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Jun 24, 2010 09:05 AM

Sauteed salmon filets for 40 - cook onsite or keep warm for 3 hrs?

I have been cooking for a winery for 2 years, mainly focused on "vineyard lunches" where the guests are seated at tables in the middle of the vineyard, under some old oak trees. It's quite lovely and a great idea from the small winery's marketing team. The challenge is that the meals are becoming more complex and (most importantly) the location is 1hr from any kitchen facilities. As you can imagine, I rely heavily on Cambro hotboxes and ice chests to keep everything in good shape until serving.

The next event involves sauteed salmon fillets. Pretty basic, I like to cook them skin side down on a hot pan for 8-9 min then flip for a minute or 2 until done. I have two choices for this next lunch event: I can cook everything in my kitchen at the last minute, loading it into a hotbox and having it sit for about 3 hours before serving (saucing with a blackberry sauce) OR I can take a chance and use the winery's new butane burner devices (3 single devices) to do the cooking onsite about 30 min before serving, keeping warm in the hotbox.

I haven't worked with these butane burners before, does anyone have any feedback on using them? Do they last long enough at high heat without running out of fuel? Do they get hot enough? Have you guys ever cooked "in the rough"?

I have time to decide on a strategy, all opinions welcome.


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  1. The same butane burners that hold a can of fuel in a little compartment on the side, usually used for camping? If so, then they are a pretty good heat source. With salmon, I doubt it would be very good after holding for three hours. The crispiness that you get would be gone and the skin would be soggy from the steam. Since they are single burner units, you have the room to put a pretty big pan on them, get it nice and hot, and continually cook. It seems like you might be able to get 15 going at a time over the three burners and a nice preheated pan.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Jemon

      Yes, the single burner butane burners with the can of fuel on the side, each comes with a plastic carrying case, etc. I think the burners are 10k btus which are about 1/2 of what I have in the kitchen where I usually do my prep work.

      True, 15 at a time sounds like a plan, can get 40 out in 30 min...

      1. re: grapedog

        Can the burners support the pans you are planning to use? Also, I'd recommend doing a dry run. If you normally use a 20K BTU burner, a 10K BTU burner probably won't cook your fillets so quickly.

        You might also want to check the heat distribution of the pans on the propane burners. The flame pattern may be different, so you might have some hotspots that would affect the cooking.

    2. If you decide to use the butane burners, try to have some time before (at least a week before) so you can decide if it's going to work or not, no need to add to the stress of preparing an event and find out the equipment does not "work" as expected.

      good luck with that.


      1 Reply
      1. re: Maximilien

        Very good point. I asked the winery owners if they could loan me 1 or 2 of the burners for a test run.

        I always get nervous being out in the middle of a field with 40-50 hungry people expecting high quality. :-) Last year I poached salmon medallions (2" wide strips of salmon, less skin/bones, rolled into a pinwheel and secured with a pick) in olive oil and served them room temp which was fine, but this year we seem to have moved into the "a la minute" model....

      2. grapedog,

        There's no way to achieve the quality you're looking for cooking the fish ahead and holding for 3 hours.

        Have you consideder modifying the menu and grilling skinless salmon on site?

        Evil Ronnie

        1 Reply
        1. re: Evil Ronnie

          ER, good idea. Seems that anything cooked onsite will be better than kept warm for 3 hrs.

        2. Oh, and about the length of time the fuel lasts, I think one can will last a couple hours on high heat, but if you use them, of course, make sure to get a couple of extra cans.

          1 Reply
          1. Some good hints, thanks to all for the comments. Note that after this salmon meal in July, I am being asked to do seared duck breasts for August. Similar type of cooking style, with some caramelized fruit (apples/grapes/pears) as a sauce. I better get used to these butane burners! :-)

            2 Replies
            1. re: grapedog

              Uh oh. :) You might consider doing an initial rendering beforehand, saving the fat, then finishing the sear right before service in the reserved fat...

              1. re: grapedog

                Sous vide the duck breasts in advance, then sear them on site.