Cave Cooking

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Joined Apr 10, 2018
Hi all. I'm still growing my business, but as I meet more and more caterers, I keep hearing about "cave cooking." I'm always too embarrassed to ask what or how. Any help out there? Basically what I'm hearing is people are using sterno fuel to heat up their boxes and literally cook food. Not hold it warm, but actually cook, or finish the food. How is this not a time and temp abuse? Anyone have experience in cave cooking? Is it called something else? I can't find anything online about it.
 
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Joined Mar 1, 2017
Hi and welcome to CT! :)

I have no idea why they call it "cave cooking." I will leave the answer to that question up to one of the other chefs who have pro catering experience. If I were to take a guess, I would say its because caterers sometimes finish cooking certain foods in their catering vans. Just a guess tho.

However, without really knowing more about what foods you are working with and the time frames you are dealing with, there really is no way to accurately answer your question. As I am sure you know, there are some foods that absolutely cannot be finished on site such as poultry etc.

However, based on your question, I assume you have no real experience with professional catering. On that note, I would strongly encourage you to stop what you are doing and go to work for a professional caterer so you can learn the business. There are some foods you can finish on site and some foods that must never be finished on site along with strict rules of time and temperature, as you have already noted. That fact that you mentioned time and temp abuse tells me that your instincts are working well.

As for cooking on site with sterno....bad idea. But, some caterers do it. Sterno fumes are toxic and can taint your food with nasty flavors. If it were me, I would invest in 2 or 3 portable butane burners and always keep them with you. They burn very clean and can be used indoors, if necessary. I have even heard of some caterers using portable grills.

Good luck! :)
 
2
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Joined Apr 10, 2018
Hi all. I'm still growing my business, but as I meet more and more caterers, I keep hearing about "cave cooking." I'm always too embarrassed to ask what or how. Any help out there? Basically what I'm hearing is people are using sterno fuel to heat up their boxes and literally cook food. Not hold it warm, but actually cook, or finish the food. How is this not a time and temp abuse? Anyone have experience in cave cooking? Is it called something else? I can't find anything online about it.
Thanks!!
Hi and welcome to CT! :)

I have no idea why they call it "cave cooking." I will leave the answer to that question up to one of the other chefs who have pro catering experience. If I were to take a guess, I would say its because caterers sometimes finish cooking certain foods in their catering vans. Just a guess tho.

However, without really knowing more about what foods you are working with and the time frames you are dealing with, there really is no way to accurately answer your question. As I am sure you know, there are some foods that absolutely cannot be finished on site such as poultry etc.

However, based on your question, I assume you have no real experience with professional catering. On that note, I would strongly encourage you to stop what you are doing and go to work for a professional caterer so you can learn the business. There are some foods you can finish on site and some foods that must never be finished on site along with strict rules of time and temperature, as you have already noted. That fact that you mentioned time and temp abuse tells me that your instincts are working well.

As for cooking on site with sterno....bad idea. But, some caterers do it. Sterno fumes are toxic and can taint your food with nasty flavors. If it were me, I would invest in 2 or 3 portable butane burners and always keep them with you. They burn very clean and can be used indoors, if necessary. I have even heard of some caterers using portable grills.

Good luck! :)



Thank you. This isn’t something we are currently doing. We are a professional catering company. Been in business for several years. I’m new, but my boss isn’t.

All things you mentioned were fears we had, but wondered if there was something we were missing.

Seems like something we’re going to continue to avoid.

Thank you!
 
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Joined Oct 1, 2006
Hi Matt,

My understanding of Cave cooking is along the lines of Caveman cooking.

Going into the woods with a knife and a single pan is sort of the idea. Beyond minimalist cooking and back to caveman era.

I think that is the reference. Hope someone else might have better info.

Anyway, Welcome to Cheftalk!
 
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Joined Jun 25, 2017
I once tried to cook prime rib in an insulated Cambro box using Sterno. It didn't work, the box had really good seals on it and did not let enough air into the box so the Sterno's went out. In hindsight, probably not a good idea. I have heard the term "cavecooking" as a BBQ technique. The pit-master creates a "cave" in the coals and finishes the product in the hole to give it extra char.
 
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Joined May 5, 2010
When doing banquets my F&B insisted on using sterno to increase the heat of the warming boxes.
That was until he opened the door to one and inhaled the fumes.........That was it....and I got new warming boxes that very next week.....
 
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