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Catering, Vending and Cooking For The Masses. this forum is OnTopic. A resource to help with catering, vending and just cooking for large parties. Topics to include Getting Started, Ethics, Marketing, Catering resources, Formulas and recipes for cooking for large groups.


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Old 11-12-2018, 10:31 AM   #1
Hayduke
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Default Cooking BBQ for a food truck

To those of you who own or have owned a BBQ food truck, how/when do you cook your meat?


I am looking into starting a BBQ trailer serving brisket, ribs, pork, sausage, and chicken one thing that I wonder is where, when and how... At a commissary or at home on the truck?


I worked at a restaurant where we would cook ribs, wrapped them and stuck them in the walk-in until it was time to reheat them by grilling them. Similarly, pork would be cooked, shredded then cooled in the walk-in then the next day placed in an oven with sauce for an hour to reheat then put on the line for service.



What techniques did you use to save time but server good quality food?
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Old 11-12-2018, 11:22 AM   #2
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I'm just getting started myself so I still some learning and adjusting to do. Right now I'm cooking Briskets & Butts the evening before and hot holding for service, and then cooking the quick stuff (Sausage, Boudin, Sides) the day of.
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Old 11-13-2018, 06:29 AM   #3
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I do a lunch service out of a food trailer and I smoke everything fresh all night long. I usually end up finishing cooking at about 9am and then hot-holding until lunch (about 11am to 1pm). I make everything fresh everyday with the exception of sauces which are usually made once a week.

I have a large "hog style" smoker on the porch of my food trailer on which I cook the food.

As for a commissary I haven't found one yet (working on it though) as there aren't any in my county. I spent 2 months begging and pleading with every restaurant or inspected kitchen in my town but nobody was interested in helping out. Anyways, do remember that when you do get a commissary if you want to use their facilities most are charging by the hour for kitchen usage, and then there's a fee for refrigeration. So your plan of cooking everything the day before is going to end up incurring quite a hefty fee at a commissary. The ones I saw in the towns near me were about $16 per hour with a minimum of 2 hours every time you show up. By law you need to be there before and after service, so that's a minimum of $64 per day...then add on oven / refrigeration fees and you might be closer to $100 per day.

On top of this some places require that your truck be parked at your commissary overnight / when not in use, and that's going to cost more as well. Definitely make sure you look into this before you buy a food truck as it's a serious financial obstacle.
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Old 11-13-2018, 08:22 AM   #4
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Our trailer is our commissary. I cook the brisket/butts overnight and cook the ribs/chicken in the morning before we open. Mac & cheese is cooked fresh every day, baked beans are done twice a week. Cold sides (slaw and pasta salad) are made once a week.
I'm good friends with a restaurant owner here in town and if any inspector from another county where we're catering or doing an event gives us any grief, they can call her and she'll say we use her restaurant for a commissary if we need to. She loves our ribs.
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Old 11-13-2018, 03:58 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by SmoothBoarBBQ View Post
I do a lunch service out of a food trailer and I smoke everything fresh all night long. I usually end up finishing cooking at about 9am and then hot-holding until lunch (about 11am to 1pm). I make everything fresh everyday with the exception of sauces which are usually made once a week.

I have a large "hog style" smoker on the porch of my food trailer on which I cook the food.

As for a commissary I haven't found one yet (working on it though) as there aren't any in my county. I spent 2 months begging and pleading with every restaurant or inspected kitchen in my town but nobody was interested in helping out. Anyways, do remember that when you do get a commissary if you want to use their facilities most are charging by the hour for kitchen usage, and then there's a fee for refrigeration. So your plan of cooking everything the day before is going to end up incurring quite a hefty fee at a commissary. The ones I saw in the towns near me were about $16 per hour with a minimum of 2 hours every time you show up. By law you need to be there before and after service, so that's a minimum of $64 per day...then add on oven / refrigeration fees and you might be closer to $100 per day.

On top of this some places require that your truck be parked at your commissary overnight / when not in use, and that's going to cost more as well. Definitely make sure you look into this before you buy a food truck as it's a serious financial obstacle.

If you have no commissary how do you make Bbq sauce.
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Old 11-14-2018, 12:05 AM   #6
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If you have no commissary how do you make Bbq sauce.
I live in Jacksonville, NC which is home to two very large Marine Corps Bases. The bases allow for outside vendors to come onto base and serve food, without a commissary or county permit, as they do their own inspections of the trailers / food trucks. So I cook everything on my truck and for sauces I use a hotplate and blender. I'm not making 100 bottles at a time...only 3-4 and that's usually enough for the week.

I'm working on doing what Medic92 did and trying to become my own commissary. I have a 3 bay sink, pressurized hot water on demand (tankless heater powered by propane), and all my equipment is NSF rated. My only issues are that my porch isn't screened in (yet), and Environmental Health is worried that about my source for water. It's kind of silly since none of the restaurants I spoke to said they had any kind of filtration system in place, so if city water is good enough for them why is it not for me?

Back in 2012 a politician in our capital city opened up a food truck and was in a similar situation as me in regards to a commissary. He fought hard enough that the state actually passes legislation stating that a commissary isn't necessary if a food truck / trailer has all the necessary equipment. Between that getting written into law in 2013, and now, that language has been removed from the law. So it's an uphill battle but I'm still trying to figure something out. It would be OK if we had a Co-Op style kitchen in the county but there isn't one...closest one is out of county and about 50 miles away. Environmental Health here is stating that the commissary MUST be within the county, so this is a problem for all of us out here. As of right now there is only a couple of food trucks which are permitted in my town and those are restaurants who are using their food truck to extend their reach. I've reached out to all of them and NOBODY wants to let me use them as a commissary even when offered $$. Just brutal, but I'm working my way up there.

Sorry for the rant...this has been a constant frustration for me over this last 18 months.
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Old 11-14-2018, 06:30 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by SmoothBoarBBQ View Post

I'm working on doing what Medic92 did and trying to become my own commissary. I have a 3 bay sink, pressurized hot water on demand (tankless heater powered by propane), and all my equipment is NSF rated. My only issues are that my porch isn't screened in (yet), and Environmental Health is worried that about my source for water. It's kind of silly since none of the restaurants I spoke to said they had any kind of filtration system in place, so if city water is good enough for them why is it not for me?

Back in 2012 a politician in our capital city opened up a food truck and was in a similar situation as me in regards to a commissary. He fought hard enough that the state actually passes legislation stating that a commissary isn't necessary if a food truck / trailer has all the necessary equipment. Between that getting written into law in 2013, and now, that language has been removed from the law. So it's an uphill battle but I'm still trying to figure something out. It would be OK if we had a Co-Op style kitchen in the county but there isn't one...closest one is out of county and about 50 miles away. Environmental Health here is stating that the commissary MUST be within the county, so this is a problem for all of us out here. As of right now there is only a couple of food trucks which are permitted in my town and those are restaurants who are using their food truck to extend their reach. I've reached out to all of them and NOBODY wants to let me use them as a commissary even when offered $$. Just brutal, but I'm working my way up there.

Sorry for the rant...this has been a constant frustration for me over this last 18 months.
Finding a commissary was my biggest hurdle so far. I had a deal worked out with a big church, but the health inspector wouldn't sign off on their grease separation system (without me spending a bunch of money on it). We finally managed to find someone who owned a pizza place that would let us use them as a commissary. Not that we even need the kitchen, but we had to have it for dumping and refilling water. My area will not allow you to operate without one, even if you're completely self-contained with the proper amount of sinks and all that.
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Old 11-14-2018, 06:52 AM   #8
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Finding a commissary was my biggest hurdle so far. I had a deal worked out with a big church, but the health inspector wouldn't sign off on their grease separation system (without me spending a bunch of money on it). We finally managed to find someone who owned a pizza place that would let us use them as a commissary. Not that we even need the kitchen, but we had to have it for dumping and refilling water. My area will not allow you to operate without one, even if you're completely self-contained with the proper amount of sinks and all that.
I ended up having water and sewer run out to my trailer at home, but before that I just talked to a local campground with an RV dump station and they let me dump my water there at no charge.
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Old 11-14-2018, 07:42 AM   #9
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I ended up having water and sewer run out to my trailer at home, but before that I just talked to a local campground with an RV dump station and they let me dump my water there at no charge.
I doubt that would work up here. I would have to have an approved source of potable water.
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Old 11-14-2018, 07:52 AM   #10
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I doubt that would work up here. I would have to have an approved source of potable water.
Same here...bizarrely North Carolina has one of the most strict food codes in the entire country. Smaller cities / counties still haven't figured out how to accommodate food trucks, so a lot of things aren't clear at all and it becomes "discretion of the inspector." This is why I just avoided the entire fiasco and ended up working on the military bases. Of course this limits my revenue pretty severely, but I'm getting a lot of good practice and ironing out all the kinks.

I was really shocked when Environmental Health told me I couldn't fill up my truck at my house. I asked about why the same water is good enough for every restaurant, but not my house, and it was a blank stare looking back at me. They got pretty sick of me asking questions as they didn't seem to know the "why" of anything, but instead just the "what."
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Old 11-14-2018, 08:08 AM   #11
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We were in a fortunate situation. We had a guest house that our HD allowed us to convert to our commissary. We had to install an extra 3 basin sink, install air gaps in the plumbing, etc., but it was fairly simple considering the convenience of having a commissary basically in our backyard.

As far as the water supply is concerned, we are on a private well so the HD just had to come take a bacterial test and we had to provide a water sample for them to send off to the University of Georgia for analysis. Everything was eventually approved.
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Old 11-14-2018, 11:58 AM   #12
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As far as the water supply is concerned, we are on a private well so the HD just had to come take a bacterial test and we had to provide a water sample for them to send off to the University of Georgia for analysis. Everything was eventually approved.
The inspector in the Parish where I was originally setting up just straight up refuses to certify well water under any circumstances. Even though a public school is using a well right in the middle of the community. It makes no sense. It's like some of these guys get the slightest bit of "authority" and let it go to their head.
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Old 11-14-2018, 03:43 PM   #13
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As others have posted, you need to make sure you are in compliance with local laws. As far the cooking, i cook the day of. I dont want to be the typical bbq restaurant in mn that serves reheated bbq. I serve freshly smoked meats. I cook at 300, and start around 5am. I cook big meats at my commissary kitchen and finish onsite with chicken, sausage and sides. I'm not allowed to have my trailer at my house, local and spousal regulations. I only cook brisket for evening gigs, not for lunch because of cook time. I can cheat on pork, but not brisket.
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Old 11-14-2018, 03:53 PM   #14
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As others have posted, you need to make sure you are in compliance with local laws. As far the cooking, i cook the day of. I dont want to be the typical bbq restaurant in mn that serves reheated bbq. I serve freshly smoked meats. I cook at 300, and start around 5am. I cook big meats at my commissary kitchen and finish onsite with chicken, sausage and sides. I'm not allowed to have my trailer at my house, local and spousal regulations. I only cook brisket for evening gigs, not for lunch because of cook time. I can cheat on pork, but not brisket.
I know of a couple of local places that don't even cook their brisket and pork. They order it already cooked and sliced/shredded. We're like you and don't want to serve leftovers or reheated food, with the exception of the baked beans, which we keep for two days, and the cole slaw/pasta salad which is usually good up to four days.
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Old 11-14-2018, 05:23 PM   #15
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My side items like mac and cheese, beans, sauces, slaw dressing and pickles I do prep in bulk. Slaw is mixed up a little at a time.
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