Summer's Coming...Get Ready for It! - Part II
~Chef Perry Perkins~
Last time, we looked at some important steps in gearing up for BBQ season. Things like organizing your cooking area, cleaning, and setting up a “safe zone.
Here are a few more important tips to make sure that your Caja Station is tuned up and ready to turn out some next level BBQ.
Stock your Cooking Area:
Make sure you have a good supply of any accelerant you use, and matches, lighters, etc, as well as a safe place, and waterproof place to store them.
Keep on small box or shelf just for cleaning supplies, scrub brushed, etc.
Charcoal: you're going to use a lot of charcoal, and maybe smoking chips or pellets, this summer, and you'll save a lot of money, and last minute frustration, by stocking up in advance (the French cooking term is Mise en Place).
The very best deals you're going to find will be at the big box store, and restaurant supply warehouses, right around Memorial Day weekend, Independence Day, and again around Labor Day Weekend, often in double bags at half price.
I keep a couple of bags in a weatherproof box at my cooking station, and then another stack in my garage. Unless you live in an arid part of the country, I wouldn't recommend keeping your charcoal, or pellets, outside, even in a covered area, if you don't plan to use them within a week or two.
Even if they don't get rained on, briquettes, and even more so, pellets...can suck moisture right out of the morning air. I go through about 2 bags a of charcoal a week, so that's what I keep at my station.
Clean and Set-Up your Roasting Box
Now I KNOW you gave your roasting box a thorough cleaning before you store it away, so all you should need to do now is a quick spray and wipe with some kind of green cleaner, maybe wire brush and oil any spots of rust, and you're good to go.
If your top grills are food-ready, let them heat up over coals, and scrub the with a wire brush, or pumice stone.
Set your box in the spot you want it (again making sure it's at least 2 feet away from any burnable surfaces, walls, or furniture, ON ALL SIDES of your roasting box).
If you live in a windy area, consider setting up some type of wind-break to keep your box out of the breeze.
Not only does this reduce the risk or spreading hot ashes and sparks, but it significantly increases the cooking efficiency of the Caja.
Note: (from personal experience) when using a Caja, especially for smoking, you're going to produce a lot of smoke (duh, right?)
As much as possible, try to place your box in a spot that isn't going to be funneling smoke into your own open windows (first OR second story), or...even more importantly...into your NEIGHBOR'S windows.
If this just isn't possible, try to be the kind of guy (or gal) YOU'D want to live next door to, and let them know, in advance, that you're going to firing it up, or...even better...invite them over!
Setting off your elderly neighbor's smoke alarms doesn't win you a lot of friends...trust me.
Test Run: If you use your outdoor cooking area for entertaining, like I do, do yourself a favor.
Do a "Launch Party" test run for just your family. This way if you've forgotten something, or something needs immediate repair or replacement, shutting down your BBQ plans for the evening, it's a lot easier to order a pizza for the fam, than to explain to your co-workers and boss why you’re serving PB&J's, instead of that roast pig you've been talking about all week!
As a third-generation chef, Perry P. Perkins focuses his love of cooking on barbeque, traditional southern fare, and fresh Northwest cuisine.
Perry runs the non-profit organization, MY KITCHEN Outreach Program, which teaches nutrition, shopping, and hands on cooking classes for at risk youth.
His cookbooks include La Caja China Cooking, La Caja China World, La Caja China Party, and the NEW “La Caja China Grill.”
You can follow the rest of Chef Perry’s cooking adventures at ChefPerryPerkins.com