For our "Gather 'Round the Grill" story in the September Sunset, I had the fun of getting to know Ben Ford, chef-owner of Ford's Filling Station in Culver City, and visiting with him at home to learn how he cooks on an amazing piece of equipment called the Cowboy Cauldron.

Elaine Johnson

Ben Ford of Ford's Filling Station fires up his Cowboy Cauldron

For our "Gather 'Round the Grill" story in the September Sunset, I had the fun of getting to know Ben Ford, chef-owner of Ford's Filling Station in Culver City, and visiting with him at home to learn how he cooks on an amazing piece of equipment called the Cowboy Cauldron.

The first time Ford saw the massive basin and oversized grill grate of the cauldron, he was smitten. "I wanted one really badly. I came from a craftsman family. We believed in things that are built with integrity," says Ford. (Though his dad, actor Harrison, may forever be known as Han Solo, he's also a hobby carpenter.)

Part grill, part fire pit, the cauldron is a wood-fired or charcoal-fired tool that can be used for direct heat grilling, indirect heat roasting, ember roasting, rotisserie cooking, Pilgrim-style hanging pot cooking, and mega-cauldron cooking (you can also build a fire underneath).

Another cool feature: The cauldron's multi-hinged cooking grate gives you easy access to the fire even when there's food on top.

Ford cooked up a fabulous Rosemary Grilled Leg of Lamb for us that he browned on top of the grate, over direct heat, then finished roasting in the basin, next to the fire.

You can see the indirect heat area, down below the grate alongside the fire.

For photography, we kept Ford in front of the cauldron quite awhile, and at one point the crew had to pause to tend to some singed hair.

 

The lamb was smoky and delicious, but Ford also made a pot of Andalucían fried chickpeas and spinach. And for dessert? Let's just say that marshmallows toasted on extendable forks had a prominent role.

Ford, family, and friends gather round the Cowboy Cauldron.

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