My oldest daughter is getting married in June, and by request of herself, and many others (I heard a lot of comments like: Dad, you're cooking for the wedding, right?) [I have 5 kids, 3 still @ home], I was volunteered to cook the meats. Well, I already was planning for it in the background before being asked, assuming correctly as to how this would transpire. I began more serious planning a couple weeks ago by listing what I wanted to cook, planning for a smaller wedding of around 100 in attendance, per my daughter. In reality, I'll have enough meats cooked for over 150 (just in case she under-estimated on her invitation list, and they all show-up...lol!!!).
Today (03-26-13) I made a trip to our nearest Sam's Club for cases of brisket, pork butts and baby backs (1 case each) and 10 whole chickens (2 of which went into the smoker for dinner immediately after returning home, as 8 will be smoked for pulled chicken for the reception dinner). So, with all the changes I went through in my planning, I thought it would be a good idea to share exactly how I'm putting this together, just so anyone on the fence about doing a similar event can get some creative thoughts going and figure out how they can do it themselves...it may seem overwhelming, but you need to keep it simple, while covering the basic needs from a food service stand-point. Also, with no money being paid to you makes for less restrictions regarding food service equipment...doesn't have to be NSF approved, as some of mine won't be either (roaster ovens, in specific), but I will practice necessary hygiene and related prep and cooking food safety.
Oh, just to clarify, I was originally planning for on-site smoking and grilling, with the purchase of 2 more larger vertical smokers, but the thought of the stress of trying to get nearly 100lbs of meats cooked and out of the smoker at my desired time for resting, pulling, slicing and serving fresh out the cookers just didn't seem like a good road to travel. So, I'm cooking everything ahead of time, freezing and reheating to serve in roaster ovens, instead. That idea came to me with a great deal of relief, as I was not fond of the idea of cramming 15 slabs of baby backs into one smoker on rib racks and smoking for nearly 8 hours to get them done due to over-crowding.
Anyway, while the birds for tonight's dinner were getting happy, I assessed my weights on 3 of 5 brisket and 6 of 10 butts, decided the weights would yield at least as much as what I wanted and prepared to get the butts started smoking tonight while the 3 briskets lay in my Q-Fridge until my next days-off work when they will meet their fate as well. The 15 slabs of baby back ribs and 8 birds went to the super-chill to wait for their ride down smoky lane another day in a few more weeks, or a couple months if I want to wait that long...I've got plenty of time to get this finished. The remaining butts and briskets? Well, I have a reunion coming up in July and could smoke 'em up for that, assuming I can wait that long without a personal pulled pork or brisket smoke...uh, probably not very likely, but I can restock for the reunion in event that I can't resist the urge...LOL!!!
I also grabbed up disposable items such as dinner, appetizer and cake plates, flat-ware, a case of decent, heavy-weight napkins, stainless serving spoons, tongs, etc. Oh, did I mention that I am coordinating the entire meal? OK, now I did...sides will be prepared the day before, except for the wicked beans (a spin-off of Dutch's recipe), which will be cooked on-site while reheating the meats. Why get all this stuff purchased so early? To get it off my "must do list" so I can focus on more important things, an have time to rethink my supplies if anything drastic changes are made before it's too close to the due date, that's why...nothings set in stone, so this allows me to add if I desire.
The venue chosen by my daughter is 140 miles away from my home (in her college's town), so transport of food and necessary items for final prep will be much easier than doing all the cooking on-site, by far. Also, the venue (chosen just a couple days ago) won't be a good choice for outdoor cooking, as it's an Elk's Lodge banquet room with a full working kitchen (very nice venue, IMHO), so overall I feel that my decision a week ago to cook ahead of time is best...not best for the quality of the finished products, IMO, as ribs, pulled pork with a great bark and pulled and sliced brisket are best served fresh from the cooker, but, this will still be do-able for much better eats than you can pay for to have done on-site...I mean, seriously, who wouldn't like Bbq more than (almost) anything else for a summer wedding reception dinner? Huh? Most of the guests in attendance will be new to my Q, although word has spread far and wide of my abilities, so I'm sure they'll be looking forward to it, and I'm confident they'll enjoy partaking in something I LOVE to do!!! Not to focus the entire event on food, as it's my daughter's wedding...it's her and her soon-to-be hubby's day, hopefully to be filled with many enjoyable memories. BTW, her all-time favorite is pulled chicken, so I already planned on that, just for her, and when she heard today that I had all the good and most of the supplies on hand and ready to roll, she was pretty excicted.
SO, WHERE"S THE Q-VIEW?!?!?!?!? Alright, you talked me into it...LOL!!!
Tonight's yard birds, just to get the Smoke Vault back in the groove, as she's been a bit lonely for most of the winter...325* with apple and pecan chunks and 46* at start-up, dropping to 34* in the 2.25 hours it took for them to get happy. Prep consisted of on of my favorites, KISS...rinsed, rubbed liberally with olive oil after drying off, then dry rubbed with Lawry's Poultry Seasoning and Dry Rub (just because I needed something quick, and it's pretty tasty). Olive oil for aiding in crisping the skin, along with a dry smoke chamber. These came out pull-able, fall apart tender, and I wasn't even shooting for that...can't wait to smoke the birds for pulled chicken!!!:
Around 140-150* internal in the thighs here:
I could have went to 350*, maybe 375* for even darker browning of the skin, but for the pulled birds, they won't have skin anyway, so I'll probably stick to what worked tonight for these birds...why fix what already works just fine as is, right? Just some quick down and dirty shots of the platter on my desk chair so I could get after my butt smoke:
I could tell from handling them that the skin was fairly crisp...I've had a bit better in the past with a few extra tricks and higher smoke chamber, but no complaints from the family.
SHESH!!! I musta been in a heckuva hurry...no pics of the breasts...not even one!!! Not like me at all......
No pics of the cut/pulled birds, as I was too busy to get butts in the smoker for an all-nighter...(WHAT?!?!?!)...yep, been smokin' 'em up already...I have one more day off work and my main focus with my spare time right now is the wedding, so why wait?
And, here's the start of my pulled pork (46lb-10oz pre-trimmed, per my digital scale)..trimmed off the fat-cap and most exposed membranes and other fat on the sides/bottom for a leaner meat with a bit less picking through when pulling it in about 30 hours from this point in time. These are bone-in butts, not injected or tampered with in any way, so the 40-140*/4-hr guideline is null, as these are intact whole muscle meats...piece a cake...er, uh, pulled pork (in about 28-30 hours from now):
I think they look good enough for one of my favorite pork rubs...Hawg Heaven...(recipe wiki)...minus the apple powder, 'cuz I'm going to add a solution of apple juice, vinegar and water in the roaster oven for reheating...toss it up a bit before serving and viola!!!:
Into the Smoke Vault 24 @ 10:30PM Mtn Time...ambient temp of 29* and falling, chamber temp of 240* with a heavy smoke up front provided by cherry, apple and pecan chunks and a dry smoke chamber (pea-gravel-filled water pan with foil drippings catch over pan):
I did some rotation of the butts after 1 hour for more effective pasteurization of the meat's surface due them touching together when I loaded the smoker...I definitely had some concerns over that after looking over the pics (smoker loaded by LED headlamp in the dark), and decided to take action and remedy this as best I could. The last pic, when I dumped to the puter to view, told me I had a potential problem, and I've never loaded the Vault up quite like this before, so I quickly realized that it was time for implementing some corrective measures. I'll stick 'em for internals @ 10 hours or so...or when ever I get around to it if I head off to slip between the sheets...no hurry on internals, as this will be a long smoke, I expect...crowded smoke chamber, heavy load, no foil butts? Yeah, long smoke...thinkin' over 24 hours, for sure.
I should be able to get some eyelid inspections in soon, I hope before sunrise...just keeping temps stable in the Vault for now, as this heavier load is taking longer for thermal absorption rates to drop off, so dialing the burner back every hour for a while longer than normal is to be expected. This is where the watt-burners have an advantage, but I think this heavier load would zap the chamber temps pretty hard-core with an electric smoker, unless it's had some extra juice pumped into the box via an add-on heater element with a separate power cord...maybe a stock unit with 1,500 watts could pull it off OK...dunno.
5.75 hours into the pulled pork smoke, and counting...notice the heavier browning on the right...time for a 180* grate rotation...that's why I'm not in bed yet...never loaded this rig this heavy before, so it changes baffling effects, heat flow, hot/cold spots...never know how a smoker will react to a change like this, so, you do a bit longer than usual babysitting if you want it smoked as best as you can smoke it with all your skills, knowledge and the equipment you have on hand at the time...that's always my goal, and this smoke is of very special importance to me:
Now I'm thinkin' bed soon...been cruisin' pretty smooth in 240* range for the past 90 minutes or so, weather is clear and calm, even have a full moon to gaze at, and temps will stabilize back to where it was after the grate rotation, no problem there...no other foreseeable issues on the horizon at the moment...I like it!!!!!!!!!!!!
I must be a dedicated Daddy...I haven't eaten dinner yet and it's just a couple hours from sunrise now...thinkin' dinner's not an option anymore...pulled chicken and egg breakfast scramble would be in order, though.
OK, so at this point you may be wondering just what I've actually planned on doing? Here's my updated list (a rough draft, subject to change as dictated by guest list):
FOOD LIST AND COOKING PLANS
3:16 AM 3/27/2013
***Initial planning for ~100 guests and attendants, expandable to 120+, with full-working kitchen, banquette room, no outdoor on-site cooking allowed***
Pork Butts, case @ Sam's Club - need min 45lbs (min 25lbs cooked weight);
Baby Back Ribs, case - need 15 slabs for 2 ribs per person (~31+lbs pre-smoked);
Beef Brisket, whole (packer), case - need ~45lbs ( min 25lbs cooked weight, pulled point, sliced flat);
Chickens, whole - need 40lbs (25lbs cooked weight, smoked & pulled);
***min 75lbs smoked meats + 15 slabs smoked baby back ribs***
WICKED BEANS (triple batch - 32.4lbs):
Bush's Best Regular Beans - 7lb, 5oz - 3
Pineapple, crushed, 20 oz - 3
Ro-tel diced chilies and tomatoes, 10oz - 6
Bacon, hickory smoked, 1lb pkg - 3
Dinner rolls: 8-9 dozen
Home-made slow-raised buns (similar to large hamburger buns), 4-5 dozen [48-60 sandwiches];
SALADS (approx 51lbs):
***Pasta Salad, 12b:
***Creamy Potato Salad with H/B Eggs, 15lb (no mustard, guest can add mustard if desired);
***Creamy Cole Slaw w/carrot - 12lb;
***Rice, Whipped Cream & Fruit Cocktail Salad, 12lb;
***Garden Salad w/Romaine lettuce, 15lb;
***Butter, unsalted, 1lb box - 3
***Margarine, 1lb tub, 2;
***BBQ Sauce, 2-3 varieties - 1 qt each;
***Mustard - 2 pint bottles;
***Ketchup - 1qt;
***Horse Radish - 2 lg bottles;
***Ranch Dressing, Italian Dressing, French Dressing - 1qt each;
APPETIZERS AND GARNISHES:
***Various Crackers, tortilla chips, potato chips - 15lbs;
***Salsa - hot, medium, mild - 3 quarts;
***Ranch dip, french onion dip - 6 pints;
***Fresh Sliced Vegetables (buy a few days ahead);
***Smoked Sharp and Extra Sharp Cheddar and Pepper-Jack Cheeses;
COOKERS AND ACCESSORIES:
Electric roaster ovens, 16qt with high-domed lid - 5;
Extension cords, 12AWG, 25ft - 2
Power-strip, 15amp - 2
Large roll 18" aluminum foil;
Large roll 18" plastic wrap;
Bus Bins (for ice-bath of cold foods on buffet table) - 6;
Bar Mops (for condensation from cold food bins) - 20;
Cooking utensils: spoons, tongs for meat and charcoal, spatulas, meat handling tines (for pots/pans, grills/smokers);
Serving spoons and tongs - minimum of 6 each;
EXPENDABLES , CLEANING, AND HYGIENE:
Ice, cubes, 20lb bags - 5 (3 for transport of food in coolers);
Dinner plates, large divided - 120;
Plates, small (appetizer, cake) - 250;
Tableware, full sets - 120;
Cake forks - 150;
Heavy-weight napkins - 400 (have case of 1,200);
Paper towels - 3 rolls;
Dish washing liquid soap, quart bottle - 1
Wash cloths and nylon scrub brushes;
Hand sanitizer, large pump bottle - 1
Nitrile gloves, powder-free (for food prep/handling) - 1 box of 50 prs
Catch ya on the rebound with pulled pork...maybe sooner if something comes up along the way that's worth noting....TIC-TOC__TIC-TOC...see ya ASAP!!!
Thanks for peekin"!!!
OK, I've edited this post twice, and I'm too tired to add any more that I've overlooked, or correct the rest of my typos...hope it's somewhat legible and you can understand it all so far...LOL!!! NIte all!
Edited by forluvofsmoke - 3/27/13 at 3:33am