Pork Cuts Basics for Caja China Style Cooking
With the holiday season fast approaching, and so many people from all over the country (and the world) purchasing La Caja China style Roasting Box grills, certain questions keep coming up. One of those questions is, “How do I know what’s what once I’ve cooked the pig?” Well folks, fear no more. This week’s post is going to teach you all you need to know to not only roast like a pro in your Caja China grill, but to carve like one as well. We’ll start with a chart of the wholesale cuts of pork:
When you begin roasting, the pig will be placed ribs up on the bottom rack inside your La Caja China style Roasting Box. This is done to allow the meat to cook fully and evenly from the heat of the charcoals above. For the last 30-45 minutes, however, many Caja China connoisseurs (myself included) prefer to flip the pig skin side up, to allow the skin to bronze and crisp to perfection. It is during this last 30-45 minutes that it is important to monitor your heat (preferably with a meat thermometer) to ensure that you do not burn the skin. The areas most susceptible are the shoulders and legs, where your boston butt’s, pork butts, and hams come from. The reason they are most susceptible is because they are the thickest areas, and therefore rise to a closer proximity of the heat source. Typically when doing a whole roast pig, the most sought after part of the pig is the loin, which stretches along the back, just above the spare ribs. A little known secret is that the jowl, and particularly the cheek, have some of the most tender meat anywhere on the pig. (Don’t tell your friends, they’ll fight you for it!) Using the chart below, you will be able to view the full side of the pig as it will look when cooking, and see where the different cuts come from. This is great for providing an idea of how to go about carving, though by no means is it required. Sometimes you just gotta slap it on the plate and go!
Another great thing about knowing your cuts is the flexibility it allows you. As we continue to post new Caja China recipes and links, many will be for spare ribs, boston butts, pork shoulders, etc. Once you’ve learned some basics, you can go ahead and get yourself a whole pig and carve it yourself. We often will do a butt or some spare ribs, then freeze the other cuts and prepare them later. It’s also a great way to save yourself some money, and allows you to try different sauces and rubs with your cuban roast box (or Cajun Microwave for you folks in Louisiana.) For example, down here in Miami the Mojo Criollo marinade is most popular, and is absolutely delicious with its citrus and pepper flavor. It’s my favorite when going “whole hog” in my Caja Asadora (spanish for “Roasting Box“). On the other hand, when preparing spare ribs in our La Caja China style roaster, I prefer the sweet and spicy Kansas City style barbecue sauces. The best part figuring out what you like, is actually trying ’em all! For those who’ve asked, I hope this has answered your questions, and for the rest of you, you’re officially one step closer to becoming a Caja China Grill Master! See you next week, with a brand new pork recipe that’s perfect for the holidays…