4 Tips for Better Barbeque

Tips for better bbq

Photo by Dani Ramsey -Witt

Taking your Grill-Skill from Tragic to Magic
4 Foundational Tips for Better Barbeque

We’ve all see it…the flaming hot dog, the carbon-crusted hockey-puck that was once a hamburger patty, the black-on-the-outside, frozen-in-the-middle steak that comes off the grill like saddle leather, only with less flavor…

I mean, how hard can it be?

MEAT + FIRE = GOOD…right?

So why do so many well-intentioned grillers turn so much good meat into bad food?

Conversely, what do those smug bastards with their instant-read thermometers, and monogrammed aprons know that WE don’t?

What’s the secret?

Well, like many mysteries in life, there is no one secret to good barbeque*, but rather a number of simple skills that some people are taught, and others aren’t. Like almost everything else, no one is born with the ability to grill great food. It’s a learned skill.

So…let’s do some learnin’!

While there are innumerable tips and tricks that you can (and likely will) learn as you spend more time at the grill, more hours pouring over cookbooks and food Network shows, and more of Junior’s inheritance on shiny new grills and monogrammed aprons, for now, lets look at four very simple, yet foundational principles that can take your grill-skill from tragic to magic, quickly…and without cost.

Just a side note – none of these tips are about the price of the meat. Grilling and, to a greater extent, barbeque, is all about taking the cheap (and sometimes throw-away) cuts, and making them not just edible, but incredible. You don’t need to serve $30-a-steak rib-eyes, or fresh Maine lobster-tails, to make a great meal on the grill…watch and see.

(*BTW: I know, I know…grilling isn’t barbeque, and barbeque isn’t grilling. However, for the purpose of this article, I’m not going to get into the whole gas vs. briquettes vs. lump coal vs. hardwood vs. smoker vs. hide-lashed caribou-bone grilling platforms – debate. You’ll get there soon enough, or, if you have an extra month…Google it. For this article, the terms “grilling” and “barbeque” are going to be interchangeable and used specifically whenever I feel like it. Hate me if you must…you won’t be the first.)

How to brine a turkey1. Down to the Briny Depths with ye, Turkey!  

In cooking, brining is a process similar to marinating, in which meat is soaked in brine before cooking. Brining makes cooked meat moister by hydrating the cells of its muscle tissue before cooking, via the process of osmosis, and  by allowing the cells to hold on to the water while they are cooked, via the process of denaturation. (Thank you, Wikipedia!)

How long to brine depends on the size and type of meat you’ve got. Larger meats like a whole turkey need more time for the brine to do its magic. Small pieces of seafood like shrimp shouldn’t sit in a brine for more than half an hour, or so.

Be sure not to brine meats that have already been brined before you buy them, such as “extra-tender” pork, which has been treated with sodium phosphate and water to make it juicier.

Meats that improve on the grill with a good brine:

Chicken & turkey (whole or cut)
Rabbit (or any non-red game meat)
Pork (especially boneless picnic ribs)
Salmon

Fatty meats like beef and lamb are generally not improved by brining.

My basic brine = 1 cup coarse Kosher or sea salt + 1 cup sugar (white or brown) + 1 gallon purified water.

Bring water to a high simmer, add salt and sugar to dissolve, and allow to cool to room temp before adding the meat. You can increase or decrease the amount of brine, as long as you have enough to completely submerse the meat, by modifying the brine ingredients in these proportions.

How much brine do you need?

Here’s a tip: put your meat in the container you’re going to soak it in, and fill it with purified water until completely covered. Remove the meat, and use this water to make your brine. Clever, huh?

How to brine a turkey

One caveat with brining is that whatever you put the meat in, needs to fit in your refrigerator or cooler. Both the meat and brine need to stay below 40F at all times. This isn’t a big deal with a couple of pork chops, but can present some logistical headaches when you’re roasting half-a-dozen turkeys, as I did last Thanksgiving.  In this case, you’re best bet is to sterilize a cooler that’s big enough to fit the meat, brine, and a couple of bags of ice.

General Brining Times

Whole Chicken, Salmon fillets                  4 to 12 hours
Chicken Pieces, Pork Chops                       1 to 1 1/2 hours
Whole Turkey or Pork Shoulder               24 hours
Turkey Breast, Rabbit                                   5 to 8 hours
Cornish Game Hens                                        1 to 2 hours

The beauty of a good brine is you can add whatever you want to it! I often add quartered lemons and chopped garlic to my whole chicken brine, and Chinese 5 Spice to my pork brine. The best flavored brines are often the simplest…citrus juice and dried mint will add a nice Mediterranean flavor to chicken, while cracked black pepper and red wine vinegar provide a rich French flair.


 

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How to brine a turkeyHaving said that, the best turkey I’ve ever eaten was roasted by my Burnin’ Love BBQ partner Terry Ramsey, using Alton Brown’s ingredient-heavy brine from his Good Eats Roast Turkey recipe. That was some next-level bird, brutha!

After brining, always rinse your meat and dry it well before cooking. Otherwise, your dinner is going to be super salty, likewise, don’t salt the meat before, during, or after cooking, nor any sauces or gravies you make with the residual broth (which, btw, is freakin’ awesome.)

Lastly, make sure to keep a close eye when grilling meats that have been brined. Brining adds sugar to the meat and can cause it to burn faster, another reason to use a 2-step grilling method.

Which segues nicely into…

Indirect Grilling

2. Direct vs. Indirect: Knowing when to Move Your Butt

What is the difference between grilling over “direct” and “indirect” heat?

Well, it’s pretty much what it sounds like:

Direct grilling = the food is cooked “directly” over an even heat source. Most experts will tell you that type of grilling really works best for foods that take less than 20 minutes to cook, such as steaks, chops, boneless chicken breasts, burgers and hot dogs.

Personally, except for maybe the burgers and dogs, I think that direct grilling is nearly always the ‘Step 1″ in the a 2-Step process, used to seal the meat and make those beautiful charred grill marks. Typically, I would then move the meat to indirect heat to finish cooking.  For example, a 2-inch-thick steak, or a well brined chicken breast, can be seared or browned over direct heat for a short period of time, and then moved to the indirect heat area to continue cooking internally without burning.

Indirect GrillingIndirect grilling = foods are not cooked directly over the heat. With charcoal grilling, the hot coals are moved or “banked” to opposite sides of the grill, this is known as a 2-Zone Fire (here’s a post on how to set up a 2-Zone Fire).  Often a drip pan with water, beer, or juice is placed on the bare grate, below the meat.

When grilling with gas, the burners are all pre-heated, and then one or more are turned off and the meat is placed directly over the “off’ burners.  I do with this chunks of meat as large as pork shoulders (aka Boston Butt) to sear the outside and seal in all the yummy juices.

Take a look at my “Butts on the Grill” recipe (“move you butt” – get it?) for more.

Again, I believe that indirect heat is best used for finishing foods that need to be cooked for a longer time like roasts, whole poultry, ribs and other large cuts of meat. Except for fish and shellfish, if a piece of meat is too thin to grill over direct heat first, it probably shouldn’t be cooked on the grill at all.

Lastly, never take a piece of meat off the grill when it looks done. By then, it’s too late. The time to plate your entrée is a couple of minutes before it’s done. The external heat will continue to cook the insides to meaty perfection. This is especially true of thin meats like hamburger patties.

When to sauce3. Know when to get Saucy

Many grillers, myself included, either eschew sauce altogether, or serve it on the side.

Too often, all we taste in our bbq is bbq sauce, and I want to enjoy that wonderful flavor of grilled meat! Also, sauce is probably the #1 leading culprit in burned bbq. Many folks don’t realize how much sugar there is in a typical bbq sauce, nor how quickly those sugars will caramelize, and then burn.

The one meat that I do invariably sauce is chicken. I especially like a nice, sticky bbq or teriyaki sauce on a big mess of grilled chicken legs and thighs (in fact, one of my favorite recipes, Lazy Chicken, is included in the Multi-Zone Fire post that I linked to, above.)

The same goes for pork. Beef – not so much. Of course, this is a matter of personal opinion, not religious doctrine, so, to paraphrase one of my favorite foodie personalities, “If it tastes good…sauce it!”

If you do want to sauce your chicken, turkey, or pork, you’ll do it towards the end of the cooking time, and do so after you’ve moved the meat to indirect heat, otherwise you run the risk of the sugars in the sauce burning. One exception to this rule (and of course there’s an exception), is when I’m “finishing” slow roasted ribs. Once they come out of the smoker (or oven), I like to sauce them thinly, and slap them down directly over hot coals for a few seconds, flip, and repeat the process 4-5 times. This layering of charring and saucing, over and over, creates an amazing and complex depth of flavor.

BTW – I do like a good sauce, I’m just a “serve it on the side” kinda guy.

Letting grilled meat rest4. Letting your Meat…Loaf

Have you ever gotten a steak or a chicken breast right off the grill, cut into it with a sharp knife, and had a gush of hot, steamy juices pour out onto your plate?

Me too.

Did you notice, a few minutes later, that that lovely, juicy piece of glorious cow had turned into sawdust?

Me too.

Once meat is removed from the heat, it’s vital that it be allowed to “rest”, tented loosely in foil. Resting allows the meat to relax and reabsorb its own juices back into the muscle fibers, as they cool. If you cut into that same steak or chicken breast after its rested under a foil tent for 5-10 minutes, you’ll see those same juices bead up on the surface of the meat, but not pour out of you plate. This means that the whole cut is going to stay moist.

With small cuts like steaks and chops, I think that just a few minutes (5-10) is sufficient.

Some larger cuts of meat, like pork shoulders, leg of lamb, or beef brisket, require foiling or wrapping tightly in foil, and coolering for a longer length of time. This allows the internal temp to rise the last few degrees without any additional heat, without the outside of the meat overcooking.

Here are some good general resting times:

Pork shoulders (Butts), & Brisket                                2 Hours
Whole Turkey, Lg Roasts                                                30 minutes
Smaller roasts, Whole Chickens, Turkey breasts  10 – 15 minutes
Steaks, Chops, Chicken Breasts                                     5 – 10 minutes

Always tent the meat loosely in foil to keep the surface temperature from dropping much faster than the internal temp. This can lead to drying, as well.

Oh, and while those steaks are resting…toss some chopped shallots, a cup of Merlot, a tablespoon of Dijon mustard, and a teaspoon of chopped garlic into a skillet and simmer. Add any drippings from the steak plate, as well, then pour a couple of tablespoons over each steak, just before serving. (You’ll thank me.)

Okay, so that’s it…

1.     BRINE YOUR MEAT
2.     KNOW YOUR HEAT
3.     SAUCE WHEN BEST
4.     LET IT REST

Try these four simple steps and I guarantee that you will see an instant, and significant improvement in your ‘Que. No more wiener flambé, carbonized steaks, or particle-board chicken.

Clear your calendar, you are about to become the grill-god of your family/neighborhood/ office/church.

Welcome to the club…here’s your apron.

-Chef Perry

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Balinese Rotisserie Chicken

Balinese Rotisserie Chicken on La Caja China

Balinese roast suckling pig is widely considered to be the best pork you can put in your mouth. The secret, besides the constant attention, is the amazing fresh aromatics like lemongrass, chilies, cilantro, and lime stuffing the piggy, and the constant basting with coconut water while spinning over smoking hardwood coals.

I was drooling into my keyboard over this recipe the other day and thought… “that would make a amazing rotisserie chicken.”

And you know what…I was right!

The first thing to keep in mind, if you’re grilling or using the rotisserie over an empty box, is that you want something inside the box to soak up the heat and keep the box from overheating and possibly warping. I found that about a gallon of water in an oven-safe pot does the trick!

water pot

Okay, here we go…

The Recipe

  • 1 3-4lb whole roasting chicken
  • 1/4 cup peeled ginger, sliced
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 lg. shallots, sliced
  • 2 stalks lemon grass, sliced
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lime juice
  • 2 red Thai chilies, optional
  • 1 Tbsp. coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon                                 
  • 2 pieces of star anise
  • 1 tsp Thai shrimp paste
  • 2 bunches fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. salt
  • 4 cups plain coconut water
  • 1 lime, sliced

Rub

  • 1 tsp. saffron threads            
  • 1 Tbsp. turmeric powder
  • 1 Tbsp. fine sea salt

Rinse chickens inside and out with cold water. Pat dry and set aside.

Combine rub ingredients, and rub exterior of chicken on all sides.

Balinese Rotisserie Chicken on La Caja China

Combine all remaining ingredients, except coconut water, for stuffing.

Set ½ cup of stuffing aside for baste. Stuff what remains into the bird, and truss with kitchen string.

Balinese Rotisserie Chicken on La Caja China

Combine the reserved ½ cup of stuffing with coconut water, and set aside for basting.

Balinese Rotisserie Chicken on La Caja China

Light 16lbs (1 bag) of Kingsford charcoal at one end of your la caja china. Light just the front edge of the coals, so that the coals burn slowly from front to back.


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Balinese Rotisserie Chicken on La Caja China

Run the spit-forks, spikes first, up the skewer and push firmly into the chicken. Tighten the wingnuts on the sit-forks to keep them in place. Insert skewer into the upright poles and set square end into motor slot. Turn the rotisserie on.

Rake ½ of the lit coals to the far end of the coal grate (under the chicken). Rake some more to that end, leaving an open slot directly under the chicken.

Balinese Rotisserie Chicken on La Caja China

Roast approximately 2 hours, basting every few minutes with the coconut water mixture, and raking more coals under the chicken as needed until the juices run clear and a thermometer inserted into the inner thigh (but not touching the bone) registers 165°F.

Remove from heat and allow to rest, tenting in foil, for at least 15 minutes.

Enjoy!

Chef Perry

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Luau-style Whole Roast Pig

Whole Luau Pig in La Caja China

Our friend Fred asks:

Have you a special recipe or suggestion on a 90 lb. luau style pig?

Note…done in a Caja China No. 2


Fred,

You bet I do!

I’ve done many whole luau pigs in my Model #1, #2, and the Semi-Pro model, as well.

Here’s my step-by-step video recipe and instructions for Carolina (bbq) whole pig.

The three biggest suggestions I would have, are:

Make sure that your pig is completely thawed, and as close to room temp as your comfortable with, before you start cooking.

Start with as much coal as the instructions say. I’ve used 10lbs instead of 15, and the box just won’t come to cooking temp. It’s really a very scientific design, and the instructions have to be followed pretty close (not always my strong point, lol!) BTW – A standard Weber charcoal chimney holds almost exactly 7lbs of Kingsford briquettes.

Overcome the desire to lift the lid and “peek” during cooking. La Caja China is designed to not be opened at all, except to flip the pig, and it really messes up the cooking time when folks do so. I even use a large metal scoop to remove excess ashes, so I don’t have to lift the lid off to do so.

Hawaiian Mojo

Recipes from “La Caja China Cooking” & “La Caja China World” by Perry P. Perkins

This is my variation of Roberto’s Cuban Mojo. “Real” luau pig is typically seasoned with just salt and liquid smoke., but I like the sweet, Polynesian overtones that this marinade/mop adds to the pork.

1 C orange juice
1 C pineapple juice
½ C mesquite liquid smoke*
1 Tbs oregano
1 Tbs minced garlic
1 tsp cumin
3 tsp salt
4 oz. of water

Mix all the ingredients and let it sit for a minimum of one hour.

For marinade/injection, add the above recipe to 1 ½ gallons of water, and 13 oz. of table salt.

Blend all ingredients and let it sit for a minimum of one hour, strain and inject, or place meat in a cooler and pour marinade to cover overnight.

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After injecting/soaking the pig or shoulder, apply a salt rub all over the meat, use Kosher Salt or Sea Salt.

*Personally, I would skip the liquid smoke and use

Let me know if you have any other questions on this, or any recipe, and let me know how it turns out!

And just ’cause you seem like a good guy, Fred, here’s the full recipes from La Caja China Party for my Luau Pig and my favorite Big Island Mac Salad…

Happy Q’ing!

-Chef Perry

Platter of Luau food

A big ol’ platter of awesome…Luau Pork, Kalbi short ribs, Lomi Salmon, Mac Salad, Purple Yam, Poi…mmm….

Puaʻa Kalua 

(Hawaiian whole roast pig)

Kālua is a traditional Hawaiian cooking method that utilizes an imu, or underground oven. Hawaiian puaʻa kālua (roast pig)  is commonly served at luau feasts. The first known use of the kalua method was in the early 1900s by two girls, Princess Danielle Kealoha and Stephanie Ikaika.

1 – 45-80lb pig, cleaned and butterflied
2 cups mesquite liquid smoke (or better ~ use your A-MAZE-N Smoker)
1 cup Hawaiian salt (or fine sea salt)
8 to 12 large ti/banana leaves

Brush the entire pig with a light layer of liquid smoke, then sprinkle the whole pig inside and out with fine sea-salt.

If you have an A-MAZE-N smoker for your La Caja, skip the brushing with liquid smoke and just burn some apple wood pellets for the first two hours or so. Use the liquid smoke wash at the end of the recipe, if you want more smoke flavor in the meat.

Roast Pig with Banana Leaves in La Caja China

Spread several ti (or banana) leaves on the bottom rack. Place pig between the racks, skin side down, and tie using the 4 S-Hooks.

Cover box with the ash pan and charcoal grid. Add 16 lbs. of charcoal for Model #1 Box or 18lbs. for Model #2, or Semi Pro Box, and light up. Once lit (20-25 minutes) spread the charcoal evenly over the charcoal grid.

Cooking time starts right now. (Write it down.)

After 1 hour, add 10 lbs. of charcoal. Continue to add 10 lbs. of charcoal every hour until you reach 195 on the meat thermometer.

IMPORTANT: Do not open the box until you reach the desired temperature!

Once you reach 195, (4-4 ½ hours) lift the charcoal grid shake it well to remove the ashes, now place it on top of the long handles.

Remove the ash pan from the box and dispose of the ashes.

Flip the pig over, baste and salt again, and replace the cover to crispy the skin.

Flipping is easily done using La Caja China’s patented Rack System, just grab the end of the rack, and lift and slide as you pull upward, using the other hand grab the top end of the other rack and slide it down.

Whole Luau Pig La Caja China

Pull out as much of the ti/banana leaves as possible (toss), and score the skin using a very sharp knife – this helps to remove the fat and crisp the skin. I just cut a shallow X in each of square of the rack. You want to cut through the skin, but not into the meat.  Sprinkle more sea salt on the skin and, if you want, a little more liquid smoke.

Cover the box again with the ash pan and the charcoal grid; do not add more charcoal at this time.

After 30 minutes, take a peek, if Ms. Piggy isn’t quite as gold and crispy as you wanted, close the lid another ten.  You will continue doing this every 10 minutes until the skin is crispy to your liking.

Crispy Skin La Caja China

Once the pig is to your liking, set the lid back on at an angle, so the pig stays warm but isn’t cooking,  and let it rest for 30-60 minutes…it will still be too hot to touch bare-handed.

For easier carving, lay the whole pig, ribs up (on it’s back), and use a boning knife to remove the entire skeleton before slicing or chopping the meat.

Dissolve 2 tablespoons Hawaiian salt in 2 cups boiling water and add 2 tablespoons of liquid smoke. Toss with cooked pork and let stand in this solution for a few minutes before serving.

Serve with Macaroni salad…and a Mai Tai.

Ohoiho!

Island Mac Salad

Big Island Macaroni Salad

Macaroni salad is a staple of the Hawaii-style plate lunch. It’s slightly tangy, slightly sweet and traditionally served with kalua pork and a few scoops of white rice. After MUCH experimentation, this is my favorite method and ingredients, but everyone’s recipe is just a little different. Have fun with it!

1 pound large elbow macaroni
¼ cup very finely grated onion
¼ cup shredded carrots
¼ cup diced green onions
2½ cups Best Foods Real Mayonnaise
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tbs (lots) coarse black pepper

Cook pasta until soft and fat, but you can go al dente if you prefer.

Stir in onion and mayo,

Add salt and pepper, to taste. Stir well and refrigerate 2-3 hours before serving. Sprinkle a little diced green onion over the top.

The abundance of black pepper is what, in my opinion, sets Hawaii-style macaroni salad apart, and above, any other recipe I’ve tried.

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Cold Weather Tips for La Caja China

Whole Roast Pig La Caja China

Our friend Ehren asks:

Hello…I am roasting my first pig on the La Caja China #2 tomorrow and was looking for some tips. First off the hog I have is about 102lbs and the weather is suppose to only be 35* or so.

I am wondering would it be a good idea to allow some extra time for cooking and also because of the size of the hog should I put foil over the hams, shoulders etc. Any suggestions would be much appreciated and thanks for your time!… ~ Ehren


 

Ehren,

Thanks for your email! That’s a big pig you’ve got there, and 35 is pretty cool. I would definitely add 30-60 minutes into the plan for the possibility of a prolonged roasting time.

It’s a lot easier to keep the pig warm if it’s done early, than to asks your guests to wait. (Believe me, I know…lol).

A couple of tips…

Make sure your La Caja China is in a draft free area. Cold wind, especially under the box, can really drop the internal temp. It might not be a bad idea, with those low temps, to use a digital probe thermometer to track the internal temp of the box while roasting your whole pig.(<– See our step by step video on roasting a pig).

Cut a potato in half, around the middle, and push the thermometer all the way through, so at least an inch of the tip is exposed on the far side. Place the potato, cut side down, in the box, making sure that the probe isn’t touching anything. Run the thermometer wire under the nearest top-rail, and out of the box.

You want box temps of 225-250ish.

Second, be sure your pig is fully thawed and close to room temp (I usually leave in on a table for 2-4 hours before roasting.)

Lastly, yes…have some foil on hand, but don’t add it until necessary, as it really deflects a lot of heat. Then, just use pieces just big enough to cover the trouble spots but no more.

If you have questions during your roast, feel free to post them on my Facebook page, or text me at 503-831-8707

Good luck…let us know how it goes!

Chef Perry
joinmykitchen.com

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Sweet & Spicy Jalapeño Lemonade

This one may take the spot as my all-time favorite beverage.

This drink is a PERFECT compliment for barbeque.

Terry’s Sweet & Spicy Jalapeno Lemonade

  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon or lime zest (or both)
  • 1 jalapeno

Slice the jalapeno.

Mix sugar & 2&1/2 cups water in a saucepan over medium heat & cook until sugar is thoroughly dissolved. Allow to cool.

Add lemon juice and zest.

Pour into jar and add jalapeno.

Refrigerate 3 hours then remove jalapeno; leave in longer for spicier drink.

To serve, mix equal parts base and cold water into glass filled with crushed ice.

Makes about 4 cups of base.

 

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Pulled Pork on the Grill

Pork shoulders on a gas grill

Here’s how I do it…

Rub the shoulder with a commercial spice rub (or make your own dry rub) and/or inject the pork shoulder. Set it aside for a few minutes and rub again over any wet spots. Keep doing this until there are no wet spots, the heavier the rub, the better. This makes the “bark” of the shoulder. Wrap the whole thing in saran and fridge 12-24 hours.

Dry rub for pork shoulders

Take shoulder out of fridge and let sit 60 minutes to bring the temp up.

You want indirect heat for cooking, you can easily do this on a conventional gas grill. Just keep the meat as far from the heat source as possible, or it will burn during the long cooking time. You want to cook this at 225 degrees Fahrenheit; you can go as high as 250, but no higher. You don’t want to go lower than 225, as you will start to dry out the meat before it is cooked.

A nice touch is to put the shoulder on the “cool side” of the bbq, and place a disposable pan with a couple of cups of apple juice underneath it. 

A spray bottle with 50/50 apple juice and cider vinegar is nice for basting, as well.

For Smoke: I like to use a 50/50 mix of apple and mesquite chips, soaked together. Add 1 cup every 30 minutes for the first 3 hours.

smoking pork shoulders in a gas grill

 

If you don’t trust your onboard thermometer, get a cheap instant read (or better, a digital probe) and stick the probe all the way through a halved potato. Set the potato cut-side down on the grill. This keeps your thermometer off the grates.

Also, if your smoke-pipe doesn’t come all the way down to the level of the grates, add a piece of flashing (or roll a tube of heavy foil) to extend it. Otherwise 90% of your heat and smoke are flowing across the lid and out the top without ever touching the meat. By bringing the pipe down to the grate level, the shoulder stays bathed in smoke the whole time.

shredding pulled porkThe meat will take between 12 and 14 hours to cook, depending on the size of the roast. The meat is done when it reaches an internal temperature of at least 200 degrees. If you don’t have an instant read thermometer (you should really get one) the meat is done when it pulls apart easily.

Let the shoulder rest at least 30 minutes (45 is better) before shredding with bear paws. This allows the juices to soak back into the meat. Serve with a sauce on the side (see below) and some white bread slices to use as edible napkins!

Or, serve with white bread and coleslaw and make sandwiches out of all (that’s how we do it down south.)

Another option, since your shoulder can only suck up so much smoke is to pop it into the oven after 3hrs, at 225 (draped loosely in foil) until it reaches temp. I like to serve with my Dirty Little Secret Sauce on the side.

Pulled Pork Tips:

Cook with fat-cap up

Marinate, wrapped in plastic wrap, at least 8 hours (12-24 is best)

For oven cooking, brush lightly with Stubbs mesquite liquid smoke, then roast at 225d for 8-10 hours, or until internal temp reaches 200d

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Chili-Lime Grilled Lamb Chops

dreamstime_m_51304707

I enjoy a good piece of grass-fed, dry-aged beef as much as the next food snob, but if given my ‘druthers, I’d take a properly cooked peice of lamb-leg, or lamb chop over cow, any day of the week.

Here’s a favorite recipe of mine, for grilling on top of La Caja China. Makes a great snack while the pig’s roasting!

8 rib lamb chops, 1 1/2 inches thick
1/4 C fresh lime juice
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt

In a small bowl, stir together the chili powder, cumin, sugar, salt, and black pepper. Brush both sides of chops with lime juice, and sprinkle the spice mixture over the chops, rub it evenly all over the meat, and chill the chops overnight.

Prepare La Cajita China, or grill, with glowing coals. For a “high-heat” sear, I like to use my Weber charcoal chimney set directly on the Cajita ash pan.  Fill the chimney 3/4, light, and allow to burn down to half full.

On the oiled rack of the grill or on a broiler pan in the broiler, grill or broil the chops 4 inches from the heat for 5 to 7 minutes on each side for medium rare, rotating halfway through for grill marks.

When I pull the chops off the grill, I let them rest for 10 minutes, then serve with rosemary roasted potatoes and sweet green peas.

Enjoy!

Chef Perry

MY KITCHEN Outreach ProgramBy the way, if you’re enjoying this recipe, please subscribe to our free newsletter! We’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each Friday.

Plus, you’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk kids, in our MY KITCHEN Outreach Program.

 

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La Caja China Guidebook: Free eBook

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La Caja China, for all the pig-related press, is one of the most versatile pieces of equipment I’ve used in a lifetime of cooking and barbecue

With it, we can prepare everything from holiday dinners like St. Patrick’s Day corned beef and Thanksgiving turkey; ethnic delights like Malaysian Satays and Italian porchetta sandwiches, to Kalua pig and Moroccan lamb. We can grill steaks, braise chickens, and roast prime-rib that rivals any restaurant, and do it all in our own backyard…or yours!

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And, of course, we can roast melt-in-your-mouth whole pigs (see the video) that send our guests into fits of gastronomical joy.

Even more importantly, we can prepare these dishes for crowds that would normally require a smoke house, a four-foot deep pit dug in my yard, multiple gas grills, or several full-size ovens. Not only that, but we can do it anywhere, anytime!

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Got questions about brining & injecting, best ways to deal with hot (or cold) weather cooking, the little secrets chefs use to get next-level results?

This free La Caja China Guidebook is your window into the best assembly and preparation tips, and 5 years of chef tested techniques for cooking and serving your pig, lamb, turkeys and pork shoulders, as well as delicious grilling and side recipes.

I love food, I love cooking, and I love La Caja China…and I want to share that love with you.

Please consider me your personal chef “hotline” for anything you want to cook in, or on, your magic box!

Enjoy!

Chef Perry
La Caja China Cooking

Here are some of my most popular “how to” ideas and work-arounds that I’ve come up with in nearly four-years of frequent cooking with La Caja China…just click on this cover to download your free PDF version of  my La Caja China Guidebook

Caja China GuidebookLa Caja China Guidebook
Tips and tricks for getting the most from your Magic Box!

If you’re looking for great recipes for cooking on your “magic box”, check out my cookbooks La Caja China Cooking, La Caja China World, La Caja China Party! available in paperback and Kindle eBook on Amazon.com at:

www.perryperkinsbooks.com

 

MY KITCHEN Outreach ProgramBy the way, if you enjoy our recipes, please subscribe to our free newsletter! We’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each Friday.

Plus, you’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk kids, in our MY KITCHEN Outreach Program.

 

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Easy smoking in La Caja China – A-MAZE-N-PELLET-SMOKER review.

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Every once in a great while you come across a cooking/bbq add-on that is everything a good accessory should be…simple to use (read: idiot proof) and simple to maintain, making the job at hand less (not more) complicated.

Something that’s 100% effective.

Something that truly lives up to its own marketing hype.

This weekend I found just such a product – the “New” A-MAZE-N-PELLET-SMOKER (AMNPS) by A-MAZE-N-PRODUCTS.

First, a little background…

I already own two models of “smoke units” for my various smokers, grills, and La Caja Chinas.

Each is basically effective, in that it imparts a good smoke flavor to the meat that’s cooking. The first is attractively priced at around $50, but very complicated to use, has a major learning curve, and requires the use a proprietary pellet “cartridge” to use. The second is less complicated, allows for non-proprietary pellets/chips, but is 8X more expensive as the first.

Both require an electrical plug in.

http://i0.wp.com/burninlovebbq.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/post2.jpg?resize=262%2C196Now, I can complicate a whole pig roast (see my step-by-step video) with just a pig and fire…without tossing in a, sometimes moody, smoke gadget. When it comes to bbq, I’m definitely more Fred Flintstone than James Bond. I want something that’s a no brainer, I want it to be something I don’t have to make a special plan for (I do a lot of cooking in campgrounds, in the mountains, and at the beach, where electricity can be problematic), and I don’t want to spend an arm and a leg to get it.

Finally…I’ve found something that fits all of my requirements, and requires no “Mods” or drilling of holes in my La Caja China.

The AMNPS is a light weight, durable and portable smoke generator designed to burn pellets or sawdust. The new AMNPS will produce smoke during cold smoking and hot smoking, tested up to 275°. They are versatile enough to be used in just about any smoker or a grill.

At less than fifty-bucks, with no moving parts, no electricity required, and no “special needs”, the AMNPS is built to perform flawlessly for the biggest idiot around…and this weekend it did just that in my La Caja China Semi Pro, at our annual church camp-out and pig roast!

I left the two end rails off my La Caja China for airflow (this creates a ¼ inch gap at either end) and set the smoker on a small piece of foil, directly on top of, and centered on, the pig rack. I used a mix of apple and alder wood pellets, filling the channels of the AMNPS about 2/3 of the way up…lit the pellets with a torch, though a small hole in the end of the smoker, and closed up the La Caja China.  That’s it!

Literally, if you can open a bag of pellets, and light a propane torch…you have mastered all of the skills required to use the A-MAZE-N-PELLET-SMOKER.

Note: It took me a while but the “MAZE” in “A-MAZE-N”…it’s a maze…get it? I told you it was idiot proof!

So, my only concern was that the heat from the underside of La Caja China’s coal pan would be intense enough to get all of the pellets smoking at one time, which would defeat the purpose of a long, slow smoke. My worry was for naught…I peeked at around 2.5 hours (I know, I know, I always say “no peeking” but these were special circumstances!) and the AMNPS had run about ½ the course. I checked again at 5.5 hours and it had burned to the end.

So it works…you don’t have to peek for yourself. Rule #1 – No Peeking!

The mix of pellets gave a perfect subtly sweet/smoky flavor to our 85lb pig, creating a beautiful 1/2 to 3/4 inch “smoke ring” on the shoulders and hams. In fact, my pastor, who’s also a foodie and bbq junkie, took one look at the pellet smoker, and spent the rest of the weekend trying to talk me out of it!

I doubt I’ll ever use either of my other “smoke units” again…I’m totally sold out on the AMNPS. I’ll be updating the “smoking” recommendations in all of our cookbooks in the next few weeks, to recommend this pellet smoker…that’s how serious I am about it.

If you have a La Caja China, another brand of pig roasting box, or any smoker or grill that requires a smoking accessory, you need an A-MAZE-N-PELLET-SMOKER.

Tell ’em Perry sent you!

Okay, I gotta go eat some leftover pig now.

Happy Q’ing!

-Chef Perry

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