Summer's Coming...Get Ready for It! - Part One
~Chef Perry Perkins~
The sun's out the days are getting longer, and in backyards all over the country, folks are getting ready for BBQ & Grilling season!
Soon, many of you will be pulling that Caja China or Cajun Microwave out of the garage in reparation for a long, glorious season of meat, and smoke, and fire. But, before we light that first pile of charcoal, I just want to share some helpful tips, to start the summer off right.
Whether you do your Caja cooking on your porch, deck, driveway, or in your "outdoor kitchen", before you start cooking, you need to (as we say in the restaurants) set your station.
Cleaning: Give your cooking area a good sweeping to make sure that there isn't a lot of dust and dirt that can get onto your food, or bit of paper and debris that could pose a fire danger.
Plus, it's just easier to relax and enjoy yourself, in a clean space.
Safety: Clear and maintain a minimum 2-foot “clear zone” all the way around your roasting box (and further from the side of any buildings). Get in the habit of checking your Clear Zone before you light your coals, every time you cook.
Set up a hose, with a spray nozzle and shut off valve, within easy reach for your station for quick access, and TEST IT. Believe me, when your siding is starting to smoke is NOT when you want to discover that some winter critter chewed a hole in the other end of your hose, or have to run to turn on the water at the faucet!
If you have nearby trees or bushes, make sure that they are well trimmed, and nothing has encroached into the “clear zone” around your roasting box over the winter.
NOTE: Keep in mind, if you plan to place your fire pan across the handles of your box, you'll need to figure 2 feet from the edge of that, as well.
Lastly, if you are cooking on a wood deck or patio, have some bricks, or concrete blocks (I use a paving stone) to set that red-hot chimney on, after you dump your coals on the fire-pan.
Organize Your Cooking Area
Organizing your gear can be as elaborate as a commercial storage unit, or as DIY as a cinder-block and pine-board shelving.
Get some weatherproof totes, with lids, and make sure you have all the gear you need, close by. Things like your charcoal chimney, lighter fluid, torch or matches, heat resistant gloves, and anything else you've needed in the past, to get the BBQ job done.
A place to hang your utensils is nice, as well, as are doors to keep inquisitive critters out of your stuff. If you’re as hopelessly OCD as I am, label your totes, or at least use clear ones, so you can find what you’re looking for without going through every tote.
I like to keep a couple of metal sawhorses, to rest my firepan on, as well as a 4-foot folding table, leaning against the wall, for a prep area. A 50gallon trash-bag will cover most of the table, to keep in clean when you’re not using it. I also like to start this job with a notebook and pen handy, to jot down items I'm out of or low on, and things that need to be replaced.
I recommend dragging out your favorite lawn chair, and a small end table, as well. I mean, you gotta have someplace to set that cold drink!
Go ahead and add yours...you know you want to!
BBQ & Grilling season
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