15 min and the chickens took 2 hours.
    I LOVE THIS LCC

  116. Me again. I just cooked a 20lbs lamb in 55 minutes with the LCC. We marinaded it for two days. WOW!!! I don’t know if I will ever do a pig again. This was much easier. I will try and send a picture I took with my phone. This is good eats!

  117. Aloha Biggles. We’ve had our LCC for over a year now and have done about 6 whole pigs. We get them anywhere from 105-120 lbs. (dressed weight). If it’s too long for box, we just cut head off and put it in a corner of box to cook. We have found that you really need to cook the whole pig (over 100 lbs.) for about 5 and a half to 6 hrs. Use 20 lbs of coals 1st hr. about 8 lbs of coals every hr. after that for 4 hrs. Check pig with meat thermometer after 5 hrs. when it reaches 160 take coal tray off box and let pig sit till temp reaches 170, about 45 minutes. To season pig, we rub it heavy with virgin olive oil, then 2 big bottles of liquid smoke, then rub heavy with sea salt. After 3 and a half hrs, we flip pig ribs down then slit the skin on back deep enough to break skin, then pour 2 more bottles of smoke on and some more sea salt, then let cook for an hour or so and then check with meat thermometer. The pigs come out great, taste just like kalua pig, only no imu.
    Mahalo Biggles

  118. Found your site. Very nice, thanks. Like amost of us guys (and gals), we love to cook outdoors and of course we can always build a better mousetrap, even if it takes ten times as much money and time as buying something proven right off the shelf.
    I will buy the small or medium size Caja China just to familiarize myself with that cooking methodology. Just from reading today I already have some ideas I would like to incorporate, if no more than beefing it up a bit.
    My question has to do with the metal lining. Could be stainless, could be aluminum…who knows, but do you think it’s the reflectivity of the shiny metal that makes this work or could dull mild steel work just as well?
    We used something along this line many years ago outside of a barroom in rural Louisiana. We’d do gator, deer, hogs, wild turkey and whatever else someone happened to fell that season. It was made of steel and took about ten drunks, me included to move it around. What great eating and memories that scrap steel box made.

  119. Cooked a 70lbs pig at the Furman game this weekend. It was 85 degrees outside and the I had two remote thermometers in the pig. Total cooking time including perfect skin 2 HOURS FLAT. It was cooked to 180 degree, 10 degree over what I wanted. I was still great.

  120. Hey Tony,
    I bought mine years ago, could be different by now. But it sure as hell ain’t stainless, could be shiny aluminum. I think if you check their web site they’ve added some mods and attachments over the years. Go see!
    Biggles

  121. Using my Chinese Box tomorrow for the first time. Directions say pig must be at room temperature. How long does it take to get a 61-pound pig to room temperature without worrying about spoilage? Thanks. I also have a big Big Green Egg and love it but we entertain some pretty large groups and thought La Caja China would be good for those.

  122. SEPT.13 THE BOX ARRIVED AND IT TOOK ABOUT AN HOUR TO DO THE TASK.THE 18TH WAS THE WIFES B-DAY SO WE ORDERED A WHOLE HOG,WELL 58LBS.I PICKED IT UP THAT DAY , WE HAD NO ROOM TO STORE IT.I STARTED THE INJECTION AS SOON AS I GOT HIM HOME. THE PIG WAS 40 DEGREES WHEN I STARTED AND I LET HIM SIT IN THE LCC FOR 2 HOURS, THEN I HAD TO START THE PROCESS AND IN THE 2 HOURS IT HAD REACHED 62.I WENT BY THE DIRECTIONS ON THE WEB AND USED A DIGITAL THERMO IN THE BUTT AREA.I WAS VERY SURPRISED HOW FAST THIS THING COOKED I DID NOT EVEN NEED TO ADD AS MUCH COALS AS THE WEB SAID.I THINK THE NEXT TIME I WILL ADD A LITTLE LESS AT THE START.ANYWAY THE PIG WAS SIMPLY AMAZING PEOPLE ARE STILL TALKING NEXT TIME MAYBE THE TURKEYS

  123. Me gustaria saber el precio para ver si puedo obtener una, para usarla ahora en la temporada de navidad ya q me gusta asar pavo y pernil. Espero su contestacion. Gracias

  124. i would like to have more information on your large size roster also cost send information to am backues
    pmb6811 box 2428 pensicola flo.32513
    am backues

  125. Hey Doc, may want to order another cajun microwave. I understand you don’t like the fact of no smoke getting to the meat. Problem solved. I found a product called the Smoke Pistol. It attaches to your box or grill/smoker. It burns wood pellets in 9 different flavors and has adujstable smoke output. When mine arrives, I’ll let you know if works well or just blowing smoke elswhere.

  126. Hey LSU,
    Ya know, I think the Caja China people have come out with their own fix for that, plus a few others. It’s come a long way in the last few years.
    My biggest problem was that I bit off more than I could chew. As it stands today, I just don’t have that many people to cook for and don’t have the money to buy an 80 piggy. With the setup I have today I can grill and smoke to feed probably 60 to 70 people with ease. That’s plenty for the time being.
    Biggles

  127. I would like to make my own caj china, and would like to know wheere I can buy blueprints and details on how to build one.

  128. I attended a great party last night in Bend Oregon. My host put the pig in LCA about three pm and it was ready at eight…The air temp was about thirtyfive… It got a little drunk out, but was well worth the wait.
    I’ll be placing my order for a LCA on Monday!!
    Fat and happy in Bend, Pablito

  129. GOOD FOR YOU! All this build it yourself talk is bad for small businesses. It does not cost that much when you look at the cost of a big cooker $2000+++
    It’s the best dollar for dollar buy.

  130. very nice page with alot of info. I made my own
    the other day it is 24″by 40″ and 12″ deep, bottom and sides made with bc plywood with .040 aluminum sides and bottom. the top cover is 16 ga steel and coal rack is 3/4″ expanding metal.
    will try to send photo. your site is great thanks for alot of info. so far the cost of the box is only 150.00 not bad, if i say so. going to cook on it this weekend. once again great info and great site.

  131. I will be cooking my Thanksgiving turkeys in the caja china this year. Have cooked whole pigs before which came out great but never turkeys. Any advice on stuffing them with bread stuffing?… does it change the cooking time? How does it come out? I usually use dried bread cubes, seasoning, veggies, dried fruit..

  132. I have done six turkeys at once in LCC. It was at church dinner. I would not stuff them. I go by Alton Browns advice on that. You could do dressing in a dish inside the LCC if you have room. I would cover it with foil to make sure it does not burn.
    I use a wired thermometer to make sure I hit the correct temp. Start breast dowm then flip them and hour to an hour and a half later. Cook to temp.
    If you have a question I am at http://www.weservepapers.com

  133. Hey Biggles and all you carnivores, the Info here is a little dated, if you check the website (www.lacajachina.com) you will find three sizes, the new smaller version looks best for me.
    There are LOTS of recipes and cooking directions for many types of meat. They now have a smoke injector with a grand catalog of smoke flavors!, also recent additions are, a top mounted rotisserie kit, a top mount grill, side mount thermometer, wired remote thermometer etc…
    they even sell the Gauntlet style gloves(-;
    They also have a huge selection of “Mojo” (marinating sauce) seasonings and Rubs…
    These guys have really done their homework on the “Wish list”
    For the Florida folks asking where to find one; these things were invented and are manufactured in Miami! Makes sense with a large Cuban population.
    As far as building one, if you only need a small one, then by the time you buy the aluminum, grills pans, wheels, wood, handles etc.. I’m sure you’ll spend nearly as much as the price of the manufactured one!
    I hope this covers some of the questions that Biggles hasn’t been able to answer. BTW Biggles with all these new options maybe you sold yours too soon?
    PS. Bob, doesn’t that burn the winds lips??

  134. Hey Packeteer,
    A little out of date? It’s over 3 years old! If I were a responsible guy, I’d update my post. But just don’t have the time. When this post went up, I was 1 of about 2 sources for information about the box. The other one being Babalou blog, that was it. So, yeah. It’s outdated.
    Thank you so much for stopping by. Yes, the caja china people have done their homework and done it well. Then they implemented it cleanly, salute! Nah, I didn’t sell mine too soon. I bought it too big. I should have purchased a far smaller one, I’m that way. At least I got some of my money back.
    Biggles

  135. Any good suggestions for beef ribs in the LCC? I am experimenting. Have had good results with turkey and pork shoulder. Botched a rib roast….(over cooked). Thanks for any help!

  136. For ribs I would not use as much coal. Also keep them tightly wrapped in foil. LOW AND SLOW for ribs.
    On your post above a digital thermoter would have saved your roast.
    I only do BIG food in the LCC. 18 Chickens, pigs lambs, goats, 8 pork shoulder or butts stuff like that. LARGE AMOUNTS.
    I save small stuff like ribs and a single roast for my weber.

  137. Hey guys,
    Ya know, there are some things I would save for the grill or smoker. Surely the china would do such things just fine, as We Serve mentioned. And here’s why.
    If you keep the ribs tightly wrapped in foil, they’ll never get any flavor from smoke or caramelization. The ribs need to be in a traditional smoker or grilled indirectly. Sure you could finish them on a grill and still get a good meal. But it won’t compare to 5 hours in a wood fired smoker, never.
    Number 2. While the probe may have saved the roast, beef can run away from you before you sneeze. To cook a traditional holiday rib roast you want your oven to be around 300 to 325. This way, the entire roast can be rare, instead of just having the center rare.
    Beef ribs, short or otherwise should be really good. They love long tasty cooking.
    Biggles

  138. Hey paper server,
    Sorry for not getting back to you sooner, the holidays have kept me way busy.
    Goat can be eaten very rare, just like lamb. My personal tastes have me yanking it out at maybe 130 degrees, but you can take it down to about 125. You’re looking for middle eastern herbs & spices. I have a few recipes here on Meathenge, search for goat at the main page.
    In a pinch rub with extra virgin, s&p. Ground & toasted corriander seeds, fresh cilantro, crushed garlic and lemon zest. Build from there and you’ll never turn back, good goat is hard to beat.
    Biggles

  139. I sent a post around nov 5 or 6th. I used less bricketts and the time was unreal. I cooked a 14 lb turkey in 1.hr 45 min. the temp in the box was 300-350 and stayed at that temp
    the meat was moist and the skin was golden brown.
    I guess when I built mine I uses 3/4 bc plywood and then I placed 1 by 4s to make it look great. like the cooler I made. so it is double wood. I did use a meat thermometer, in the breast it was 165 and then I let it rest for over 15 min. the meat was great!!!!! going to cook another on 12-30-07.

  140. Aloha Dr. Biggles,
    Great blog! I’m planning to buy my first LCC and wanted to know if I can use heated rocks (like the kind you use with Hawaiian-style ground ovens) instead of or in combination with charcoal?
    Hauoli Makahiki Hou everyone (Happy New Year).
    Warm Mahalo,
    KeithO

  141. Mahalo!
    Nah, no rocks brother. You need that searing heat of the briquettes to keep things moving along. The traditional Hawaiian-style oven is something that takes many hours to cook a load of food. The box takes only a few hours to do its job.
    Biggles

  142. Hey Rodd,
    Sorry mang! Cain’t post no pictures here, it’s just a blog comment thread. Pig #7?
    If you have the inclination, or interest, post a few tips/tricks/techniques so others can learn. How many pounds per piggy? How much per pound? And how many fricken people are you feeding !?!??!?
    Biggles

  143. Rats!, Hate I can’t show my pics but, … they average 65 to 80 pounds. Not too bad on the price ($1.29lb). I am always looking for an excuse to breakout the magic box! I am ordering my smoker modification for the box as I type. I fed about 30 folks with the Superbowl Pig and vacuum sealed the leftovers.

  144. I bought the #2 LLC from a friend who had won it. I paid $200 and I think it will be a steal! I’m doing my first pig tomorrow (73#), for my wife’s birthday party at our local Moose Lodge (so I do have an outlet for large portions of meats). Again this will be my first time using the LLC but I have researched this method and will let you know how a virgin LLC user does.
    Enjoy your site and will bookmark it to return again.

  145. Good luck Bill. If you leave the head on take an orange and cut the ends off. Then take a cherry and a toothpick and stick it into the middle of the orange and then into the eyeballs. It make sit a less scary.
    Don’t forget to cut the skin when you flip it. I like to plan for people to be there when I pull it out. I present on a large trey covered in foil and kale. I bet someone will order one off with in a week once they see how easy it is.

  146. Well, its done. THIS COOKER IS HOT! I mean that in both senses of the word HOT! Biggles do you still have those full arm gloves? Seriously, the pig went well, with a few exceptions, but I chalk that up to my inexperiece. The pig was at 50 deg and I think that was too low at start. Next time will be 70 deg. I used an extra 45 mins of cooking (its an option) and opened when the ham read 175 deg. Alas shoulders still not done. Removed the section from shoulders back and put shoulders and head back in oven, Cooked ok then. Everyone was impressed on the apperance of the pig and everyone said it was the best they had ever had. One of the local bar owners has purchased and LCC and will be using it for ribs this weekend so I get to learn more without the work and cost. CAUTION: Friends who helped said it was the most BORING way to cook a pig! Very happy with results and looking for an excuse to do it again!

  147. Hey Bill,
    While 50 is a bit chilly, with some more practice it’ll come out fine. The tough part is leaving the meat alone, no messy. And ash management, gotta keep those coals on their merry way.
    The gloves are long gone and so is the box. I dunno about it being boring, we had some fun with it. Like standing around drinking beers & discussing about how hot it is. Heh.
    Biggles

  148. Has anyone heard of an alternative manufacturer: Bene Casa “Caja Asadora”? I am wondering how the two models compare?

  149. I did 55 lbs of boston butt for my command last friday. Took three hours, and when done it was wonderful!! The smell wafted all over the base, and drew a considerable amount of interest. This was the maiden voyage of the La Caja China #2, next up is an 80 lb pig. Keep up the wonderful website… I used numerous inputs from here for ideas.

  150. Hey David,
    I would have thought it’d been a lot more than considerable. Unless ya’ll do this on a regular basis …
    Cheers, thank you and thank you for the kind words.
    Biggles

  151. Hey guys and Gals,
    LOVE THIS FORUM!!!!!
    I am the owner of a new model #2 La Caja China…I am doing a 100 LB pig this September….Any pointers for such a massive undertaking?? Any and all comments or tips would be appreciated…This will be my first swine as I have only done butts and various other parts in my previous roasts…
    I am here to learn from the masters
    Andrew

  152. Hey all, I’m looking to rent a LCC for a pig roast next month in NYC. Anyone have one I could purchase, borrow or rent? Pls email me at mk297 at cornell dot edu. Thanks!

  153. 1. Remove head and legs at the elbow joint if it is a large hog and inject with a strained marinade generously (Mojo Criollo is nice). Removing the appendages and head allows a flow of hot air. The injector that the La caja china people advertise is awesome.
    2. The pig started out the night before at 45 degrees F and I left it at room temperature (70) for 10 hours to reach 60.
    3. The “S” hooks are useless for such a large hog, so we used wire to affix to grates.
    4. Remove ash as needed do not wait until the end.
    5. Add charcoal as needed rather than hourly and start the charcoal with 2 chimneys to start the process.
    6. It takes a little longer than advertised, but produces great results.
    7 Cook until 185-190 and the meat falls of the bones and melts in your mouth
    8. Skin on a large hog is tough…I should have browned the skin longer…
    Overall the oven worked as advertised and produced a beautiful product. I am going to try using the smoke pistol remotely to smoke at high temps next time
    Feel free to fire away with questions

  154. Hey all La Caja China enthusiasts,
    I just roasted a 108 lb. piggy this past weekend. Paid $2 per pound…a great deal
    Things I learned:
    1. Remove head and legs at the elbow joint if it is a large hog and inject with a strained marinade generously (Mojo Criollo is nice). Removing the appendages and head allows a flow of hot air. The injector that the La caja china people advertise is awesome.
    2. The pig started out the night before at 45 degrees F and I left it at room temperature (70) for 10 hours to reach 60.
    3. The “S” hooks are useless for such a large hog, so we used wire to affix to grates.
    4. Remove ash as needed do not wait until the end.
    5. Add charcoal as needed rather than hourly and start the charcoal with 2 chimneys to start the process.
    6. It takes a little longer than advertised, but produces great results.
    7 Cook until 185-190 and the meat falls of the bones and melts in your mouth
    8. Skin on a large hog is tough…I should have browned the skin longer…
    Overall the oven worked as advertised and produced a beautiful product. I am going to try using the smoke pistol remotely to smoke at high temps next time
    Feel free to fire away with questions

  155. Hey Don,
    I haven’t heard of anyone doing it, but am sure someone has. From the venison, deer, elk that I’ve had have all been a very lean sort of meat. I would look in to those larding needles and sew some good pork fat through, rub with fat and maybe even lay some fat around to help with juicy, caramelizing moisture. Should be FINE.
    Biggles

  156. Greetings Dr. Biggles, here’s an update on my latest venture. Just installed my new smoker pistol on my box. Trying it out on a 90 pound pig, and 12 boston butts for Monday Night Football. Stay tuned for results!

  157. I bought the large La Caja box and did a 38 pound suckling pig. I called the owner of the company and he was very willing to give me advice and tips on the prep and cooking.
    Since I live in the nothern climates it was 45 degrees 3 weeks ago when I tried it out. I actually cooked it in the garage underneath the steel garage door because of the weather and I had no problems at all. In under 4 hours the pig was 180 to 190 degrees. There was plenty of left overs after 25 people had their fill. I used a half a gallon of the Mojo sauce and think I probably should have used more.
    The comments I read about the assembly are right on target as i did have some touble lining up the hole and the the inner steel lining fitting properly. But I got it done and it cooked the darn pig with out too much trouble at all.
    I plan on doing a small lamb for Xmas, 35-40 pounds, and called the owner of the company. Robert Guerro, back for more advice. He said when doing a lamb it’s “very important” to add a gallon of water to the drip tray at the begining of the cooking process and to cook it just the opposite of a pig with the skin side up first and then turn the skin side down during the last period of cooking. I looking for a good injectable marinade for the lamb if any one can offer any suggestions I’d appreciate it.

  158. I found a NEW INJECTION MARINADE. A local “James Beard” Chef sugessted pineapple juice, roasted jalapeno and apple cider viniger. I left the hoofs during the injection and cut them off the hour before cooking. A 46 lbs pig took over a half gallon of marinade and NEVER leaked a drop because I left the hoofs on. I will never use the mojo marinade again.
    Thanks Jeff B Bannister

  159. Hey JB,
    It’s good to hear from you. What you up to and how’s everything going? Happy New Year!
    Um, yeah. Citrus and vinegar are an awesome pair, and who can NOT want jalaenos in there? Now, comes the time to start bending the recipe a bit to see how things go. Great job, thank you!
    Biggles

  160. Getting ready for a Super Bowl Pig. I will try it fill a 60-65 lbs pig with 1 gallon of pineapple juice, 1/2 gallon of salt water, cider viniger to taste. I may not put the jalapeno.
    I hope the commercials are good this year.

  161. I have successfully roasted a 100lb pig in an amazing amount of time. Out of the box.
    I am about to do another one this coming weeked. I grant you that this is not a smoker, but… a whole pig in any form is a beautiful thing.
    The challenge is managing a 100lb dead body and properly splitting the pig. I recommend the reciprocating saw. Its like a sopranos episode!
    First time, salt and pepper, with a little bit of hasty injection…
    This time, I think a rub, and perhaps a little injection.
    MUST get some kind of firegloves to deal with the inferno and ash manage per the instructions. I also recommend a probe thermometer to monitor the goings on inside the box.
    Either way the cost of the box is reasonable (esp in comparison to a smoker). It is easy and like clockwork (vs managing a spit etc.. ). Use the checklist on the web site.
    I noticed a smoker attachment for $50 for the box, not clear if or how this works. Thank you to whomever provided the lamb instructions… more on this later!

  162. Taking my maiden voyage next weekend with 40lb pig and several thirsty freinds. Want to master the cooker before this fall (hunting season) as we do lots of good food cooking at the camp. Was excited to find your site and all of the helpful info. Looking forward to showing all of the camp pros what good food tastes like.

  163. I have a question for either Mat Masters or anyone else that has purchased the “caja china” from Frugalhouehold. I am looking to purchase one, either the original or the other one but am a bit nervous to spend the money on one that is not the original. I am looking to have a pig roast over Labor day weekend and since it is only a few weeks away, I do not want to purchase one that I am going to have to either return or is not going to work like the original Caja China. On the other hand I like the idea of saving over $200.00.
    Any help would be appreciated!!
    Thank you in advance

  164. I’m with Bert. Wondering how Mat Masters made out with his Caja Asadora. The main differences that I see between La Caja China and La Caja Asadora (by Casa Bene) are that La Caja China is 4 inches deeper than La Caja Asadora and that La Caja China is lined with aluminum, while La Caja Asadora is lined with galvanized steel. Also, there’s an obvious price difference.
    What little I know about metal is that aluminum is far more thermally conductive than steel. What I don’t know is how this would affect things in a roasting box. What will the difference be if any? Longer cooking time? More charcoal? And in the end, do these variables affect the final product?
    Any insight anyone could give would be very helpful.
    Thanks!

  165. Hi Everyone, master editor in chief for Meathenge labs here.
    I have to admit that while I don’t have any experience with the boxes “like” the original, I can say I have used the china box that I bought. I’ve got about 27 years of grilling and smoking under my belt and can say that even if the other boxes are remotely close, you’ll do just fine. The neat produced by this method of cooking is so fricken INTENSE that wide variations in results just isn’t probable. The technology behind cooking this way is so fricken dead simple, metal box with heat on top. You want a drip tray to catch the juices and a rack to hold the meat out of the fat.
    That being said, using galvanized steel that close to my food and intense heat is usually a nonon. If anyone is really interested in knowing the truth, contact the AGA (American Galvanizers Association) at http://www.galvanizeit.org/
    From bits on the net, your food should not touch the galvanized steel directly, nor should it be used as a charcoal try where the zinc on the steel can burn off near your food or your lungs.
    I would worry less about design differences and more about the materials used in its construction. Someone should just ask them about it. I would, but am too busy!
    xo, Biggles

  166. Keeripes, talk about spreading rumors. I’d like to retract my statement about using galvanized steel. Here’s what I found at the site I listed above:
    “The Food and Drug Association (FDA) has approved the use of galvanized steel for food preparation and conveyance for all applications with the exception of foods that have a high acid content, such as tomatoes, oranges, limes, and other fruits. The acid content in these foods will attack the zinc coating and cause accelerated corrosion. Many food products are stored on galvanized racks or in coolers with galvanized shelving.”
    I still have questions about setting live coals on it though.
    Biggles

  167. ok everyone, so I bought the caja asadaro and I have to say, construction wise, it was a bit tough to get together. Sheet metal was bent, not sure if it is was from shipping but from what I read that is par for the course, even with the other one. SO to the good part. I roasted a 30lb pig. Now I had never done one on my own but growing up my family would roast one every Christmas. So I knew the basics. LOL. This was done over Labor day weekend and the weather was great!!. We marinated the pig over night, and started it at 10:30AM, (everyone was coming over for about 4:00pm. I placed a small amout of charcol on each side of the box and began to roast it very slowly. Throughout the day I placed more charcoal over the whole box. I ended up using 2 bags of charcoal. “Low and Slow”. Around 4:15 or so we turned the pig to get the skin to crisp up. Another 45 min or so and it was done. It was great. My dad who is 83 helped me with it and we could not beleive how good it came out.
    My only concern or question and this goes for both boxes:
    Is that I do not beleive there is a way to get a 100lb pig in that box as they state. Has anyone done a pig that large or close in either the Caja China or the Caja Asadora?

  168. Hey Bert,
    Nicely done! Thank you for stopping by and offering up the info, very helpful.
    With the larger animals, you end up doing some cuttin’. Legs, head, to get it to fit. Ah well.
    Cheers!

  169. Bert – thanks for the info. I also just got a Casa Asadora to do a 60 lbs pig this weekend. I did a pre-bake yesterday to burn off any residual cleaners/oils off of the metal and seasoned it with some oil. It looks like yours took a little longer than specified, did you use the recommended amount of charcoal or less than what they have in the instructions? I’m trying to figure out when to start for a 4-5pm finish time. Any suggestions from anyone?

  170. Anyone know where I can rent a Caja China for Halloween weekend in Sarasota, FL?
    Also, where to locally procure a freshly butchered pig?

  171. Dr. Biggles – I wanted to tell yo uthat this site is great
    Jason – my experience with roasting pigs has always been to cook it very slow. I consulted my uncle who makes one every Christmas and he said to use less than what the instructions has noted. All in all I want to say that I used 2 bags of charcoal total. He had also mentioned to me, that to start out, just place some of the coals at the head and the bottom of the box. Just to start, then just keep a nice steady flow of heat and coals. When it came time to take the pig out and cut it, it pretty much fell apart, and it was very moist and juicy. This was the first pig that I had roasted and was worried that I would rush it, but since it was a BBQ, there was plenty to do and once everyone arrived, plenty to keep me busy.
    I am sorry that it took me so long to write back, but I would be interested to know how you made out.

  172. Great site, just bought my la caja, doing a pig Christmas eve a little nervous, most things I read say 3.4 hours but does it matter the size of the pig? I am using a 42# average. thanks.

  173. Hey Dave,
    I can’t help directly with your pig timing. But what I can say is, you’d better get off your butt and go out and get some turkeys or some cheap way to run through your procedure. You need to learn yourself how to get hot coals to the box, away from the box and Ash Management. You need to learn how it deals with heat and direction. If you try this pig without learning the cooking ways of the box you could wind up wasting your time, money and pissing off your friends and family.
    PRACTICE!
    Biggles

  174. I made my own caja china over 11 years ago, and cook a pig at least once a year. But I’ve always had trouble toasting the skin. My box has a 1/8″ steel lid and i’m thinking that i need to use a thinner lid to get my box hotter. My pig usually takes about 8 hours to cook. But when it is done, it just falls off the bone. Do you know what gauge of sheet metal the Caja China or the Caja Asadora makes their lids from? In the pictures, it looks pretty thin.

  175. Hey Eric,
    I sold my box quite some time ago and never measured the thickness. I can tell you this, it was exceptionally thin, wobbly and I was very unimpressed. But you’re right, a little thinner and it would push more heat in to the box to make it intense. The few times I used it the skin on the meat was quite toasty. Get it thin enough to be really flimsy, something that you’d think it’d need to be replaced in maybe 2 years and you’d have it.
    Biggles

  176. I am actually from Miami and I have been after La Caja China trying to find a place or restaurant that offers roasted pig cooked in La Caja China! but I have not find a place yet =( I heard it is amazing and can’t wait to try it. Will tell you all about when I try one of those delicious (trozos) of pork.

  177. I was interested in renting a La caja china box in the Sarasota Florida area. Does anyone have any suggestions on where this can be done? Thanks!! Kim Wetzel

  178. Closest place to Orlando that I know of to rent a La Caja China is
    Ken’s Meat $100 per event 3 Days, $250 Deposit
    Very reasonable price and you can get the Pig there too.
    Contact info: 2620 Aurora Rd, Suite 1 Melbourne Fl 32935
    KensCustom@aol.com or (321) 752 6511

  179. looking for comments on cooking two different kinds of meat at the same time. Pork Shoulder(2-3) and Beef briskets (2-3) will I run into problems with differnt cooking times and having to open the cooker?

  180. Hi Sheila,
    The whole idea of the way the cooker works is that you do not open it. It’s probably not such a hot idea of doing 2 different kinds or sizes of meats together. Nope.
    xo, Biggles

  181. I’ve cooked multiple meats (as well as side dishes) together in my Caja. It’s all about timing, layering the food at the proper height inside the box, and how you spread the coals on top.
    This works best in the model #2, or the new semi-pro, both of which are deeper and allow more options. Biggles is right, you don’t want to open the box often, but if you time it right you can do so once or twice during cooking with adding too much time to your cooking.
    I’m working on a cookbook with Roberto right now, should be available in a month or two, and it will cover some of this. Happy to answer any questions, as well.
    -Perry
    Burnin’ Love BBQ

  182. Cooked 18 lb pork shoulder and was pretty good, definetly overcooked but first time using the box. I purchased an electronic thermometer but I suspect the box was too hot and the thing crapped out. What kind of thermometer do you recommend?

  183. Need help on two questions:
    1. Will the large Caja China really fit a 100-lb. pig? I have cooked several 100-pounders before, butterflied out to lay flat on a rack inside a home-made cinder block “oven,” but those seemed far too long and wide to fit in the Caja China. If I use a 100-pounder will it lay flat in the Caja China, or be scrunched up?
    2. Has anyone tried the “smoker pistol” on the Caja Chica website, and if so did it do a good job of adding smoky flavor?

  184. Hi all,
    We carry Caja China style Roasting Boxes for $195! Thanks to those of you who have posted here and purchased from us in the past! We always appreciate the feedback. You can also find all the accessories you will ever want, as well as replacement parts at http://www.shoplatintouch.com. For those in South Florida, we also do catering ($8-$15 per person) and rentals ($75 per day, $150 deposit.) Great thread by Meathenge, and great recipes to be found here!
    -Mat

  185. It is absolutely true; this misses the most important factor which is being able to roast the Pig over mesquite wood or charcoal. This is the same as a regular oven.
    It would perfect is it was designed where the Pig sits above the coal.
    It would still need hinged lids to cover the cooking area. The bottom plate needs to be on top hinged as a lid where you can open the lid and turn the pig.
    This box should be designed where the box has no bottom plate and the charcoal tray sits directly underneath the box. “Not inside the box”. You would simply add the coal when needed by sliding the coal tray from underneath add coal or wood and slide back under.
    The pig needs to be able to drip its juices on to the mesquite which then creates small flare-ups which in turn gives you that smoky mesquite flavor.
    The I would definitely buy it!!!!!!

  186. Just wondering how much charcoal is needed to roast a 100 pound pig?… I am buying a la caja china this week! Can’t wait

  187. It has been a while since I posted here and I want to say I still love my La Caja China but I have moved on to bigger animals. The next week on April 15-16 I will be roasting a whole cow,7 whole lambs and a goat over an open fire. This will be done ASADO as done in the cook book “Seven Fires” by Francis Mallmann. A major nationwide paper is sending a writer to cover the story. We will have a live “Cow Roast Cam” up and running around 6pm on the 15th. The website for the Cow Cam is http://www.bovinova.com If you go there early all you will see is an offce as we are testing the camera. I am sorry but there is ONE quick commercial you have to watch because we are useing a free streaming service.
    Next year we will add a whole pig to the feast.

  188. we had a recent cook and the pig just did not get done. the lid did not seem to fit tightly, had a slight warp. could that have been the problem?
    thanks

    • Hi Errol,

      Well, it’s been quite a few years since I had mine. And as I remember, my lid was kinda wonky as well. However, I do remember once the coals were placed, it evened out just fine. It’s not going to fit as snug as a lid on a dutch or french oven though. Without any idea as to how much charcoal you used, and what the pig looked like when you removed it, the obvious answer would be to leave it in longer. I would suggest buying a few turkeys, the cheap ones and run that through. The times given by the manufacturer and the internet, as with all cooking times, is just a guideline. Your meat will be done when it’s done.
      xo, Biggles

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