What Is a Discada (and Why Would I Cook Food On It)?
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Discover why this 100-year-old cooking technique (that utilizes a repurposed plow disc!) is trending among outdoor cooking enthusiasts.
Cooking on a discada — a.k.a. disco, BBQ disk, cowboy wok, plow disk cooker or disc grill, depending on where you encounter it — is a growing trend spreading from the southwest and Mexico throughout North America.
“The mystique is that you are cooking on a farming implement. These are disc blades used to turn the soil,” says Chuck Peyton, founder of Blue Moon Disk Co. “You’re cooking on raw steel, and not fancy cast iron or Teflon or specialty coated cookware.”
After being introduced to discada cooking in Chihuahua, Mexico, Peyton decided to spread the word. He welded the center hole of a retired plow disc closed and added horseshoe handles to make transporting the disc easier, creating the debut product of Blue Moon Disk Co., launched in 2007. Since then, Peyton’s shipped discs from his base in Arkansas to the far corners of the U.S., seeing sales in regions increase as word of mouth and group cookouts fuel interest in these cooking discs.
Here’s what you need to know about discada.
What Is a Discada?
Born in the Southwest out of a long agricultural history, the circular carbon steel plow plates once used to till the soil have been given new life as a cooking tool for hundreds of years, in styles as unique as the creators themselves. Traditionally 20- to 24-in. wide, a discada is reminiscent of a wok, but made from thicker metal. It requires close attention to heat distribution when cooking.
Though the name comes from the steel plow disc, it’s commonly associated with the food cooked within it, like barbecue. Also, like barbecue, the dish varies by region. In northern Mexico, for example, discada is a popular meat and tomato dish.
Discada Styles and DIY
No matter what you choose to call it, the design is consistent. Heavy steel discs are suspended above a propane burner or wood fire, providing a wide surface space and consistent heat. Each discada shows off the personality of the owner, as the styles and individuals constructing the disc cookers can vary based on needs and personal tastes.
Most are made from the plow disc, such as Blue Moon Disk Co.’s horseshoe handled design. Others are made from the materials used in the plow disc, such as Carolina Cooker’s utilitarian steel plates — a less expensive option constructed similar to disc blades, without the artisan level of design. Carolina Cooker discadas are constructed from steel plates, heated to high temperatures and stamped into shape. They perform well for an entry-level discada user.
For an all-in-one experience, the FIREDISC provides a more modern look and includes high edges that can hold up to five gallons of soup or stew.
For DIYers with welding experience and tools, making a discada can be an easy weekend project. Weld the center of the plow disc closed, then add a propane stand and regulator and a propane tank for a basic discada setup.
Why Use a Discada?
“Cooking in a disco, besides being a fun way to cook, adds an extra flavor to the meal,” says Mely Martinez, a blogger at Mexico In My Kitchen. For six years Martinez lived in Monterrey, Mexico, where using a discada to cook carne asada is nearly a religion. “As soon as Friday afternoon arrives you can smell the aromas of wood- or charcoal-burning nearby your home,” she says. “Locals are either preparing to cook a meal using the disco or to make grilled meats.”
The large surface space of a discada provides room to cook quantities and a mix of foods that aren’t possible on a stovetop or grill. “Discada cooks can take advantage of the multi-temperature effect of the large surface,” says Jason Allen of Carolina Cooker, a North Carolina-based discada retailer. For example, fajitas, “… with the meat in the center high heat searing, vegetables sauteing in a ring just outside of that and the tortillas bordering the outside of the pan, getting just hot enough, for a perfect one-pan fajita meal.”
How to Clean a Discada
Caring for a discada is similar to caring for your favorite cast iron skillet. Avoid soap, which strips the seasoning, and instead use hot water and a scraper or steel wool pad to remove food. Dry the entire discada thoroughly and store with a light coating of oil to prevent rusting.