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Getting the Most out of your La Caja China Top Grills & Chimney Starter

Posted by Chef Perry P. Perkins on

La Caja China Top Grill (angle)La Caja China Stainless Steel Top Grills for Models #1 & #2 fits perfectly across the charcoal tray to provide a large grilling area for appetizers and more. Also can be used to heat side dishes, soups, and many other items.

Personally, as someone who cooks in (and on) his La Caja China several dozen times a year, I would say without hesitation that a Magic Box without top grills is only half a Magic Box.


The ability to grill large quantities of appetizers and side dishes above the coals, while the entrée is slowly roasting to perfection under the coals, is what makes the Caja Asadora the ultimate “full-meal” preparation tool.

Here are some of my favorite tips for using the top grills:

Our traditional Easter leg of lamb grilling to perfection.

  • Contrary to popular opinion, most chef’s (myself included) discourage the idea of oiling the grill itself, as it’s at best not particularly effective, and worse, it can create both dangerous flare-ups and meat scorching, leaving food with a bitter, acrid taste. Pre-heat the grills, and then oil the food, not the grill, just before placing the food over the heat. Brush the tops with oil, just before flipping.
  • Nearly all food, especially meat, will stick to the grill at first, but part of the magic is that meat will “let go” of the grill when it’s ready to turn, and not before. So, if you go to flip that steak, and it feels like it’s cemented down, leave it alone!

        (She’ll let you know when she wants you to roll her over.)

Flipping a couple of hundred burgers for the local VFW

  • One of my favorite ways to use the top-grills is in “grilling only” situations, where I’m cooking up a LOT of burgers or hotdogs (or 60 Cornish game hens…. ;) ) is to leave the box itself at home.

Go to your local “Home Store” and pick up a pair of sheet-metal sawhorses. They’re lightweight, cheap, and best of all they won’t melt or burst into flames. (They will, however get very, very hot…so use with caution!)

Set your ash pan, coal grate, wind deflector (if weather requires) and grill grates on top, and you have a whole lot of grilling space that’s ultra-light, easy to set up, and virtually idiot-proof.

  • Lastly, given the orientation of the grate-rods, you’ll find it much easier to use a spatula or tongs if you set up your coals and food to cook standing at either end of the grills, instead of on either side.

Weber Aluminized Steel Chimney Starter

The Weber Surefire Chimney Starter makes starting your charcoal a snap. It also cuts down the amount of time it takes for the coals to get ready. Outdoor chefs who prefer grilling the traditional way will find this chimney starter system invaluable.

No more waiting around while the charcoal slowly heats up--the chimney's durable aluminized-steel cylinder causes the flames to ignite each briquette quickly and evenly.

I always have a couple of Weber chimney starters on hand to get the coals fired up quickly and cleaning. Best reason for using a charcoal 

chimney…no more of that nasty petroleum flavored fire-starters…ever!


  • To get things fired up, simply fill the chimney with briquettes, place crumpled newspaper under the cylinder, and set on your Caja’s coal grate. A touch of a match through the holes at the bottom starts the fire, and within minutes your coals will be white hot and ready to cook over. 
  • Handle or no handle, always, always, wear heat resistant grilling glove when using a chimney starter, keep long hair tied back or under a hat, and avoid any loose clothing.

  • One of the secrets of a truly restaurant-quality steak or chop, is grilling over extremely high heat, much hotter than you’ll get from a typical gas or charcoal grill. The chimney starter, because it condenses all of those coals into a small area, forcing all the heat straight up, produces a super-hot fire for direct grilling.
  • Pick up an inexpensive small replacement grate (or use something you already have) and grill directly over a full chimney of white coals. (Do NOT oil meat prior to grilling over this high of heat!)
  • Want to add a little smoke to you grilling? (Of course you do!), load your chimney half full of coals, add a single layer of dry wood chunks (I like oak), and top with remaining coals. Light as usual.

By the time your coals are ready to cook over, your wood chunks will have burned to the perfect embers for smoking.

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