Traeger Smoked Honey Swai or Tilapia

Swai is a species native to the rivers of Southeast Asia, also known as iridescent shark. It’s not a shark, but rather a catfish.

It is found in the Mekong basin as well as the Chao Phraya River, and is heavily cultivated for food there. The meat is often marketed under the common name swai.

Sold cheaply the United States, it has a milder flavor and more delicate texture than our native catfish. with a moist, sweet, mild flavored flesh. The meat is beige color when raw, and turns white after cooking. In the U.S. it is often sold as frozen skin-off fillets weighing from 2 oz to 11 oz each.

In my opinion it’s similar to Tilapia, but more flavorful.

I just happened to have a case of these lovelies in my freezer when the new Traeger arrived.

Here’s a simple, inexpensive, and delicious meal for my fellow fish fanciers…

Traeger Smoked Honey Swai or Tilapia

2-3 lbs. swai or tilapia fillets
½ – ¾ cup honey*
4 cups water
¼ cup sea salt
2/3 cup brown sugar
Black pepper
Granulated garlic
Cayenne (opt)
Apple or alder Traeger pellets

*I used Manuka honey, which I brought home from last years International Food Bloggers Conference. It is, by far, the best honey I’ve ever had, my favorite to cook with, and its rich earthiness was absolutely amazing with this fish.

Mise en Place

Thaw and rinse the fillets.

For brine: Combine water, sea salt, and brown sugar. Whisk to dissolve and pour over fish fillets (I put it all in a gallon zip bag) and brine for 1 hour.

To Cook

Set Traeger to “smoke” and preheat.

Remove fish from brine, rinse in cold water and pat dry, and then generously glaze each fillet with honey (top side only.) Sprinkle with pepper, granulated garlic, and cayenne to taste.

Loaded fillets into Traeger, directly on the grill.

Smoke 20 minutes, then change heat setting to 225F, and cook another 40 minutes. DO NOT PEEK! Remove swai from Traeger and serve.

I like to place mine directly over a bed of white rice, and let rest for about 10 minutes, so the juices from the fish seep into the rice, then serve with a steamed veggie. See top picture.

The leftover swai (assuming you have any) is great the next morning, chopped and scrambled with eggs and white onions, and served with hot white-corn tortillas!


Chef Perry

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Filed under On The Grill, Traeger BBQ

Traeg-dor lives!

Traegdor2So, I’ve gotten a number of messages asking me what the first thing I plan to cook on my new Traeger Big Tex (code name: “Traeg-dor”…those who get it, get it.)

Frankly, I’m shocked at how little my friends seem to know me…lol!

The first ride in your new car…you play Creedence.

First time you watch a new big-screen…you play The Godfather.

And the first time you fire up a new smoker…you play with BACON.

I love bacon, I don’t think that’s a newsflash, but there’s bacon…and then there’s bacon cooked in a smoker, and one ain’t the same as the other.

For my brisket-loving brothers (and sisters), think of it as the “burnt-ends” of the bacon world. Richer, intensely smokey (real smoke, not that flavored water that’s in most bacon).

After a little research prior to firing up my new baby, I discover that Traeger owners a BIG FANS of cooking bacon in their rigs, and many say it’s their primary, year-round, use.

And…it’s crazy easy!

(Fyi…I’m talking about cooking “pre-cured” bacon, not home-curing pork belly…though I am, of course, gonna have to try THAT too!)

Traeger Bacon

Preheat your Treager on the “smoke” setting. Place your bacon slices directly on the grill (though some folks recommend using a FrogMat) and cook for 30 minutes, flip at 30 minutes, set temp to 275F, and cook for another 15-20 minutes (depending on how crispy you like your bacon.) That’s it!

Bring on the best BLT of your life!

Traeger Bacon BLT

-Chef Perry

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How to Create Your Own BBQ Rub

What is a Rub?

A Rub is a spice and/or herb blend that’s used to coat meats prior to cooking. Rubs can be completely dry or can incorporate some liquids. This is called a wet rub or paste. Rubs are typically used in barbecue and grilling because they stick to the meat whether it’s on a gas grill, a smoker, or even in the oven. A common rub base is salt, paprika and/or chili powder to add color and mild flavor.

How to Create Your Own BBQ Dry Rub

Personally, I like to combine a generous amount of dry rub on the outside of the meat, with an injectable marinade to add flavor to the interior, especially with large cuts like pork shoulders.

Mixing Your Own Rub

Homemade dry rubs are cheap, simple to make, and usually taste better than store-bought varieties, plus they can be easily tailored to your personal tastes or dietary restrictions. Once you nail down the basics, you can create an endless variety of dry rubs.

A good dry rub should include five elements: A base, a salty element, a sweet element, a spicy element, and a signature element.

Base: I like smoked paprika for a solid rub base, but many folks use a hot or sweet paprika as well. You can customize your paprika base by adding chili powder or cumin.

Salty: This would be salt. Avoid iodized table salt in your rub (in fact, avoid that stuff in anything you plan to eat…) common options are Kosher or sea salt (coarse or medium), seasoned salt, Hickory or smoked salt, or for pastes and wet rubs, you can try soy sauce or Thai fish sauce for your salt element.

Sweet: Again, an almost endless list of options: white or brown sugar, honey, molasses, sweet chili sauce, or maple syrup (wet), ginger, cinnamon, etc.

Spicy: Black, white, and red ground peppers, red pepper flake, or for serious spice, try a little (a little!) ghost pepper powder.

Signature: Finally, make it your own with a dash or two of something you like, spices like coriander, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, mustard, rosemary, and thyme. Even garam masala or curry power, anything goes!

Make it a cup at a time, and tweak your recipe until it’s perfect!

Here’s my rub recipe (from our cookbook, “MEAT FIRE GOOD”)

Burnin’ Love BBQ” is the name of the BBQ Team that my fellow pit-masters, Chris Renner, Terry Ramsey, and I operate. (Really, it’s just an excuse to stand around in smoke and cook a lot of pigs and briskets… just don’t tell our wives, okay?)


This is our top-secret pork shoulder rub…enjoy!


BBQ Rub RecipesBBQ Pork Shoulder Rub
  • ¼ C smoked paprika
  • ¼ C coarse sea salt
  • ¼ C light brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs garlic powder
  • 2 Tbs onion powder
  • 2 Tbs Italian seasonings (spicy, if you can find them)
  • 2 Tbs coarse black pepper
  • 1 Tbs hickory salt
  • 1 tsp cayenne powder

Apply the rub generously to the inside of a butterflied pork shoulder, roll it, tie it, and apply more rub to the outside. You MUST allow the rubbed shoulder to rest in the fridge at least overnight so that the rub will help form that wonderful “bark” while roasting.

Finally, after it’s done cooking and you’ve pulled, chopped, or shredded the meat, give it one last sprinkle for an intense, spicy flavor.

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Our La Caja China Pinterest Board

La Caja China Pinterest

Hey everyone, just wanted to let you know that we created a La Caja China board on Pinterest this weekend.

Great place to find a bunch of my recipes, tips, and tricks in one place!

-Chef Perry
La Caja China Cooking  
La Caja China World
La Caja China Smoke (coming soon!)


Filed under Press Releases

Rotisserie Grilling Tips

Rotisserie Grilling Tips
“Spit-roasting is one of the world’s most ancient and universal forms of grilling, and there’s nothing like it for producing exceptionally moist meat with a crackling crisp crust.” – Steven Raichlen

I like chicken just about any way it can be prepared, but for the juiciest, most flavorful bird, I’ll hang my hat on rotisserie grilling, even more so now with the grill accessories that are available. This even-heating, self-basting method ensures a perfectly cooked bird, with crispy skin all around. Using a grill (with a rotisserie burner) is especially convenient when cooking for parties or holiday get-togethers, as it frees up the oven and stove-top, and you don’t even have to remember to flip or baste your entrée!

Start with a good dry rub, end with proper treatment of the finished fowl, and you’ll have a winner chicken dinner that folks are going to remember!

Plus, rotisserie cooking is thought to be the oldest cooking technique known to man… so that’s pretty cool, too.

Here are 5 things to remember when grilling a chicken rotisserie style:

Dry rub 8-24 hours in advance

Rotisserie Grilled ChickenA dry rub is a combination of salt, spices, herbs, and sometimes sugars, that’s used to flavor meat in advance of cooking. Unlike a marinade or brine, a dry rub forms a crust on the outside of the meat when cooked.

The salt draws out the juices in the meat, making it more moist and tender, while the sugars caramelize and form a seal that traps in flavor and juices.

You can add just about anything you want to a rub (and you should experiment with some of your own favorite flavors) but here’s my go-to dry rub for chicken: 2 Tbsp. sea salt + 1 Tbsp. each: dark brown sugar, coarse black pepper, granulated garlic, smoked paprika, onion powder, and Italian seasonings. Combine all in an airtight container and mix until completely blended.

Once you’ve sprinkled, then rubbed the spices into (and under) the skin, and trussed it, wrap the whole bird in plastic wrap and refrigerate until 1-2 hours before you plan to start cooking it. Be sure to sprinkle some of your seasonings into the body cavity of the chicken or turkey, as well.

Truss the bird

3Trussing (tying up) a whole bird before cooking is always a good idea as it helps keep it moist and promotes even cooking (and a prettier presentation), but for rotisserie grilling it’s absolutely essential. A non-trussed bird will loosen up on the bar, legs and wings floppin’ ever which-a-way, and start burning at the extremities long before the rest of the chicken is cooked through to the bone.

Trussing isn’t particularly difficult, but it does take some practice to perfect. Google “How to truss a chicken” for any number of excellent videos and step-by-step guides to trussing.

Watch the heat

4I like to preheat my grill (burners on full, lid down) before putting the pre-loaded spit (the rod that holds the meat) in place. Watch the bird closely, checking every few minutes at first, and adjust your flame as needed to avoid hot spots or burning the skin.
Cook to the right temp

Figure about 25 minutes per pound to cook a chicken on a rotisserie, but what you’re really looking for in an internal temp in the thickest part of the thigh of 175 °F. A lot of variables can affect the number of minutes it takes a bird to cook to the bone, including starting temp of the meat, the heat of your grill, and the weather while cooking, but 175 °F is done regardless of outside influences.

Give it a rest

Once your chicken is removed from the heat, it’s vital that it be allowed to “rest” for 15-20 minutes, tented loosely in foil.

Resting allows the meat to relax and reabsorb its own juices back into the muscle fibers as they cool. The reason for tenting in foil is to keep the surface temperature from dropping much faster than the internal temp, which can lead to drying.

Once the chicken has rested go ahead and snip away the trussing (I use a pair of kitchen shears for this), cut the bird up as you see fit, and serve.

Oh, and be sure to save those lovely roasted bones and extra bits for making stock or flavoring soups or gravies. It’s gold!


Chef Perry


Filed under Grilling is Happiness, On The Grill, Technique

Man cannot live on pork alone…

Pork Alone

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by | August 25, 2013 · 10:22 AM

Q&A: Ingredient substitutions for Pierna Criolla


Maggi asks:

Hi Perry:   We just became proud owners of a #2 La caja china cooking box. But after ordering sour orange Juice and the other Mojo can of Guava shells on line the cost is really “ costly “.

Do you have any ideas or substitutions for Pierna Criolla pork shoulders?

We watched the Throwdown with Bobby Flay and Roberto Guerra. What fun!



P.S.  (Sure hope you can help us out)



Heyya neighbor!

YES! I’ve found everything I need to make Pierna  criolla at my local Mexican grocery. There’s one  in Wilsonville in the strip mall behind the Arbys. There are a couple in Tualatin, as well, but I haven’t checked them out yet.

Here’s a top secret trick…if you can’t find guava shells, buy some halved peaches (in water) drain well, pat as dry as possible, then soak overnight in Guava Nectar (available at most grocery stores with the juices or sodas.)

Also, you can make a really good “sour orange” by mixing 3 parts fresh squeezed orange juice with 1 part lemon juice. You can see the recipes for making the mojo this way, in this post.

Be sure to download a copy of my La Caja China Guidebook (it’s free!)

Lemme know if you have any other questions!

-Chef Perry

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Some common grilling mistakes…you might be making!

We have a great guest post today from our friend’s at JES Restaurant Equipment! Check out the infographic, below, on some very common mistakes that grillers make, and the corresponding tips to help make your live-fire cooking the best it can be!


Now that the weather’s warmed up, millions of people are firing up the grill and cooking up delicious meals. But how many of you are making these common grilling mistakes?

  • Pressing your burgers flat with the spatula (smooshes the juices right out)
  • Cooking too fast (or too slow – don’t forget the sear!)
  • Burning your sauce (put sugary sauces on when you’re almost done cooking)
  • Cutting into meats without letting them rest (resting the meat for about 5 minutes seals in the juices – thicker cuts need even longer)

We focused on tips for a gas grill (like the popular Holland Grills), but these tips will work equally well on charcoal grills.

Easy tips for grilling like a pro! (Infographic)! (Infographic)


Source by JES Restaurant Equipment


Filed under Technique

BBQ Humor

BBQ Humor

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by | May 9, 2013 · 6:47 AM

Grilling is Happiness: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself When Buying a Gas Grill

Summer’s coming, baby! That means it’s grilling season, and maybe time to shop for some new hardware. Where to start? One online search and you realize that there are a whole heap of grills on the market!

How the heck are you supposed to know which one is right for you?  People are throwing around terms like “BTU’s”, and “flavor bars”, for Pete’s sake!

Here are 5 quick questions that will help you narrow the field…

1. Is it small enough?
Live in an apartment or condo, or a house with a tiny back deck? Know how much space you’re going to need for your new baby, as well as clearance for fire safety and room for the cook.

2. Is it big enough?
Pretty much any grill out there will fit some burgers under the lid, with room to spare…but what happens next Thanksgiving when you really want to impress the in-laws with a grilled turkey, only to find that you grill’s lid won’t close over your gobbler of choice?

Make sure there’s enough area to cook anything you might get a hankerin’ for. And, of course, a family of eight is going to need a lot more grill-space than a couple does.

Read the rest of Chef Perry’s article, here.

Looking for a great recipe for the maiden voyage of your new grill? Check out our “Dragon Claw” BBQ Appetizer!


Filed under Grilling is Happiness