View Full Version : Thoughts after my biggest event so far-long post

02-29-2016, 11:01 AM
Long post ahead, read at your leisure.

I got the chance to "cater" my biggest event so far. I use the term Cater loosely because it was much more of a volunteer thing, but it definitely pushed my skills and the limits of my smoker. We got to celebrate our lead Pastor's 10 year anniversary with the church over the weekend, and decided to do it via a pot-luck type of dinner with videos from all the past associate pastors. My que has earned a bit of a reputation around the church, and since it was my wife and the wives of the other board members organizing everything I was TOLD I was volunteering to provide the meat. :shocked:

We had signups for lots of the sides, salads, ect... so I was to just focus on the main course. Told to budget for 300 people. Our church was very diverse, and after discussing it with the others and knowing the limitations of my smoker, we decided to plan for 200 plates of BBQ, and would pick up 150 pieces of chicken from Publix as well. I wasn't crazy about that idea, but I knew cooking an additional 150 pieces of BBQ chicken would have been too much, so I called Public and placed the order.

I worked last week to get my Sam’s Club list together. The listed included my rub, BBQ sauce, sweet team/lemonade/water, salad dressings, chafing dishes, and the meat. Headed to Sam’s Friday night to pick up everything

I got a case of Bone in Butt, 80#'s worth, and bought an extra 2-pack, 100 #s total. 12 butts total. This is where my first lesson came in, Sam’s was out of several of the spices I needed to make my rub. We took everything home and I tried Walmart who didn't have what I needed either. I went to Kroger next and they had all the spices I needed, but in little bottles. They also had Bad Bryan's Butt Rub in the larger containers for $11.00. I took a big risk trying a new rub for a big event, but the BBBR was good stuff. **Lesson #1- Plan ahead, and don't go shopping the day you need to start cooking**

Made it back to the house around 10:00pm Friday night and started prepping. the next issue was one I knew I had before I started, 100#s of mean, 1 UDS with 2 racks... I lit the drum and started prepping the first set of butts while it came up to temp. Going to run 275 and budget an hour a pound, anticipating an 8 hour cook.

I built my first drum probably 7-8 years ago, back when the UDS Appreciation thread had just started, so I've got a LOT of cooks on it, but never put 50#'s of meat in the drum at once. **Lesson #2&3- meat takes a lot longer when the drum is crowded; and the drum is not nearly as efficient when overloaded** 9 hours at what my thermometer said was 260-280, my drum has burned through an entire 20# bag of coal and the meat is around 180*. I fire up the oven, wrap the butts in foil, and finish them there as I normally do. But I've NEVER ran out of fuel in my drum, especially for just one cook. My basket is 1'x1'x1', I can fit a whole 20$ bag in it with room to spare, and I still ran out.

I start and cook the 2nd batch pretty much the same way. However, the extended cook time threw my timing off... The first batch finished resting around 1:30. Since the church has industrial fridges, I left my smoker going and took the first batch up there to pull and cool down. This wasn't an issue, the 2nd batch getting done around 2am WAS an issue and that made for a really long night. **4th lesson- in this situation, I should have just bagged the mean and iced bath to cool it off quickly instead of killing my sleep, I was a zombie the next day trying to prep for the actual party** For long term, I need to come up with some good warming/keeping equipment like some cainbros or better coolers than the cheap-o Walmart coolers I've got now.

FINALLY- We're at prep day, and despite my hallucinations from lack of sleep over the last 2 days, it goes off really well. For anyone that complains about a catering price, the food itself is just one small part of the much larger scheme of things. I had a TON of helpers, 3 other board members and all our wives, youth group, and just general good people from the church stayed after service to help set up. I got to the church at 6:45 to run the sound board, and didn't leave until 8 30 that night after cleaning up. LOOONG day.

Off the recommendation of this form (THANKS GUYS), I warmed up the Q in the church's commercial oven, turned the oven on 2 hours before dinner time with some apple juice and a little rub, tightly covered at 300*. The timing was perfect, pretty much down to the minute! And the Q was excellent, a little more cooked than I would have liked, but certainly NOT my worst Q ever. Got tons of compliments and requests, and at the end of the night after a few doggie bags we had a half pan left. I put it into a throw away chafing dish along with most of the left overs and we got the opportunity to bless one of the women at our church with a large family who lost her husband a few years ago. She cleans houses for #15/hour and at one time had 9 mouths to feed including herself.

If you are still with me, Thanks for reading along. I hope it helps give an insight to anyone wanting to tackle a larger cook like this, and helps others appreciate why having an even catered is so expensive. I did a fraction of what a full caterer does (I didn't provide a lot of the set up/take down labor, had a bunch of helpers, ect, and I am still sore/dead tired!!!). I've done plenty of 75-100 people cooks, but when you get this large, have this many moving pieces, and know your pushing your limits and the limits of your equipment, it's a big jump.

3 final points:

*The event was extremely successful. 2 of our pastor’s children are in Ministry of their own in PA and CA, and both flew in to be with us. I don't this our Pastor was expecting near as much as what happened, and he was extremely grateful. He had surgery a few weeks ago to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon and wouldn't stay in his seat all night, wheeling around one of those carts that thank as many people as he could, Good dude

** The lady that we blessed with the leftovers. It was a last minute decision and we brought her back into the kitchen to help her load them up so it wasn't done in front of the congregation. She started crying when she saw everything. For me, this was the most powerful moment of the night, and it was not the least bit planned. I actually didn't know why I was asked at first to start packaging up the leftovers, but it turned out awesome.

***As far as cooking/Que goes, The only thing I can really say is I'm a better cook today than I was 72 hours ago. I changed several of my processes, I learned a lot about my smoker and how it reacts to this size cook, and I identified several gaps overall that I will correct before I take on something this large again. Physically done for, I hurt, I think I'm starting to get sick, and I just feel like I haven't taken care of myself over the last 24 hours, but I still feel really good about the accomplishment that was made and the amount of knowledge I gained from the process. Way too busy for a ton of pics, but I got a few:




02-29-2016, 11:25 AM
That's a big a cook to pull off with a single UDS and it sound's like you did it.


02-29-2016, 11:51 AM
You always grow when you do events like this. Being able to change process to make it successful means you already knew what you were doing and tweaked to be better and more efficient. Good for you!

02-29-2016, 12:32 PM
... **Lesson #1- Plan ahead, and don't go shopping the day you need to start cooking** ...This is going to sound kind of wonky, because it is wonky. So I apologize in advance.

In project management jargon, if you have three days until your deadline and a task that is one day long, the difference is "slack time."

The rule is: Start the task as soon as you can and leave the slack time at the end. Do not burn up the slack time, planning to do the task at the last minute. If anything goes wrong and you do not have slack time during which to recover, you are screwed.

If you're planning something big and complicated, as you were, just think in terms of tasks and slack time. You'll never have to re-learn your Lesson #1.

02-29-2016, 12:45 PM
Super,super job and great post

02-29-2016, 01:03 PM
Great Story and Outstanding service to the lady you all helped. Sounds like an amazing event. Thanks for sharing

Jason TQ
02-29-2016, 02:59 PM
Yeah that 50-100 range can be somewhat easy (relatively speaking), but when you start hitting 200'ish scaling can be trouble if you don't have all the room in your cooker(s). Glad it went pretty well!