So Let me start out by saying this is my first official post… and because of that I cannot go any further without first stating how thankful I am for Jeff and for this site and for all of the amazing folks here who are willing to take the time to share their thoughts about this amazing hobby. SMF is by far the best resource for anyone just starting out in smoking or for anyone in general who just loves watching and helping people learn to get better at something.
Now for the good stuff. I am about 8 – 10 months into smoking and love everything about it, even the mess-ups. I started with a Brinkmann water smoker that I soon modified (With the help of this site) to run for a whole lot of hours straight without touching. That was fun and cool to do, and man can that thing turn out some pork butts and ribs…. But as I am sure is the same with a lot of you it wasn’t long before folks got wind of someone in their circle who could cook and I was now in need of more space. I learned from my first smoker that I like to tinker and make modifications, so I patiently waited for a gem on Craigslist and found an old Brinkmann SNP that became mine for $15. With a couple of cans of High Temp paint, some elbow grease and less than $100 in new grates and hardware (And a redneck brother with power tools)… I was able to create a horizontal smoker that also turns out some good meat and holds a TON!!!
So after a Sunday school cook-out a while back where I made some pulled pork, the Youth pastor inquired about doing a fundraiser. I quickly said yes!!! My brother is in the Youth Group and I love my church and the people there so I was glad to help. It was a ton of fun.
We smoked 120 butts in 2 days time. 60 of them were for whole butts and the rest we pulled for a church lunch and a by-the-pound sale. I could write about the experience all day but I am afraid I would lose half the folks reading… so here is a bulleted list of some pointers for those who may be interested in doing the same thing.
- Need a smoker? Ask around. I borrowed a smoker from one of the parents at the church who had his built a few years back. He is in medical sales and Smokes BBQ for his customers (doctors) as a service when they want to run fundraisers. Needless to say he has a successful sales practice. The smoker is a 4X4 Steel “House” mounted to a trailer. It has 4 racks and we were able to fit 57 6-9 pound butts on it. If you borrow, arrange a time to help the lender with one of his smokes first to find your way around.
- Plan, Plan, Plan. In my case the youth pastor had his group pre-sell tickets, and we had a good idea of how many we were going to do…but there is a lot to think about. When will you smoke them? Will they be cold or hot when delivered? Are you going to finish in church ovens? Does the church have ovens? Should you move the smoker to a parking lot that isn’t the church’s so that you won’t feel guilty having a beer? Very important stuff. Seriously, you might feel like a dork putting everything In a spreadsheet, but the fact is that people will be expecting something good for their ~$30 butt… so make sure it is good.
- Get lots of help. I made a mistake the first night and sent everyone home. I almost went stir crazy worrying over all of the details and whether it was cooking, etc. The best thing to do is to have a few guys hang out with you and then sleep in shifts. Also, make sure there are plenty of people around any time you are prepping, loading or unloading meat.
- Make some sauce. There is a good bit of downtime, and the youth have a tendency to wander when they are supposed to be working…so put them to work. We made and sold some sauce as well. Our pastor is a BBQ guy and he made some and called it “Rev Sauce”. Label your containers with the cheap Avery labels and put the church website address on them. We did this for our butts and by-the-pound too and included reheating instructions.
- Do a lunch…you will sell more. We scheduled the pre-sale pickup to be after church, and we scheduled a free lunch the same day for the congregation (Make it free and accept donations…trust me, you will make more that way). We were a little nervous about the by-the-pound sales because we sort of had to guess. But here is what happened… Everyone who had not pre-ordered got one taste of the amazing “Q” and went straight to the table for the by-the pound stuff.
- Make some naked. One thing I didn’t do is make any “naked” butts… and for that we lost a few customers. Some people have allergies or cannot have salt, etc… so throw a few naked butts on there to allow for that.
- And the final tip... Give 10% of everything you earn to a worthy cause and give thanks to the Lord for all that he has given you.
Was there stress? Yup. Did I have a good time for a good cause? Absolutely. I am blessed to be a part of something bigger than me… and totally learned a few things in the process.
Again, thanks to all on this site for helping me learn, and I promise… I have some q-view coming as soon as the youth pastor wakes up from this weekend and I can get the pics off his camera ;-)
I feel like after this experience I am ready to become an active member of this site and to give some "advice" to others starting out, like so many have done for me... so look out for me and thanks again.