Caja China: The Cuban Pig Roaster

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I stopped to admire what looked like a charcoal grill loaded with fajita meat and tortillas while checking out the tailgating action at Reliant a couple of weeks ago. But Mariano Moreno, the grill chef, threw me a curve ball. If you look closely at the grill in the photo and you will notice what look like two wheelbarrow handles sticking out of each side of the grill. Mariano summoned a friend over and they used these handles to lift up the entire firebox and grill assembly to show me what was below.

Photo by Robb Walsh

In an insulated box underneath the coals, there was a slow-cooking chamber that was big enough to accommodate a whole pig. As it happened, Moreno and company had already cooked and consumed a whole wild hog earlier in the day. Now they were cooking whole sections of beef short ribs in their amazing cooker.

We have written about the pig roasting box called a caja china, or asador cubano, here before. As we noted, a company in Miami sells “La Caja China” for around $300. But Moreno and company told me they bought theirs in Monterrey, Mexico where they are quite common.

Photo by Robb Walsh

And once they mentioned it, I remembered seeing a cruder and less portable version of a pig-roasting box made out of steel in the Campesino’s market in Monterrey. There the box was being used to slow roast cabrito. I sampled some of the finished product--it was melt-in-your-mouth tender and very moist.

I love barbecue, but I prefer roasted cabrito to smoked cabrito. The asador cubano is the perfect piece of equipment for slow roasting with minimal smoke. I am willing to bet you can get an excellent Cuban roasting box complete with grill in Monterrey for a hell of a lot less than $300. If anybody has a source for them down there, please share.

-- Robb Walsh

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