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Cooking small amounts in a big La Caja China

barbecue (308x400)Our SimplySmartDinnerPlans friend (and La Caja China brutha), Clem, asks…

“Chef Perry. I am going to try a pork butt on my #2 la caja china this weekend for my fantasy football group. Can you advise me on the amount of charcoal to initially use for a single roast in this unit?

The la caja china recommended 18#’s seems like a lot. The tip you offered on your whole pig la caja china made sense to primarily cover the ham and shoulder areas with coals, so I thought the same for a pork butt.

BTW I am going to roast a whole pig for the first time soon and your terrific video has given me a big confidence boost. Thanks so much! – Clem”

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Clem, you’re certainly welcome!

I wish I had a better answer for you on roasting a pork butt in a model #2, unfortunately, I’ve never tried that.

Here’s the challenge: you’re going to have so much extra empty space that will have to maintain cooking temperature, that while you may need less coals to get it to temp at first, in the long run you’re going to need MORE coals to keep all that empty air hot. A whole pig, or several shoulders/butts, take up a lot of mass, and once they start to warm up, they help keep the ambient temperature up.

Without that mass, it’s going to be a constant fight.

Here’s my completely unauthorized, and untested, possible solution This is what “I” would try: I would go with your idea of a selective fire, ie: build your coals up at one end of the box, and then build some kind of barrier INSIDE the box….maybe fire-brick, or foil wrapped pans (to reflect the heat). THEN heat a big pot of water to a simmer, foil the top (to minimize steam escaping), and place it in the OTHER side of the box. This should minimize heat loss.

La Caja China #3

La Caja China Model #3

Now you’ve created a (somewhat less efficient) Model #3 “Cajita”. See instructions for roasting a shoulder in a Model #3, here.

Basically, you start with 5lbs of charcoal and add 4lbs every hour until you reach your desire temp. I would add 25% to each of those numbers to make up for our fix, and do everything you can to minimize heat loss. I have some tips in my free e-book, La Caja China Guidebook that should help. If you haven’t been to our BBQ page (at that link), we have TONS of La Caja China stuff there.

Again, this isn’t something that your model #2 is designed to do, so it comes with all of the standard “McGyvver” warnings and disclaimers, lol.

That said, if you DO try it, and it DOES work…please take lots of pictures so I can add them to this post! 🙂

Let us know how it goes!

-Chef Perry
SimplySmartDinnerPlans.com
Burnin’ Love BBQ

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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!)

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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!

Enjoy!

Chef Perry

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Q&A: Ingredient substitutions for Pierna Criolla

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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!

Thanks,

Maggi

P.S.  (Sure hope you can help us out)

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMaggi,

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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Low and Slow Barbecue on a Gas Grill

When BBQ enthusiasts read “low and slow” our minds usually drift to images of deep smoke-blackened pits, seeping lazy tendrils of white smoke, as whole oak and hickory logs smolder beneath.

I mean, grills are made for searing burgers and dogs, or maybe getting some nice marks on a chicken breast or a thick steak…but they don’t do “barbecue”…right?

Well, I’m here to tell ya, you can get some amazing, mouth-watering, fall-off-the-bone tender, low and slow barbecue from your gas grill, too. You just have to change up your technique a little bit.

Why “Low & Slow”

High heat causes rapid moisture loss. Proteins in meat and seafood naturally contain a great deal of liquid, but as heat forces these protein strands to rapidly constrict, much of that moisture, is squeezed out, and meat becomes tough and leathery. Succulent, buttery pulled-pork becomes tender when the naturally tough collagen in the meat is converted into gelatin, with a minimum loss of moisture. This transformation occurs when the pork is cooked at temperatures between 225-250 (I get better results at 225) for 10-12 hours, hence the term, “low and slow.”

Personally, I would recommend using a smoking box to hold wood chips for the first several hours of cooking time, as well. There are many commercial varieties, but a clean tuna can, filled with non-resinous wood chips and wrapped in foil (with a few holes punched through the top) works just fine too.

Read the rest of this article, and get our recipes for my favoritelow-and-slow pork shoulder, bbq dry rub, and “dirty secret” sauce, here!

Perry P. Perkins is a Grilling is Happiness sponsored writer.

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Sweet Chili Brisket

Sweet chili sauce might be my all-time favorite condiment, and brisket is definitely in my top 3 favorite meats. So, a thought stuck me the other day, out of the blue, Hey, those two would be awesome together! And thus, this recipe was born.

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How to Spatchcock and Inject Whole Chickens for Grilling

Here’s a video we put together, over at our sister-site www.hautemealz.com, on how to spatchcock (remove the backbone) and inject a whole chicken with marinade.

This a a great method for adding some amazing flavors, while reducing your grilling or roasting time by almost half.

Enjoy!

Here’s the injection recipe I like to use:

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Nana’s Chili Egg Puff

My mother-in-law, Dixie, served this on Christmas morning, after the presents were opened. She was kind enough to share the original recipe (jotted down before I was born), and gave me the okay to re-share it here.

Easily, the best egg dish I’ve ever had, and it’ll be the traditional Christmas breakfast at our house from now on!

Light, fluffy, savory, ethereal…like eating an egg-flavored angel.

Here it is, exactly as written down…

Nana’s Chili Egg Puff
10 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 pint small-curd cottage cheese
1 lb cojack cheese, grated
1/2 cup butter, melted
4 oz can diced green chilies
12-24 hours in advance:
Beat eggs until a very light lemon color, add flour, baking powder, salt, fold in cottage cheese & butter. Stir in chilies.
Pour mixture into a well- buttered 9×13 dish. Cover and refridgerate over night.
Preheat oven to 350′ and bake 45 minutes covered. Uncover and bake an additional or until center firms.
Serves 12

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Sesame Chicken Bruschetta

This one’s for my buddy Jeff Swan, who loves his sesame seeds! This is one of my top 5 all-time favorite appetizers!

Sesame Chicken Bruschetta
1 pound ground chicken, or chicken breasts*
2 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons sesame oil
3 green onions, finely chopped
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, finely choppe
1/4 cup freshly toasted sesame seeds
1 baguette, sliced 1/2 in on bias
2-3 cups oil

Heat 2 inchs of oil in skillet to medium high.

Combine ground chicken with garlic, sesame oil, lime zest, onion, and ginger, and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon one heaping teaspoon of chicken mixture onto each slice of bread, spead to coat bread evenly, 1/4 inch thick. Dip meat side into sesame seeds to coat completely.

Place bruschetta, coated side down, in hot oil until sesame seeds are uniformly golden brown. Flip to brown the bottoms. Remove to paper towells to drain.

Serve hot with ginger-chili sauce.

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