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View Full Version : Advice on doing a first BBQ for a crowd


Scott_nra
02-04-2011, 07:08 PM
ok guys, I have this event that is being planned for 1st of March. I am going to use my side burner smoker to cook up butts/BBQ for a bunch of customers and want to do a good job. (I have access to a second one if needed) I donít have a head count estimate yet but would guess between 50-100 people+. We are sales guys who never catered a thing. 2 of us just really like cooking on the grills and are still learning, two more are worker bees. We want to do this to add a real personal touch to the event. Itís not a really big thing, but it kinda is for us.

Charcoal or wood only and need to make a good showing. I plan to cook up at least 2 (Different times) to practice and get it right before this event so I have a little time. Allso going to play hard cooking up other things on this smoker for practice between now and then, ribs especially. Iím getting better at them. I figure it will help me get better at my temp and smoke control. 2 channel thermo on the way. Got a rub I'm pretty happy with. I am going to have a mix of commercial sauce and homemade.

I have always done buts with a crock pot after a couple hours of smoking and want to stop doing that for obvious reasons. And here I won't have electricity handy anyway. I am Devouring (and really enjoying) Mike Mills book Peace, Love and BBQ and learning a lot. The more I learn, the more I want to learn and the more I want to BBQ.

Here are the questions for now:
1. How many # of Meat per person do you think we should have?
2. Same Q for Slaw, fries, beans and hush puppies.
3. Should I stick with Charcoal or have wood too? I really want to use at least some real wood, and want to get good at it with more wood than charcoal but I donít want to over-smoke either, especially at this thing.
4. What kind of time do you think I should allow getting the meat done? We are going to start early in the morning and need to have meat ready by about 11:30am

Iím open for any and all advice. Iíve got time to practice up and plan. This is a customer appreciation gathering and we want to be a few steps better than the usual burnt cheap burgers and dogs that these guys are used to. I figure Iíll use my turkey fryer to turn out decent commercial/frozen fries and hush puppies.

Goals:
1. Have a bunch of happy well fed customers who will remember who had a great event.
2. Be able to handle it all and still socialize with about 4 people working.
3. Not go broke. Funds are limited which is why we are not hiring this out in the first place. Iím hoping to pull it off for a couple hundred bucks.
4. Have a great time!

Yeah, I know I might be nuts. Never done this before, but we are gonna give it a go anyway. What say ye brethren?

HBMTN
02-04-2011, 08:56 PM
Scott You will want to figure about 3 people per lb of cooked pulled pork per person plus 10%. So for 100 people I would figure about 37-40 lbs of cooked pork. So I would start off with about 80 lbs of raw butts. This will be about 9 to 11 butts. For sides figure 4-6oz of each side per person.

You can burn wood or coal, if burning charcoal I would still add a gew sticks of wood per hour. If you want to have them ready to eat at 11:30am I would start them at about 9pm the night before and if they are 8 to 9 lb butts they will take around 12 hours at 230 degrees this will put them done at 9am then wrap them in a towel and put them in a cooler to rest until time to eat. Cook the butts to an internal temp of 195 degrees.

If you have a small store bought smoker you may have problems cooking in the cold weather and wind. Good Luck

Captain P.J.
02-04-2011, 09:13 PM
What kind of equipment are you going to be cooking on? Do you have the equipment to hold all of the hot and cold foods at proper temps? The more information you can provide the better info you will get.

landarc
02-04-2011, 09:22 PM
If this is your first cook, I would think doing pulled pork and pulled chicken is a better route than ribs, unless you have a large enough cooker to pull it off. A lot easier as you can do a lot of prep the day before, which means less effort when your clients are there.

The cooker and equipment is pretty important to really answer your questions. Four people for a 100 person even seems a little light if one or two of you want to spin off and schmooze. Also, what about beverages, utensils etc...

ssbbqguy
02-04-2011, 10:07 PM
It scares me to have no more experience than listed and want to have a succesfull event. To be honest if you told me the plan as a customer, I would run away pretty fast. It sounds like a good idea until you ruin some food or miss a important health detail, like holding temps. for instance. Unless one can high heat cook on decent equipment, it's going to be a long night, even with good weather. I'm not sure about you, but when I stay up and cook all night without sleep, it's best to avoid customers that I rely on for income.I sure wouldn't want them as test dummies for novice cooks. Maybe someone close with more experience can help you. You can practice cook on one or two butts, but what about putting ten, twelve on at once? With even temps. they will be done at different times. And then cook other foods? As said ,have you enough coolers, cambros, or other holding units? $200.00 won't cover much. Sorry to sound negative, but it's better to be real instead doing something regrettable. Whatever you decide, just keep the people you're serving safe. Hope it works out. Steve.

Scott_nra
02-05-2011, 08:31 AM
It scares me to have no more experience than listed and want to have a succesfull event. To be honest if you told me the plan as a customer, I would run away pretty fast. It sounds like a good idea until you ruin some food or miss a important health detail, like holding temps. for instance. Unless one can high heat cook on decent equipment, it's going to be a long night, even with good weather. I'm not sure about you, but when I stay up and cook all night without sleep, it's best to avoid customers that I rely on for income.I sure wouldn't want them as test dummies for novice cooks. Maybe someone close with more experience can help you. You can practice cook on one or two butts, but what about putting ten, twelve on at once? With even temps. they will be done at different times. And then cook other foods? As said ,have you enough coolers, cambros, or other holding units? $200.00 won't cover much. Sorry to sound negative, but it's better to be real instead doing something regrettable. Whatever you decide, just keep the people you're serving safe. Hope it works out. Steve.

Ok I slept on this grand idea and woke up with a change of heart. Also after more reading on the catering forum and advice given here, I am going to go another route. Someone who asks for advice and refuses to heed it is not very smart. I don't want to be "not very smart". Emotion of wanting to do BBQ aside, I think I'd be pretty stupid to try this at this time with what I don't know.

Yeah, I became aware of how much I don't know yet. (16 hours!? Farking YIKES!) That alone is enough to make me change my mind on the food type. THANK YOU guys for your input there. I have no intentions of pulling an all nighter and don't know enough about food storage, transportation etc to even think I can handle this at this time. I dont' know if I could do it for 20 much less 100 or more.

However! I do know a thing or two about killer tailgating! I've done 3 with some other folks for up to about 300 people at Red Skins games. So I'm changing it to Brats, Italian Sausages, Chicken breasts, pork tenderloins, etc. All cooked on the spot.

You guys are right, now way in he!! I have the gear to turn that many buts or the knowlege at this time, but I can turn the heck out of brats and chicken on the two offsets we have using them as big charcoal grills. It will be like having two big grills and two little grills going.

This way will be safe, fun and heck of lot less stress and work. It will still probably be more like $300+ for everything but at least I will KNOW I can pull it off with what I already know.

One day maybe the other way. This event is not for profit but it could dang sure effect it later.

Thanks again and cya 'round!

PCDoctor_1979
02-05-2011, 04:44 PM
That's a very good decision on your part. Far too much risk for your first "catering" gig. I remember my first paid gig was for a friend of mine hosting a poker party for 20 and I was really nervous. That was almost four years ago. Over time, I've accumulated more equipment and experience so that groups of 100 or more are no big thing. Take it slow and find a mentor to help you avoid the usual rookie mistakes. You'll get to the point where you can cook the big projects in due time. Best of luck with your party!

Captain P.J.
02-05-2011, 06:21 PM
Take it slow and find a mentor to help you avoid the usual rookie mistakes. You'll get to the point where you can cook the big projects in due time.

For discussions sake... what would be some of those rookie mistakes? Besides the obvious ones of having enough time for cooking the meat and holding temps...

ssbbqguy
02-05-2011, 06:52 PM
First of all, thanks for showing some sense. Your customers are important, or you wouldn't be doing this. Next, try to mix up some variations, so everyone won't have to eat the same thing. 100 people rarely like the same thing. Sounds like your menu will be diverse. Also buy some good therms. to check your chicken and anything else, like burgers to ensure proper cooking. So many think they can tell and can't. Just be safe and you'll have a much better time Wish you all the luck possible and I really think you're going with a better plan. Oh and rookie mistakes: trying to be coherant when dead tired, not being fully prepared,not enough help, equipment and supplies, experience, no insurances and permits if needed. Mentoring is so important, even if you learn for peanuts. Steve.

PCDoctor_1979
02-06-2011, 06:48 AM
In addition to what ssbbqjuy pointed out, another common challenge is time management. How long does it really take to prep all the sides, pull pork, slice brisket, setup of the serving line, etc. etc. The first few times you will probably find your self running around like a headless chicken. It gets exponentially more complicated when you add in employees that are supposed to be "helping". :becky: Once you develop some standard procedures, things go much more smoothly and at a predictable pace from which you can create a work schedule so you are on time.

landarc
02-06-2011, 12:21 PM
For discussions sake... what would be some of those rookie mistakes? Besides the obvious ones of having enough time for cooking the meat and holding temps...
The ones I know of...

1. The food is not ready on time, or is never ready.
2. The customer expected one thing, you delivered something else.
3. Someone gets sick or refuses to eat the food due to temperature or serving issues.
4. You over-estimate your time and abilities and do not get to the event on time (I actually pulled this stunt this year and I am not a true rookie, just screwed up)
5. You are crabby and think you are hiding it
6. Not enough food

Now, on number 6, I have had issues with. Some folks are pigs and no reasonable amount of estimating while considering profit can allow for enough food. Also, in catering my sister's wedding, for some reason, despite everyone asking, nay, demanding vegetables (for some reason, the assumption was Bob will just have meat) not one person other then me ate vegetables. There were complaints that there were not enough stuffed mushroom and roast beef. And wedding cake! Who has thirds of wedding cake? Still, many times new to catering folks do not allow for enough food.

Scott_nra
02-06-2011, 05:00 PM
I'm with you guys. I might try a local festival in the late summer if I think I can get my gear and skills up to it. For now, I know I'll be good this way other than possibly helpers. I'm going to try to score a couple from a partner business. I doubt that will be a problem. (They like to eat) I'm going to find out the expected crowd and when the food runs out it's out. If if a few late commers miss out and the others go away saying "Man you missed it!" That's good enough. There will always be those couple folks that roll in while you are packing up at a contractor event.

If any of the breathern want a helper for any of the cookoffs in the greater Richmond, VA area PM me. I've been a chief enough in my buisiness to make a real good "injun".

trekmstr
02-06-2011, 08:46 PM
Well I guess I’ll add my rookie mistake to the list. I did a fund raiser for a buddy last year. Made pulled pork and chicken for about 150 people. Knew it was going to be a lot of meat and I had two problems. #1. Limited equipnemt (I had to travel 3 hours to event) and #2. Time.
I did not want to be late with getting it done, so in my very logical thinking process I figured I’d smoke the pork the day before the event and reheat the pork while smoking the chicken. Everything went pretty good with the pork. I had 1 gal ziplock bags to put pulled pork into and plenty of ice and coolers to get it all cooled quickly.
Yea, right. I somehow despite having 2 others helping me I missed about 3 shoulders worth of meat in one of the smokers that I did not find until the next morning. Boy that was not a good way to start the day. Should have known something was wrong when I managed to just barely get all of the meat into the coolers with the ice and not have anything left over.
Oh, almost forgot I also smoked the pork to about 170 so that it was done but not tender.(I figured it would cook more on reheat and I did not want it getting mushy)
Yea right. It was very hard to pull but I had to so I could get it in to the zip lock bags and cooled down. Then the next day at the event I spent a lot of time chopping up the pork chunks into smaller pieces so they would reheat and cook faster, while also trying to get the chicken smoked. I managed to make it all happen and had no complaints and dozens of compliments. But know I know I would have been better off starting the whole thing the evening before and wrapping the pork as it was done and putting it into coolers then starting chicken as needed. It would have meant less sleep for the event but much less stress.
some lessons need to be learned the had way. but make sure you really do learn from them the first time.

Scott_nra
02-09-2011, 07:37 AM
So more reading and studying makes me think..hmmmm. What If I cook up the butts the day before finishing them up in the evening before, wrapping in plastic and foil and keep them in a cooler until morning when they can go back on the grill? Or, what If I pulled it all the night before, placed in pans or containers, coolered hot or chilled until going back on the smoker in the am to reheat for serving?

The thing that keeps me coming back is the cost to serve 50-100 people BBQ from buts is a lot less expensive than the tail gate stuff by a few hundred bucks. I can use pre-prepared sides to keep it going pretty good and think I can reheat 30# - 50# pulled pork in foil covered pans on the offsets (Got two) in just a couple hours easily. If everything goes to he!! the day before I can still punt.

What do you think? Refrigerate it after cooking and for transport or let it hang out in a cooler still hot? Have a 120qt fishing cooler like new. It would be about 10 hours between going in the cooler and back on the grill.

I have an empty refrigerator working in the garage where I could put all the meat in however, before all that ever cools down it will be going in the cooler to transport to the event anyway. Don't you think?

Seems to me that a reheat to 160* and keep it there for at least 30 minutes before serving and I'm covered.

So? What do you think of that grand idea brethren?

roksmith
02-09-2011, 12:03 PM
You've got to either keep it hot, or cool it completely then reheat. If you let things partially cool and stay there too long you may be risking getting people sick. Reheating to whatever temp you like won't undo the damage caused by letting pork sit in the danger zone. You can kill the bacteria, but you can't remove their toxins with heat.

Short of pulling an allnighter, here's what I would do.
Plan your cook so that your butts are done about 8 hours before you want to serve them. Wrap in foil and toss them in your 120qt cooler covered with several towels and go to sleep. They will hold in a good 7 day cooler for 8-10 hours.
Get to where you are going in plenty of time and pull the butts right before you serve them.
You'll get "some" sleep and won't take the chance on letting the pork cool.. and won't have to reheat the next day, saving you time for other stuff.

If you are planning on doing this very often.. keep an eye out at used restaurant auctions for a big proofing box with a heater. They won't cook your meat, but they will hold at whatever temp you like for as long as you like.

Scott_nra
02-09-2011, 05:31 PM
So if I can get it pulled, panned and chilled the night before, transport it on ice and then heat up pan by pan at the event, I'd be good right? Doe not seem any different than any small time function one might do like a pot luck dinner. Just bigger.

Seeems like if I get everything cooked up it will cool off very fast while it's being pulled into the pans and then cool of faster in that form in the Frigerator. Should be able to get to a cool temp pretty fast. This would see to me to be the safest way to handle everything. Plus having it all pulled before hand would really help with the socializing aspects.

roksmith
02-10-2011, 05:13 AM
Your call.. I'd keep it hot.. but if you do plan on cooling it, I'd probably plan on using some bags of ice to help the refrigerator. I doubt a regular refrigerator will cool that much meat quickly enough if it all goes in hot at the same time.
Our health department rates cooling and reheating a higher risk category than just cooking and holding for just that reason.

chachahut
02-10-2011, 12:40 PM
Just my 2Ę here, but unless you've got a commercial fridge in your garage - it's not going to cut it for cool down. Residential fridges do not have the cooling capacity needed to properly down the temp in the necessary time - especially not 30 - 40#.

Bamabuzzard
02-10-2011, 02:26 PM
To be honest if it wasn't for customers I'd almost be inclined to say go for it. But I'll be honest. You're taking a big risk cooking for that many customers not having much experience feeding that type of crowd.

I've seen some things like this go bad wrong. A couple of years ago I worked in the oil and gas business and our company had a safety meeting for a lot of the company men from these large oil and gas companies such as Petrohawk, Chesapeake, XTO etc. Well, the company was going to serve lunch and rather than calling a caterer who was established, known and been doing it for quite some time they hired one of their "buddies" who was "about to get into the catering business" to do it. The guy was going to serve chicken, sausage and brisket with sides.

Long story short. None of the food was ready on time or at the same time. The brisket was undercooked, chicken luke warm and the sausage was the best thing he had. You could tell the guy was in over his head and had no idea what he was doing with regard to preparing everything where the entire selection would be ready to serve at once.

Safe to say it was quite embarrassing for the company...

trekmstr
02-11-2011, 06:36 AM
absolutely agree with previous post. if you are going to cool it DO NOT PUT IT IN TO YOU HOME FRIDGE!! it will run all night long and not cool it. keep it warm or cool it completely. also 1 more problem to consider. when you cook so much meat it will take a lot longer than you expect. usually when i smoke i am only doing 2 shoulders. when i did that fundraiser i had the smokers packed and did not take into account how much longer it was going to take to cook the stuff. mid way through i even cut the meat into much smaller chunks top speed thing up. good luck with what ever you decide.

Scott_nra
02-28-2011, 08:39 PM
Well Sports fans here's the update: We're going for it! Spent all day from 8amand still going.

Meat on by 9am on a LP upright smoker after trying to decide if we could get 300-350*F on it with 5 butts....Nope! 228-230*F was max and it took about 2 hours to get there. Smoked on that until almost 8pm and pulled them at about 158* internal temps. (probe) Transfered them to my house ovens at 350*/foiled to finish. It took both of my ovens to fit them in small foil pans so as not to trash the ovens.

It is now 9:30 and one is done (It was in one oven by itself) Cut off at 185* and it rose to 189* at rest. The others are at 179 and at this rate should be done at about 10-10:30pm. At that point I'll pack them in towels in a cooler that will just fit them all and we are leaving at 5:45am. Should be up and pulling by no later than 8am. We are going to pull and put into pans, cover and back on the grill to get up to temp again. Plan on getting them to about 160-180* for about 30 min to 1 hour before serving any. Thermopen going on Birthday list!