The tradition of roasting a whole pig goes back millennia and has been practiced in cultures all over the world.
In areas with large Cuban or other Caribbean populations, a pig roast is often the center of family festivities on Christmas Eve. In Hawaii it's popular to "Kalua" a pig on memorial day.
Rotisserie over an open fire, roasting underground, pit smoker, and La Caja China style boxes are just four of the numerous ways to roast a pig.
Rotisserie is a style of roasting where meat is skewered on a spit – a long solid rod used to hold food while it is being cooked over a fire in a fireplace or over a campfire, or roasted in an oven. This method is generally used for cooking large joints of meat or entire animals, such as pigs or turkeys. The rotation cooks the meat evenly in its own juices and allows easy access for continuous self-basting.
In medieval and early modern kitchens, the spit was the preferred way of cooking meat in a large household.
This method is most often used with a "suckling pig" but works quite nicely with pigs up to 100 pounds, depending on the style and size of the rotisserie you're using. Though mostly automated here in the US, many countries still do rotisserie pigs manually, sitting or squatting next to to fire for hours, turning the pig by hand to ensure a perfectly even roast.
In the Philippines, who's "Lechón asado" is arguably the best spit roasted pig in the world, most are still turned by hand on a bamboo spits, stuffed with lemongrass and local spices, and constantly bathed with hot coconut oil to create a golden, glassy, and insanely crispy skin.
BTW – If you have a La Caja China…don’t worry about finding a bamboo spit…
Though cooking in the ground is a method popular from China to The Polynesian Islands to Mexico (where’s it’s called “Barbacoa”), probably the most famous is the Hawaii-style pig roast, known as a luau.
Kalua (Hawaiian puaʻa kālua) literally means “to cook in an underground oven” and also describes the flavor of food cooked in this manner.
A large, shallow pit, called an "Imu" is dug into the ground and a sandalwood fire is built in the bottom. Lava rocks are heated in the fire, and the pit is lined with banana and/or Ti leaves. The salted pig pig is rested on top, and more banana leaves are piled on top for both insulation and for flavor.
A tarp covers those leaves; sand is piled on top to seal in all the heat and smoke while the pig slowly roasts over the next six to seven hours.
A pig, usually 80-120 pounds, is split in half and spread eagle onto a large wood, charcoal or propane grill.
Heat can be direct or indirect, but smoke is a mandatory ingredient so these "pits" (Often made from old oil drums or underground tanks fro travel-ready models, and massive concrete boxes for stationary pits) are typically lidded.
The pig roasts slowly, sometimes for as much as 24 hours, at very low temperature (125F-150F), until the skin is crisp and the smoke-saturated meat is so tender that it lifts cleanly from the bones. In the South, this is often the centerpiece of a traditional "Pig Pickin'."
La Caja China
Of course, my preferred pig-roasting method (not surprisingly) are the Cuban-style roasting boxes, known as Caja China, Caja Asadora, or in some regions of the Southern United States, the Cajun Microwave.
Able to roast a whole pig in around 4 hours, for me it embodies the best of the underground oven, and the traditional pit smoker. The split pig is starts cooking "meat-side" down, and is flipped shortly before it's finished roasting, to create more of a "chicharrones" style skin.
When done cooking, the pork is tender to the point of falling off of the bone.
What started out as concrete blocks and steel mesh has evolved into lightweight "Imu on wheels" that I can put in my van and take wherever I want...no shovel required!
La Caja China World
To try your hand at roasting some pigs (and many other meats), as well as amazing side dishes from around the world, and serve them in their traditional style, check out, "La Caja China World"
In every culture and country that we researched in gathering this collection, we found people who enjoyed gathering together with loved ones, lighting a fire, cooking meat over it (or under it), and eating together. Not coincidentally, we think, these folks shared a common passion for life and laughter, as well.
In La Caja China World, we invite your taste buds to join us on a globe-trotting adventure with dishes like: Grilled Tri-Tip & Chimichurri in Argentina Whole Roast Pig & Coconut Rice in Bali Roast lamb & Potatoes in Greece Beef Short Ribs & Scallion Salad in Korea Christmas Goose in Sweden.
If you're looking to roast, grill, bake, braise, smoke, or barbecue; whether you're cooking for a hungry crowd, or creating memories with your family - look no further than La Caja China World!
~ Chef Perry
La Caja China Cooking
La Caja China World
La Caja China Party
La Caja China Smoke (Coming soon!)