Comfortable Counters

by Keith Fisher

When you cook outdoors, do you use a table? Just like in your Kitchen at home, It’s easier to work from some kind of counter space. Whether it’s opening cans, rolling out bread dough, or marinating meat, the tasks are made harder by using a flat rock, (if you can find one). Even a pick-nick table isn’t the best surface, especially if the sloppy family used it last. You know, Joe, Sue and their kid, Messy Michael.

There are many portable camp tables on the market,
look here. Most of these are lightweight but being so, they tend to flatten if you set anything heavy on it, (Like a full Dutch oven).

When we started competing, we used a long, but narrow card table. It was made special as a base for a sewing machine, so the legs were a little longer than a normal card table. Making the counter height about three feet. We used that table for the first year and I noticed a pain in my back from leaning over. I measured and decided that if the tabletop was just a foot higher I could roll out piecrust in comfort.

I bought some one-inch PVC pipe, cut it to specific lengths, and painted it brown to match the color of the table. It worked great. All I had to do was slip my extensions over the legs making the height just right. However, there wasn’t enough room for two cooks working at the same time.

At that time, most cook-off directors provided a table of some kind to use for preparation. We stacked our hot and cold water coolers on one end and used the rest for prep. We found ourselves fighting over the card table, and since my partner did most of the mixing and preparing, and I did all cooking, I lost the battle.

My life changed, when I watched a team get ready to cook. Before putting a tablecloth on the banquet table, they slipped 9-inch extensions over the legs at the bottom and raised the table to countertop height. In light of my card table extensions, I wondered why I hadn’t thought of the banquet table. I used 1 ½ inch PVC and made several extensions.

When the Mighty-Lite Table Company came out with a sturdy plastic version of the banquet table, we all wanted one. I got a six-foot version when the generic brand came out. I used my extensions and had several countertop height tables to work from. I could wash dishes on one end and knead bread on the other. I even had room for my chuck box. Now
Mighty-Lite makes a table with height adjustable legs, but for other tables, consider the extension.

Keep in mind a 9-inch extension only works on a table with a curved bottom leg. See the picture. If your table has straight legs, you will need to make your extensions longer to accommodate the length.

Now, a note about use, When you use your plastic table as much as I do, and you take it in and out of the back of your truck, you’ll probably notice dirt and grease collect on the table top. It’s okay, just remember to use a tablecloth and periodically clean the surface with a water and bleach solution. The solution not only cleans, but it sanitizes to protect against the sloppy family. You have to scrub harder for some grease stains from the back of your truck. And keep in mind that a hot Dutch oven will melt plastic. get a piece of wood or use a trivet.

Tables can be a blessing when you have one, they can be a curse when you don't. Making it comfortable to work at them, makes cooking funner.

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Cleaning House

by Keith Fisher

My wife brought home two slot cabinets built by my father-in-law. When my wife asked if I wanted them, I agreed, thinking I could use them to store printer paper and sort Family history.

I don’t know why he built them so deep. I worked in my office re-arranging things, trying to make the cabinets fit. Two hours later, I finally admitted I just don’t have room in a 9X8 office I share with my daughter. Anyway, I sat back and gazed at the mess, then remembered I have a blog to write.

With the state of my office, and not having any idea what to write, I decided to talk about cleaning your camp kitchen. It’s the time of year when some people put their camping stuff away, and that includes Dutch oven tools.

Before you relegate your pots to the shelf, I’d like to try once again, to convince you to keep cooking throughout the winter. Many an ice fishing or tubing party can be greatly enhanced by the tasty treats you make in your Dutch oven. You can be a hero too.

If you’re determined, however, to put it away, consider how much easier it will be in the spring if you take the time now, to care for your equipment.

First we need to check the cast iron. Run your fingers over the surface. Does it feel smooth? Is it rough like sandpaper? Does it look like it might rust? If it is smooth it will probably be okay. If it feels rough put a thin layer of vegetable or olive oil on the surfaces. Then, store the lid on a different shelf. It allows the air to circulate and avoid condensation. In the spring, you may need to heat up you oven to burn off the oil, but it will keep the iron from rusting.

Next, let’s talk about tables and other metal tools. If your table has rust spots on it, or it looks grungy from all the charcoal dust. Get a wire brush and brush off the rust. Go to the hardware store and buy some barbecue paint. It comes in a spray bottle, and will withstand the heat of charcoal. I repaint my table once a year anyway. The new clean surface helps me look like I know what I’m doing. Some tools won’t need the barbecue paint. I recommend flat, or glossy-black (your choice). Paint lid holders, charcoal starters, and lid lifters. Clean you charcoal bucket, and don’t forget to clean that pancake batter spill from the inside of your chuck box.

If you use a plastic drawer chuck box, you will find a little bleach goes a long way. Mix three tablespoons bleach in a spray bottle of water. Use gloves. Check your spoons and spats, all your tools. Look for signs of wear, or breakage. Toss the tools you never use, add those you think you’ll need. Fill the spice containers. A dollar store has low-cost tools, and tea towels. You can always use a good pair of tongs.

Now that you’ve done your house cleaning, take your kitchen and get out and use it one last time. But consider the winter. A hot pot never rusts, and full stomachs will ever be grateful.

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