A friend of mine asked about how to achieve that super crispy “pig candy” skin when roasting a pig in La Caja China.
First of all, just following the directions on the box itself is a great start, and will get you a yummy crisp skin. For that “potato-chip” crisp that makes Cuban and Fillipino lechón so amazing, however, I suggest a couple of things above and beyond the typical recipe.
The first two steps can be used with any “whole hog” cooking method, while the third is specific to La Caja China style roasting boxes.
The fact is, the dryer skin is when you start cooking, the crisper is will turn out. That lovely crunchy skin on Peking Duck comes from air-drying the duck’s skin prior to cooking. Similarly, there are a couple of things you can to to get super-crunch results with your pig.
#1. After marinading (or if not marinading, then the night before roasting) pat the entire pig down with paper towels to remove excess moisture. Then, rub the skin generously with a salt-heavy rub, or straight sea salt. I recommend a fine grind, as it will adhere better.
Personally, I prefer to inject the pig (or whatever I’m roasting), instead of marinating it externally, as soaking in liquid for hours is kinda counter productive to drying the skin, lol. It’s also a lot less messy.
#2. As you bring the pig to room temp (a must), set up an oscillating fan – or, preferably, two – pointed at the uncovered pig, to help to help “air-dry” the skin as much as possible.
If your fan(s) can’t cover the whole carcass at one time, move them around every 30 minutes or so.
#3. When you flip your pig to brown the skin for the last 30 minutes or so, pat the skin down again with paper towels, give it another sprinkle of rub, and (most important) set the coal tray back on at a slight angle so that there are gaps on both sides of the box.
This will allow any excess moisture cooking out of the skin to escape the box, instead of being contained and “steaming” the skin.
Watch your pig carefully at this point, as a dry skin will brown (and burn) much faster than one with a high moisture content.
Hope that helps, lemme know if you have any questions!
PS – I like this Q&A so much, I’m going to update my free ebook, “La Caja China Guidebook” with this info! Thanks!
PPS – If your first try or two for crispy skin doesn’t turn out perfect, DON’T THROW THAT SKIN OUT!
Instead, bag it, let it cool (or freeze), then, when you’re ready for an awesome snack, cut the skin into 2×2 squares, and place them on a rack , skin up, over a foil-lined cookie sheet.
Sprinkle lightly with salt or rub, and roast in a 300d oven for 3 hours or until deeply tan and very crispy. Allow to cool until just warm, and serve with a dipping mix of cider vinegar, salt, and red pepper flake. Yummo!