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*NOTE: This is the first of a three-part series on roasting a whole pig with La Caja China (a pig roasting box). The first part will cover the design and construction of a custom-made Caja China. The second part will cover the basics of sourcing, processing, and handling of the ideal pig for your roast. Finally, the third part will cover the day-of roasting activities, including what to do after the roast…enjoy!*

You are watching: How To Make A Caja China Box

How to Build a Caja China, aka, Pig Roasting Box. This tutorial will show you how to build your own pig roasting box to roast a whole pig without a pit. Part of a 3 part series documenting how to build a pig roaster, source a whole pig, and roast a whole pig. #howtomake #diy #cubanfood #bbq #pigroast #roastpig

Roasting pigs has been a tradition for me since I was a boy growing up in Miami. My parents are from Cuba, so every Christmas season, my dad and I would go to the local slaughterhouse to find our pig. We’d prepare it and roast it in our backyard with a makeshift pit on the ground made of cinder blocks. This took a lot of time and work, but everyone would rave at just how amazing the pork tasted late at night on Christmas Eve while my brother and I eagerly waited for midnight to unwrap presents.

Pig Roasting Pit vs. Pig Roasting Box

The cinder block pit is a tried-and-true method of roasting a whole pig. It’s easy and cheap, but roasting takes almost a whole day. As an adult, I never really had the time (or the space in my backyard) to roast a whole pig with a cinder block pit. While my dad relied on the cinder block pit to roast whole pigs, other Cuban-American families in South Florida used another device: La Caja China.

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You don’t have to be fluent in Spanish to know that it translates to The Chinese Box. The name doesn’t really matter here. What matters is that this type of roaster will have a whole pig done in four hours! Explaining this concept to people will initially be met with skepticism, but they become quick converts when they taste the end result.

A Brief History of La Caja China

The legend behind La Caja China is that the design was originally introduced by Chinese laborers in Cuba who were building Cuba’s railroads. The design caught the attention of local Cubans, who made the design their own. Ultimately, this box became part of their cultural heritage that was introduced to the United States in the 20th century. Interestingly enough, the Cajuns are known to use a roaster that appears similar to the La Caja China for roasting suckling pig (cochon de lait).

There are many online vendors that sell their version of La Caja China, but they’re not cheap! Some smaller models start at about $400. If you want to add accessories and tools, that’s extra. And that’s not to mention the cost of buying/processing the pig itself. By the time you add all those expenses, you may have spent about $1,000 before you start roasting the pig.

How to build your own pig roaster and save money…

Being the type of guy I am, I figured it would be best if I simply made my own design for La Caja China. I did my research online for plans, and decided to construct my own custom version inspired by a design found here.

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Not wanting to waste effort, I wanted to make sure I could use my own Caja China more than once, so it was going to have a rather robust design. I also wanted to make it useful for handling and transport, so I added wheels, a support leg, and handles from a wheelbarrow. Additionally, I found a roll of flash aluminum to cover the inside of the box to help radiate heat from the sheet to the pig. I still use aluminum foil, but the sheeting increases efficiency.

Gathering the building materials

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Obtaining all of the materials needed to construct my own Caja China was a bit of a challenge. With the biggest problem being obtaining the sheet of steel for the top cover of the roaster.

Depending on where you live, you may experience a similar if not more difficult time finding the right sheet of steel. While the coral-beachresortsharjah.com design called for 20-gauge ungalvanized steel, the local steel supply store only had 16-gauge. A casual observer may look at this and say, “What’s the difference?” The difference is huge!

The thickness of 20-gauge steel is 3/80th of an inch, while 16-gauge is 1/16th of an inch thick. It does not seem like much, but calculating the conductive heat transfer of steel for that difference in thickness means adding approximately 100 minutes to the initial 4-hour roasting time.

Not taking this into consideration would have meant having a very undercooked pig with the 16-gauge ungalvanized steel.

Additional Construction Notes

Overall, assembly of the customized Caja China took about 10 hours. I could not do it by myself as quickly as I did. I was fortunate having my dad with me to assemble the box, and then friends would come by to help cut metal, finish the top cover, and add the neat accouterments. Construction can be accomplished alone, but if you are looking to make this in a single weekend, having help speeds the process considerably.

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Diagrams and instructions to build your own pig roaster:

La Caja China Page 1
How to Build a Caja China, aka, Pig Roasting Box. This tutorial will show you how to build your own pig roasting box to roast a whole pig without a pit. Part of a 3 part series documenting how to build a pig roaster, source a whole pig, and roast a whole pig. #howtomake #diy #cubanfood #bbq #pigroast #roastpig
How to Build a Caja China, aka, Pig Roasting Box. This tutorial will show you how to build your own pig roasting box to roast a whole pig without a pit. Part of a 3 part series documenting how to build a pig roaster, source a whole pig, and roast a whole pig. #howtomake #diy #cubanfood #bbq #pigroast #roastpig

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