Do-It-Yourself Caja China Box Pig Roast via Saugatuck Craft Butchery

Ryan Fibiger

Ever wondered how to roast a whole pig at home? Well so did many of our readers who wrote in after Porktoberfest, looking for a recipe and instructions. If you can get your hands on a pig, it's not actually that difficult...

We asked Ryan Fibiger of Saugatuck Craft Butchery, if he could give CTbites some pointers on a do-it-yourself pig roast using the popular Caja China roasting box.

Here's what he said...

The instruction online and on the La Caja China website ( are pretty good.  I would use these as a starting point and amend with the following:
  • A 40-50# pig will take ~4hrs, 50-60# ~5hrs, 60-70# ~7hrs, 70-80# ~8hrs, 80-100# (max) ~10hrs
  • Craft always brines the pig and inject the larger muscles two days prior to cooking.  We use the following ingredients in proportions that differ depending on the pit master: (salt, black peppercorn, garlic, oregano, cumin, chili powder, oranges and juice, limes and juice, lots of ice.  Salt is key here, it should be slightly saltier than the ocean to taste)
  • Always dry the pig completely (allow 2-3 hours out of the brine to temper and dry) and use a dry rub prior to cooking.  Our rub is heavy on paprika, cumin and chili powder.
  • Pick up an inexpensive meat thermometer with a digital display and a probe to give you both the box temp and the pig temp (insert into the largest muscle of the ham - the top round)
  • Don't get fancy with the charcoal...use the cheap Kingsford stuff which burns fairly cool and consistently.
  • When loading the charcoal, we deviate from the online advice.  Start the charcoal before loading the pig so you can get the initial temp correct (no higher than 350).  The most common mistake I see is burning the pig immediately with a very high box temp.
  • Once you've stabilized the temp around 250, feed the charcoal consistently (not in large batches as prescribed by the company).  This will avoid big temp spikes.
  • You will need to remove the grate and clear the charcoal and ash every couple hours.  This acts like an insulator and will make it hard to control the box temp.  Make sure you have something safe to put the hot ashes into.
  • If you want to slice the pig to serve, you want an internal temp of ~165.  If you want to pull it (more common with the box), you want a 185 internal temp before you flip it over.
  • Once you've hit the desired temp, load the box with charcoal (you may need to relight) and put it to the side while you deal with the pig.
  • Flipping the pig is a two person job.  It's going to want to fall apart at this point, so you'll want to do it quickly and get it back in the box with the skin side up.
  • Score the skin at random into roughly bite sized pieces and season liberally with a coarse sea salt.  This cracklin will be the chef's reward.
  • Now you want the temp to spike quickly (>450 if possible).  This step should be no more than 30 mins and you need to keep an eye on it.  If parts of the skin are getting too burned before the other skin cooks, you can use aluminum foil to protect it.
  • As for serving, forget the carving knife.  Get a pair of thick rubber kitchen gloves and just start pulling.