While Mexicans are busy stuffing their faces with tamales during the holidays, Puerto Ricans and Cubans are eatings tons and tons of lechón. Personally, my Facebook feed is basically a picture of a whole roasted pork and praise for the magic of La Caja China every other post.
Before La Caja China, Miamians spent the entire day cooking their lechón. But in 1985, fed up with the long commitment, Roberto Guerra was reminded of a wooden box used to cook pork in Cuba – a device that cut cooking time by half, making it a four-hour process instead. After asking his father for help, he created his own version of La Caja China. Since 1987, Guerra has been selling La Caja China, and bringing pork faster to the masses.
In a video for The Miami Herald, Guerra gave a step-by-step guide on how to prepare lechón. We broke it down for you below.
Put This Song on Repeat
First things first, it’s Christmas, and you need to hear the most Miami Christmas song ever created to get in the mood.
Season the ribcage
When you actually start cooking, the first thing you’ll want to do is marinate the pork with mojo. Don’t forget to strain the mojo, so that it can later be injected via syringe.
All the solid stuff doesn’t go to waste, however. You can use it to season the ribcage area.
Fill the syringe with mojo, and inject five 1-ounce shots in each ham. And three one-ounce shots in each shoulder. While giving it hella flavor, the mojo also helps break down the muscle tissue.
Set up La Caja
This is the time when you insert the wire meat thermometer (pork’s ready when it reaches 187 degrees, btw). Cover the box, and pour two piles of charcoal – totaling 16 pounds – on the grid. Light the charcoal, and after half and hour or so (or when you know the charcoal is well lit), spread out the charcoal evenly on the grid.
Note: Self-lighting charcoal can only be used for the first charcoal batch.
Flip the pig
Remove the ashes.
If you want crispy skin – and of course, you do – then you need to flip the pig. Then, you score the skin to help remove some of the fat. Cover the box with the ash pan and grid, but don’t add any more charcoal.
....30-ish minutes later
Half an hour later, you can lift the charcoal pan and see if the skin is as crispy as you’d like. If it’s not give it another 10 minutes before you check again. Keep doing this until you reach peak crispiness.