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Getting Beyond the Barbecue Grill

July 24, 1986|MINNIE BERNARDINO | Times Staff Writer

It's wonderful that the barbecue grill was invented for the pleasures of outdoor enthusiasts. But for those who want more flavors than barbecuing could offer, the portable gas cooker provides an easy answer.

Fueled by a disposable butane canister, this little stove unit came to America from Japan, where it originated. "It was developed almost 15 years ago for on-the-table cooking for sukiyakis and shabu-shabus, " said Ken Semba, western region sales manager for Iwatani and Co., the distributor of Cassette Feu portable gas stove. He explained, "Since the gas hose was dangerous and the electric cookers didn't give us enough heat for this type of cooking, the Cassette Feu, which stands for small flamer evolved."

A Handy Discovery

Furnishing complete hot meals when camping, picnicking or tail-gate partying, the lightweight gas burner is slowly being discovered by boat and RV owners as well as vacationers. Since its capacity equals most kitchen ranges, the stove makes it possible for outdoor cooks to produce a pot of steamed vegetables, soup, rice or other side dishes to go with their grilled meats. Campers can look forward to an appetizing breakfast since their usual eggs and sausage or bacon or even some pancakes can be done on the outdoor stove.

To prevent greasy stains and odors inside the kitchen, or the whole house for that matter, frying can be done outside on the patio or in the backyard using the portable burner. This is particularly useful for people who like to fry fish, the smell of which can linger on and on. During a heat wave, cooking outside certainly takes the heat and mess out of the kitchen.

Minus the bothersome hose or big fuel tank that comes with large outdoor gas cookers, this mini gas cooker also may be set indoors on the dining table. Family or friends can be entertained as they participate in stir-frying, hot-pot cooking, sauteing meat filling for tacos, etc. And of course, don't forget the appealing benefits of keeping a hot dish hot at the table. The portable gas stoves also have found their way into hotel and restaurant buffet tables as well as flambe carts.

When using the cooker indoors, the manufacturer advises providing some air circulation by keeping a window open to prevent gas inhalation. Aside from its popular uses, the portable burner is also being discovered as a safe cooking tool by college students in dormitories. In emergencies, when there's power failure, the convenience of the handy stove can be appreciated. In this case, it's a good idea to always have some fuel cartridges in stock.

Care and Cleaning Tips

Although the burner involves a simple operation with an automatic ignition control and safety mechanisms, the new owner should take time to read manufacturer's instructions, precautions and cleaning care tips carefully. Most brands function basically the same, provided with flame control knobs, a drip pan and air control levels. The fuel cartridge compartment is contained on one side and has a cover so the can is not exposed. When storing, the cartridge should be well capped and stored upright in a well-ventilated dry area with temperatures not exceeding 104 degrees. Easily available in many hardware stores, each 8-ounce can should last about two hours when using full flame and up to four hours on low flame.

Accessories geared to Oriental cuisine (teppanyaki plate, sukiyaki pan) as well as the double burner of the Cassette Feu are available at some Japanese stores such as Rafu Bussan and Yaohan.

The Chef Major Portable Gas Burner from J and F Imports, Los Angeles, has a suggested retail price of $50 and is available at Gelson's Markets and Pioneer Hardware in Beverly Hills.

The Cassette Feu from Iwatani and Co. in Gardena has a suggested retail price of $60 for the single burner and is available at Williams-Sonoma, Big Five Sporting Goods , Cookin Stuff and some Japanese markets and restaurant suppliers.

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