Important Subscriber Info: PLEASE READ

Hey all, just a heads up…we’re comin’ up on 8 years of the Burnin’ Love BBQ blog, and we’ve had a wonderful time q’ing and grilling with ya’all.

This week we migrated the blog to a self-hosted platform and, unfortunately, the techs managed to permanently delete our entire subscriber list (that horrible sound you heard around midnight was me shrieking at my monitor…)

SO…as I know that a LOT of our friends here on Facebook were subscribers, I’m posting to ask you to please go to the new page (link below) and enter your current email to subscribe again. We have some great grilling videos and recipes in the works!

Again, this will take you to our NEW page, OFF the grid:


Chef Perry

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IFBCgiveawayHey peeps…

12 of my favorite awesome bloggers (and I) have all teamed up to share some of our sweet swag from The International Food Blogger’s Conference that we all attended in Seattle a couple of week’s back.

Today I’ll be giving away my LAST box of Krusteaz Italian flatbread mix (plus a few more cool foodie toys and items I’ll throw in with it…yes, that’s a salmon-shaped dark chocolate bar…)

Go visit our other page, SimplySmartDinnerPlans for the details and to enter!

IFBC Flash Givaway

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La Caja China = Lots of smiles!

Whole roast pig

La Caja China rocked it at last month’s Sparks of Hope camps!

Sparks of Hope Boys CampAs part of our MY KITCHEN Program, we taught cooking classes during the days, and then did a pig roast feast each Saturday night. “Knights of the Round Table” for the boys (no utensils, lol), and “Island Luau” for the girls.

For these young survivors of horrific abuse, anything that brings a smile to their faces is a major victory, and there were LOTS of smiles at the feast!

Thank you Roberto and La Caja China for being a faithful supporter of our work with these kids, and for helping us bring a smile to their faces.

And, of course, the pigs were awesome!

Chef Perry
Burnin’ Love BBQ

Carving a whole roast pig


Filed under In The Box

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”


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
Burnin’ Love BBQ

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Common Grilling Problems

Grilling tips

Our friend Joanne asks:

“I have trouble cooking anything on the grill. I either burn it or it’s not done enough. I’m guessing a thermometer would help me too. Can you recommend a good one?”

Joann – They’re all pretty much the same, the important thing is to keep them calibrated. Anything from Cash & Carry, BB&B, or any “kitchen store” should be fine.  Here’s the one I use… (FYI – everything in our Amazon store is an item that one of us (Terry, Chris, and I) have tested or use regularly).

With grilling it’s usually one, or a combination, of four problems…

1. Too high of heat for the food. A lot of time we crank it up and either the outside burns before the inside cooks, or the inside is raw when the outside looks perfect.

Always keep an “indirect heat” area on your grill, with one burner on med-low (or with just a few coals) and if the internal temp of the meat isn’t high enough and you’re concerned about burning, move the food to that area and tent loosely in foil until the temp comes up to your desired doneness.

2. Not enough “babying”. Unlike food cooked on the stove-top, which often needs to be “left alone”, food on grills are at the mercy of flare-ups and temp spikes. You have to be constantly monitoring your food. Is there too much flame under the food? (move it or use a spray bottle of hot water). Is one area of the grill cooking faster? (rotate the food between all areas of the grill). This is referred to in grilling lingo as “multi-zone cooking“.

3. Was the food prepped correctly? Food that is still chilled in the center (especially with bones) is going to cook unevenly, and this is especially true on the grill.

Some folks don’t like to hear this in our sterilized, bacteria-phobic society, but most meats need to be removed from the refrigerator and allowed to rest at room temp at least 30 minutes (and up to an hour, depending on thickness) if you want them to grill evenly. A chilled chicken leg is basically a hunk of meat wrapped around a ice-cold spike.

The outside layers WILL burn before the bone warms enough to allowed the meat touching it to even start cooking.

4. Saucing too soon. Most sauces are heavy in sugar, either natural or added. Sugar burns at high temps.

Food should basically be cooked through, the grill temp lowered, the food sauced (I like the dunking method over the brushing method) and then the food returned to the grill, turning often and redunking as needed, until the sauce had glazed. This is another good place to alternate between multiple zones.

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Amazing Traeger Steaks with Fresh Herb Butter

Traeger Steak Recipe

Amazing Traeger Steaks

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes smoke, 10 minutes cook
Pellets: Oak

2 – 1 1/2 inch thick Rib-eye or New York Strip steaks
Seasoned salt to taste
Herb Butter (see recipe below.)

Traeger Steak Recipe

Season steaks on both sides.

Start your Traeger on smoke with lid open for 5 minutes to get started. Close the lid and allow interior to heat up for an additional 10 minutes.

Place your steaks on the grill in the SMOKE mode, and cook for 30 minutes. Then take them off the grill and set aside.

Turn the Traeger to HIGH. When the grill reaches 400 – 425 degrees put the steaks back on the grill, and sear for 5 minutes per side for rare-to medium rare. Because you’re cooking in an enclosed environment, you don’t have to flip your steaks, but I still do because I like the pretty grill marks.

Traeger Steak with Herb Butter

Remove the steaks from the grill to a warmed platter, tent loosely with foil and let rest 5 minutes. Add a dollop of herb butter to each steak, re-cover, and let rest an additional 5 minutes.

Serve whole, or slice thinly across the grain, spooning melted butter from the platter over each steak.

Good accompaniment include: baked potatoes, roasted asparagus (both very nice with the herb butter, below), and a fresh Caesar salad.


Chef Perry

Herb Butter

Herb Butter

2 Tbs. Sweet Cream Butter
2 tsp. fresh chives
2 tsp. fresh cilantro
2 tsp. fresh Italian parsley
1 tsp. fresh basil
Dash of seasoned salt
Dash of garlic powder

Soften butter to room temp, finely dice herbs, and add to the butter along with spices.

Mash together with a fork until completely combined, and chill overnight to allow the flavors to marry.

I like to bring the butter back to room temp before using on steaks, chicken, or veggies.

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Filed under bbq, grilling, On The Grill, recipes, Traeger, Traeger BBQ

Traeger Smoked Honey Swai or Tilapia

Traeger Smoked Honey Swai or Tilapia Recipe

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.

Traeger Smoked Honey Swai or Tilapia RecipeI 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.

Traeger Smoked Honey Swai or Tilapia Recipe

To Cook

Set Traeger to “smoke” and preheat.

Traeger Smoked Honey Swai or Tilapia RecipeRemove 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.

Traeger Smoked Honey Swai or Tilapia Recipe

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.

Want to take the hassle out of meal planning? For super-simple, healthy and delicious dinner recipes, check out our FREE weekly meal plans and shopping lists! Your free membership helps us teach valuable cooking skills to at-risk youth!

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!

So, 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.)


Traeg-dor’s first fiery breath!

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.

Traegdor2For 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!

Traeger Bacon SimplySmartDinnerPlans

Bring on the best BLT of your life!

Traeger Bacon SimplySmartDinnerPlans

-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!)


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