MMMM.. BRISKET..
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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 10-21-2021, 09:08 AM   #1
grizzly0925
Got Wood.
 
Join Date: 12-07-20
Location: Magnolia NJ
Name/Nickname : Nick
Default 120 Gallon in size big enough for small catering?

I have a "backyard" pit being built by Greenmoneyfab in NJ its going to be about the size of a 120 but its a 26" diameter pipe build.

Do you think this is big enough for later on doing small catering gigs for friends and family?

Eventually if it's big enough to do small gigs I will be getting it on a trailer and going about things in the right way. I am already planning on taking my servsafe in the next few months.

I am imagining i can get it loaded down with butts at least for pulled pork. I will have to find the hot spots to see how many briskets I could fit on the bad larry once I receive it.

Anyone ever get started on a small pit?
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Old 10-21-2021, 12:05 PM   #2
SmoothBoarBBQ
is One Chatty Farker
 
Join Date: 02-25-17
Location: Killeen, TX
Name/Nickname : Donnie
Default

Generally a 120 gallon smoker is pretty close to a 24x48 cooker. For a catering gig that's pretty small as it will seriously limit your cooking capacity. I opened my BBQ food trailer business in 2017 using a Johnson Smokers 24x60. Within about 2 months I had already outgrown that smoker and needed more capacity. I ended up selling that smoker and going with an insulated cabinet smoker simply because I needed a new pit urgently and it was the right price at the right time. I was able to cook 36 butts or 20 briskets at a time on that cabinet smoker, and that was enough for a normal vending service.

Were I to start cooking for the public again I wouldn't go any smaller than a 250 gallon smoker. That's a great size to dip your toes in the water, allows you to still do whole pigs if requested, and you won't be burning through a cord of wood every cook. Offset smokers are expensive and they take a lot of time to build, so if you go too small it's an expensive and time consuming road to get to the size you will actually end up needing.

Something to consider is that side dishes take up space on a smoker, ie full hotel pans of baked beans, full hotel pans of smoked mac&cheese, etc.. Side dishes take up a lot of room in a smoker but they are incredible money makers so it's worth it.

Good luck moving forward but I would just hate to see you end up in a similar boat as me and have to essentially start over almost immediately after starting up your operation. Good luck with whatever you choose and I hope your business goes well.

Note : I'd take the ServSafe course as soon as possible. It's a great course and it forces you to write a HACCP which is going to be a requirement for your business. The course is good for 5 years (make sure you take the Manager's course), and it's a great jump start to get you thinking about the equipment you'll actually need to run your business.
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Old 10-21-2021, 04:15 PM   #3
grizzly0925
Got Wood.
 
Join Date: 12-07-20
Location: Magnolia NJ
Name/Nickname : Nick
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by SmoothBoarBBQ View Post
Generally a 120 gallon smoker is pretty close to a 24x48 cooker. For a catering gig that's pretty small as it will seriously limit your cooking capacity. I opened my BBQ food trailer business in 2017 using a Johnson Smokers 24x60. Within about 2 months I had already outgrown that smoker and needed more capacity. I ended up selling that smoker and going with an insulated cabinet smoker simply because I needed a new pit urgently and it was the right price at the right time. I was able to cook 36 butts or 20 briskets at a time on that cabinet smoker, and that was enough for a normal vending service.

Were I to start cooking for the public again I wouldn't go any smaller than a 250 gallon smoker. That's a great size to dip your toes in the water, allows you to still do whole pigs if requested, and you won't be burning through a cord of wood every cook. Offset smokers are expensive and they take a lot of time to build, so if you go too small it's an expensive and time consuming road to get to the size you will actually end up needing.

Something to consider is that side dishes take up space on a smoker, ie full hotel pans of baked beans, full hotel pans of smoked mac&cheese, etc.. Side dishes take up a lot of room in a smoker but they are incredible money makers so it's worth it.

Good luck moving forward but I would just hate to see you end up in a similar boat as me and have to essentially start over almost immediately after starting up your operation. Good luck with whatever you choose and I hope your business goes well.

Note : I'd take the ServSafe course as soon as possible. It's a great course and it forces you to write a HACCP which is going to be a requirement for your business. The course is good for 5 years (make sure you take the Manager's course), and it's a great jump start to get you thinking about the equipment you'll actually need to run your business.
Thanks for the tips! I will def start the servsafe sooner rather than later. I think the 120 would be a good backyard option for me but I think you are right, might have to go 250 if I really step it up into catering. Lookingforward to starting the steps.
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Old 10-21-2021, 06:48 PM   #4
SmoothBoarBBQ
is One Chatty Farker
 
Join Date: 02-25-17
Location: Killeen, TX
Name/Nickname : Donnie
Default

I also want to emphasize that you need to get with your health department / environmental health and MAKE SURE that they will allow you to cook on an offset smoker. Unfortunately there are plenty of places (even here in Texas) which will require you to have an NSF certified smoker...and when it comes to offsets there's almost nobody who makes NSF offset smokers. No point in blowing a ton of money on a smoker for a business and your local health department won't allow you to use it.

People with different experiences have argued with me in the past about this whole NSF offset smoker thing, so I'm adding this video here. It's Harry Soo and he's at Heritage BBQ, in San Juan, CA. At 2:19 of this video Harry asks about how hard it was to get an offset smoker approved. The look on the guys face (and his story) are proof enough that many health departments are insane. He even talks about some guys in Houston, TX having similar issues.

https://youtu.be/rbvEIpTbrto?t=139
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Old 10-22-2021, 12:40 PM   #5
grizzly0925
Got Wood.
 
Join Date: 12-07-20
Location: Magnolia NJ
Name/Nickname : Nick
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by SmoothBoarBBQ View Post
I also want to emphasize that you need to get with your health department / environmental health and MAKE SURE that they will allow you to cook on an offset smoker. Unfortunately there are plenty of places (even here in Texas) which will require you to have an NSF certified smoker...and when it comes to offsets there's almost nobody who makes NSF offset smokers. No point in blowing a ton of money on a smoker for a business and your local health department won't allow you to use it.

People with different experiences have argued with me in the past about this whole NSF offset smoker thing, so I'm adding this video here. It's Harry Soo and he's at Heritage BBQ, in San Juan, CA. At 2:19 of this video Harry asks about how hard it was to get an offset smoker approved. The look on the guys face (and his story) are proof enough that many health departments are insane. He even talks about some guys in Houston, TX having similar issues.

https://youtu.be/rbvEIpTbrto?t=139

That's wild! I will reach out when I am ready for sure, the 120 gallon is going to be my backyard pit regardless, so I think when I am ready I will have to look into it further and decide if I will have to look into a humphreys or something of the sort if its a big problem. Thanks for the insight!
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