I'M BACK! Daughter's Wedding - My 1st to cook for: Planning, Smoking, Q-View (HUGE success)

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Update: checked out the venues today...
Sleep well my friend you have earned it. Can't wait for the BB's.

Ronnie G.
Thanks Ronnie, and yes, I do need some sleep...LOL!!! Got a much needed trip out of the way today, so I can breathe easier now, too.

Good news:  got to visit my daughter and her fiance today and we had a look at the banquette room, kitchen, equipment, etc, and spoke with the manager about the meal plan and reception so she's in the loop, and to look at available options to make it all come together. It's a shared kitchen with another smaller party that day (kitchen adjoined by separate banquette rooms), but we'll have use of 2 of the 3 Vulcan gas ovens (large enough for full size pans with room to spare...thinkin' 30" inside width), and they have 3-4 large roaster ovens. For food service, they have a quad steam table and 2 singles (for full-size pans), for a total of 6 hot dishes (we possibly need 7 due to the BB's [I don't think 15 slabs of sliced BB's will fit in one pan], but if the other party needs a couple, I can serve from the roaster ovens). There's also a large ice maker, so if I run short on ice, that's covered. There's a very large island food prep table (approx 12ft x 4ft) with hardwood top and a decent accompaniment of pots, pans, cutlery and cooking accessories...it's equipped to handle cooking various feeds for over 200 people per sitting, so I think there isn't much that I wouldn't find in the kitchen, but little of the that will be needed unless we do the cold sides onsite.

We only need to decide if we want to prep the cold sides at home and transport, or prep onsite after transporting the raw food the day before. Most of the raw goods for cold sides could be purchased just a mile or so away after unloading the bulk of the coolered thawing meats and other items the day before, as we can come in a day early for decorating, banquette room set-up and stocking the food and/or final food prep...they have no issues with that. I can keep coolered food on ice if fridge space were an issue at all, but right now it shouldn't be...either way, good to go. This is going to be a piece-a-cake!!! Well, maybe I shouldn't say that so early, right? But I have coordinated outdoor meals from coolers and just a 4.2 cu ft fridge for a group of about half this size onsite before with little more than a make-shift, but functional kitchen under a pavillion. Just about anything is possible with a little creative thinking and keeping safe food handling practices in mind.

That said, I don't need to purchase roaster ovens to reheat with and serve from (which is a minor expense, but that much less bulky gear to transport), and the two available ovens will work out great for reheating and finishing of the baby back ribs. I think we're going to be set-up nicely for the final prep and meal service, so that's one more thing to check off my list...can you see the
??? Ha-ha!!!

That is some fine looking yardbird E! Looks like everything is coming together nicely. I am sure the wedding will be a spectacular event.
Thanks Toby! The pulled birds were actually pretty easy to do...just a little time-consuming to pull the meat, but once I got rolling it went pretty fast. I kinda planned the birds and ribs for last so I'd have the long smokes done before I ran out of energy...the longest smokes and the most pre-smoke prep or finished processing work out of the way sooner...think I made a good call on that, 'cuz I was a bit slow getting going this morning, knowing I had just 2 more smoke runs to make for the ribs. I think I'm about whooped...well not yet, but loosing some steam anyway.

I have a pretty good idea how to bring this all together now after seeing the kitchen at the venue, the banquette room and food service equipment available for buffet dining. Takes a little more of the edge off not having to wonder what I'll be able to do, but instead be able to do final planning for reheating and service well in advance...I can breathe much easier for sure. There was some mention that a couple of guests wanted to bring side dishes as well, so if I can find out what and much will help me decide if I need to cut-back on something or maybe make a change...still plenty of time for that end to take shape yet, so no worries. Meats are almost finished, and that's what I wanted done early so the rest of the food and planning can fall into place with much more ease.

Round one of the ribs is in the Vault...gotta get that update rolling.

Back in a short!

9 slabs of Baby Backs are in...

I decided to break this smoke up over 2 days instead of trying to push for 2 batches in one...I'm getting worn-down a bit at this stage of the game, and have plenty of time to finish the meats, so I'm taking it easy today with 9 slabs, and tomorrow I'll smoke the last 6 slabs. I was pretty slow out of the gate this morning, so I didn't think it would be a good idea to try to run a marathon today, and this will give me extra time to look for pull-back and shrinkage on individual slabs more closely than if I were running against the clock to do 2 smokes in one day....time to slow-down and relax more now.

So, why not grab all my rib racks and slap all 15 slabs into the Vault for a single smoke? Cram 8 slabs on one grate and 7 on the next with double-grate spacing? Too much crowding...uneven cooking, lots of grate rotations to even things out and too much room for error. Happiness is a full smoker, after all, but there comes a point where too much crowding just makes things more difficult to manage and the finished product consistency ends up suffering in the end, so I'm not going to push the limits when I don't really see a need to, and make it tougher on myself by complicating things to get it done. Backing off and keeping it reasonable will give me much more opportunity to keep the finished product how I want it to come out for reheating, and that's a top priority towards the end of smoking these baby backs...texture when reheated...don't want them falling off the bone or having a tough chew, either. I won't have an opportunity or the equipment to set the bark on open grates prior to serving, so I need the meat a bit firmer to hold itself together, while still having a nice, lighter chew...that's my goal anyway.

I would probably shoot for 4 hours of smoke for fully-cooked, yet not quite tender, but with a decent load like I have today, cooking can slow down a bit, especially with opening the chamber to look for pull-back before I do tenderness checks, as well as grate rotations to even out cooking as much as possible as indicated. Some slabs may be cooked to my desired tenderness while others may be lagging behind, so I need to watch for these signs to avoid overcooking, especially for reheated ribs. I may be looking at 6 hours to smoke these up the way I want them to come out, but I've never smoked 3 slabs on 3 grates before (that I recall), so time will tell the rest of that story.

So, onto my first rib victims...

Just a couple pics of the dry rub coming together this morning...I ground the tart cherries, then gave the dried red bell peppers a couple of quick pulses and tossed them together for a second grind before adding much of the other spices:

Second grind here...I added the cumin, rosemary, oregano during this grind...:

...a total of 3 grinds once everything except kosher salt was added to get a good blend before tumbling in the container prior to rubbing the ribs.

EDIT: forgot to mention that the rub is the same as for the pulled pork, Hawg Heaven Rub, without apple...will add a bit of apple cider or apple juice during reheating to bring that into the mix of the overall flavor profile.

9 slabs rinsed and ready for dry rub:

I laid all the slabs meat-side up in the bin, rubbed 3 slabs at a time in the bin and went straight to the smoker grates:

Time for smoke...I pre-lit the chunks and chips of apple with a torch to get the smoke coming on heavy up front from a cold smoke chamber and let the temps slowly climb to 150* for the 1st 15 minutes, then bumped to 200* for another 30 minutes, then hitting 225* at the end of the first hour, where they will ride for the duration:

To get the flames to go out, I just cranked the burner on high for a minute and closed the door...no oxygen + no fire...:then bumped the burner setting back for a slower climb with chamber temps:

90 minutes in with chamber temps around 220* and I decided to grate position swaps and rotations.

5th grate up...coloring is showing it's suffering the effects of baffling from all the other slabs beneath it (still lots of pink meat on the surface and little signs of weeping juices onto the surface), so it's going to the lowest position I'm now using, being the 3rd one up, and also a 180* grate rotation...we'll get the cooking evened-out better this way:

4th grate up looks pretty normal for what I've done with smoke and temps thus far, so just a 180* grate rotation for these fellas:

3rd grate up (lowest position I'm using) looks nice as well, but I know it's catch a bit more heat that the rest, so these are going up to the top (5th) grate position to slow them down just a bit, and again, a 180* grate rotation:

The gang's all settled in for some more smoke and heat...plenty of moisture in the foil drippings catch over my pea-gravel-filled water pan yet, so smoke reaction will still be about as good as I can get without dropping chamber temps, but I started cold and took an hour to reach 225*...that's pushing low temps enough, IMHO...upper grate looks much darker here due to the sunlight hitting the lower grates:

I'll likely do a couple more grate position changes and rotations before these come out, as indicated by coloring, juice pooling on the surface, pull-back/shrinkage, etc. It's easily do-able, but you just have to pay attention to the signs and act accordingly...a peek every 60 minutes or so will tell you what and if anything needs to be done, but with grates loaded up like this, you don't want to just check chamber temps and smoke out-put and call it good to go, 'cuz you're not good to go at all with a vertical smoker and large amounts of the grates covered with meat. Heat baffling from the lower meats will bite you in the hinder.

That's it for now...I'll be back with more towards the finish...just some peeking and tending to do for a few more hours now, until I like what I see and feel on those slabs of ribs. Easy smoke, though, and right now I definitely need easy...I'm one tired boy, but a happy smoker! LOL!!!

See ya ASAP!


EDIT: ribs went into the smoke at 11:00 AM MT.
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Great Start on the Ribs, Eric !!!!

Any more weddings, and you're gonna have to get one of those smokers with the rotisserie built in !!!

Be Back !

6-hr Update...5 slabs are out...
Great Start on the Ribs, Eric !!!!

Any more weddings, and you're gonna have to get one of those smokers with the rotisserie built in !!!

Be Back !

Thanks Bear! Oh man, you know I actually had drawings for several designs of rotisserie smokers a couple years ago when I was planning on building my own mobile BBQ concession rig. Would have been sweet to have even a smaller one right about now, or better yet, when I started this project 4 weeks ago.

I did 30-60 minute rotations on grates and grate positions until I had about half of them looking and feeling like I wanted. So, they came out to cool before going into the sub-zero chill-o-vator for their 2-month wait. The time spent with the cabinet door open definitely increased cooking time, but I had to keep things cooking smoothly as best I could. Can you imagine what it would have been like to maintain this smoke with all 15 slabs loaded onto rib racks smoking away at the same time? I don't wanna go there...this was much easier to pull off without any issues.

Nice color from the rub and smoke, with a decent bark, which of course will soften-up during the reheat, but will also aid somewhat in holding them together if any are in fact over-cooked after the reheat.

First look at the top grate:

Stacked 'em up a bit for closer look at pull-back...looking for about 3/16-1/4", then it's time for a bend-test of the slab...:

4th grate up:

3rd grate up:

These 4 didn't make the grade for pull-back and bend-test so I'll give them another hour and check 'em out again...bend-test was too much sagging for these, and one still had pink juices on the surface, so it's still weeping a lot...not ready yet...probably just above med-well internal temps right about the time I was looking them over, but I don't check internals...just an observation from what I see with chops and pork steaks:

Finish gettin' happy, my friends...baffling shouldn't be much of an issue now with 2 slabs per grate, so these should pretty much take care of themselves, now:

Now, be honest...doesn't this make you wish you had a knife and a plate right about now? Or, just skip the knife?!?!?! LOL!!!

These BB's should work out great for a reheat and finish onsite...thinkin' about 3 hours or so in a 230-240* oven should do the trick...stand them on edge in a covered steam table pan and let it happen.

5 slabs of BB's are out, and 4 to go...6 more slabs go into the smoke in the morning and when they're ready, I'm done smoking meats for this event. Then. it's working out a few more details for final planning and we should be set for the reception dinner.

Back shortly!

Almost 7 hours for the last 4 slabs, so I gotta do some more peekin' and tweekin'...

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7-hr Update: last 4 slabs of round one BB smoke are finished...

This worked out nicely with only having 2 sets to rest at a time...actually, it would have been more of a rush to package for freezing after resting if they all came out at the same time, but still do-able.

Just a couple quick pics here after I dropped 'em into the bin to bring inside...looking at pull-back...all slabs passed the bend-test so I knew they were just about dead-on where I wanted them...chine-bones showing here...yes, I left the membrane attached for additional moisture retention and a stiffer slab prior to reheating, and it should glide right off after reheating before or after slicing into portion sizes:

I feel pretty confident that I nailed the texture for all of the ribs rather closely, for the amount of reheating and finish cooking time I'm planning on, based on ceremony time and reception dinner timing, as well as oven temps. I just need to get them heated through and give 'em a little more push to get slightly more tender, so it should work out nicely.

Oh, and the rub and smoke? I know the rub will be good, as it's one of our all-time favorites for pork, and my choice of smoke (straight apple) I felt would be best for those who don't eat a lot of Q, as well as those who enjoy it regularly...mild, slightly sweet and reasonably smooth...I can't go wrong with the rub and smoke. The aromas from the ribs when I brought them inside to rest was not strong at all...subtle smoke with a little hint of the rub and pork soon to follow, so there should be just a good amount of smoke without being overwhelming to anyone (some can't tolerate much smoke). I can duplicate the temps, times and smoke output pretty close in the morning...no problem there.

There probably won't be much going on with tomorrow's smoke, other than a bit easier with more space between slabs and the cabinet, having only 2 per grate on 3 grates,with less baffling of heat...I expect that it should be pretty trouble-free smoking, though. I'll drop a couple finished pics in for good faith, if nothing comes up.

Been a long haul so far, but the meat smoking is almost finished in just under one month...not bad, not bad at all...I'm lovin' it!!! Soon, I can focus on more ideas/changes for sides, final food prep, set-up of the buffet, etc...the rest is all down-hill from here and it should be a pretty smooth trail.

Thanks for riding along, everyone! Been a blast sharing good smoke with ya!!!

Oh, and the rub and smoke? I know the rub will be good, as it's one of our all-time favorites for pork, and my choice of smoke (straight apple) I felt would be best for those who don't eat a lot of Q, as well as those who enjoy it regularly...mild, slightly sweet and reasonably smooth...I can't go wrong with the rub and smoke. The aromas from the ribs when I brought them inside to rest was not strong at all...subtle smoke with a little hint of the rub and pork soon to follow, so there should be just a good amount of smoke without being overwhelming to anyone (some can't tolerate much smoke). I can duplicate the temps, times and smoke output pretty close in the morning...no problem there.

Eric my dear friend..... you have been smokin' grub for a month, darn near 24 hours a day..... and doin' a mighty fine job I might add.....   I'm just not sure you are the go-to-guy for telling if something is smokey or seasoned lightly by using your nose.....

Hey, when I smoke for 12 hours, I can't tell if something is smokey...  to me, my clothes smell like pasture petunias and bride says, "throw that stuff in the laundry"  .....    Just sayin' ......   

And by the way, for your effort in completing this glorious mission, you are my hero....
Oh, and the rub and smoke? I know the rub will be good, as it's one of our all-time favorites for pork, and my choice of smoke (straight apple) I felt would be best for those who don't eat a lot of Q, as well as those who enjoy it regularly...mild, slightly sweet and reasonably smooth...I can't go wrong with the rub and smoke. The aromas from the ribs when I brought them inside to rest was not strong at all...subtle smoke with a little hint of the rub and pork soon to follow, so there should be just a good amount of smoke without being overwhelming to anyone (some can't tolerate much smoke). I can duplicate the temps, times and smoke output pretty close in the morning...no problem there.

Eric my dear friend..... you have been smokin' grub for a month, darn near 24 hours a day..... and doin' a mighty fine job I might add.....   I'm just not sure you are the go-to-guy for telling if something is smokey or seasoned lightly by using your nose.....

Hey, when I smoke for 12 hours, I can't tell if something is smokey...  to me, my clothes smell like pasture petunias and bride says, "throw that stuff in the laundry"  .....    Just sayin' ......   

  Good point, Dave! I did fail to mention that every time I walked into the house the wife said I smelled good enough to eat (just the opposite of your wife), so the smoke was lingering on me all day (well, for 7 hours of exposure), and you do get desensitized after a few hours. On top of that, I probably opened the smoke chamber nearly a dozen times today for visual checks, grate rotations and removal of ribs...plenty of time for exposure to smoke. Shoot, I can't even smell it on my shirt right now. I did grab a couple crumbs of bark that broke off of the ribs and gave 'em the munch-test...smoke seemed like what I was looking for, but there again, am I desensitized? Should be fine, though with the amount of smoke wood I used and time of smoke (around 3.5 hrs, 1 hr of heavy smoke)...just going mainly by my past experience with fingers slightly crossed...LOL!!!

And by the way, for your effort in completing this glorious mission, you are my hero....
Thanks Dave!
Update: 2nd round of BB's are out...

No issues today at all with this smoke...nice weather: calm winds, no rain or snow with a high of 71* (so far). At 3 hours in I did a grate position change to even out cooking a bit, and that was it. 4 hours in and they all looked like what I wanted for pull-back...bend-test was good, so they're soon to land in the freezer and wait until June along side the first batch...ah, 15 slabs of BB's in wait.

4 hours in...need to look them over a bit closer:

They're happy, I'm happy...

...EVERYBODY is happy...except the family..."are you sure these are for the wedding and not tonight's dinner???"

No sliced pics of the ribs until the reception, as these are staying whole until then...I know, the suspense! LOL!!!

So, that concludes the smoking end of this planning for the big day. And, now, I can relax more and look into all my options for sides, final prep and food service. Sure was a fun ride, though! I think my Smoke Vault needs a break...I've never passed that much meat through a smoker in one month...EVER.

Any sides we do will be posted later sometime as well.

Back within the next couple of months...yeah, I had all this time for smoking and crammed into one month, but, that will be to my advantage, for sure...things can slow down now, and I have lots of time to carefully think things through. Later!

Oh Bear, if you only knew...I'm not dragging too bad anymore, but those all-nighters back-to-back with every pair of days off work took it's toll. I find myself wanting to do eyelid inspections after being awake for only about 6-8 hours for the past couple of weeks, but I pull through it...hope that wears off soon, though. In any case, it was worth the effort to get this all done early in the game and be able to kick-back a lot more now and just look things over from here on out.

71*?? I bet you were sweating!!! Happy you are finally getting some good weather!

The ribs, as does everything else, looks Awesome!!!!

Happy to see you are done with this phase but am going to miss the awesome updates!!! Get some rest and relax, you have a lot more work coming up shortly!!!

BTW learned a few good things I am going to try from your great detailed scientific posts!!! Thanks!!!
Ha-ha! Yeah, it topped out at 74* today...funny thing is, we still have some snow drifts to melt away yet...white stuff's almost gone, but for how long, is the question. We might still see more before the lawn mower gets fired-up.

Thanks Dave, I did have some pretty good smoke going for this...not everything worked out exactly as planned, but I came close enough to be able to work through and make it happen.

I do try to drop in as much of my thoughts, ideas and possible solutions to problems as possible along the way. It seems like if I don't post it, it will be forgotten later on. So, I probably drop in a lot more than I realize while I'm thinking out loud through the keyboard, and on some of these longer smokes there seems to be a lot of time for thinking. Glad you found some useful tips here and there...that makes it all worthwhile, IMHO.

But hey, it ain't over 'til it's over!!! LOL!!! Still have to get this all heated and served yet, so I'll post how that comes together, and of course sliced rib pics and the rest of the buffet lay-out. Clock is tickin', calender pages are fippin'. Looking forward to seeing this all come together in June...man, what a sight it will be...and a great way to help see my daughter off on her journey through a whole new life. The anticipation is a bit more than I can describe, but I already feel a great sense of satisfaction, knowing I could get this far in this short of time.

Later, bother Dave!

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Dang E! You sure making me tired, and hungry! Ribs look great, you better get a little rest. The big day will be on you shortly, then you have to wave your magic wand and get all that fine looking grub to the guests. Congratulations again, I am sure it will be a day your family won't soon forget. Get some rest bro!

Thanks Toby! I just hope I don't feel like I have to use that magic wand the day before the wedding when we arrive to start setting everything up! LOL!!! I do still want to have some back-up for reheating just in case, so I'm still considering having 3 roaster ovens of my own on hand. Other than that, I think with what I've seen of the reception venue, kitchen, etc, things should come together without a lot of head-scratching. Of course I'll still be a little apprehensive until I see everything up and running for reheating, but I also know that I will be more at ease as time passes. I have over 7 weeks to think about the whole event and any other possible issues that might show their teeth long ahead of time.

Things are still soaking into the ol' brain yet, so I just gotta settle in and see what comes next...lots of time yet before the big day. Took me almost 2 hours to get to sleep last night...not normal for me...I just gotta get relaxed again at this point...the rest will come. I didn't think I'd notice much stress from doing all of this, but I think it's a little different than if you were to do it for someone else instead of your own daughter...lots going on all in a matter of less than 4 hours...handing over my daughters hand in marriage, then serving all that I've created over this past month (as well as what's yet to come on the menu) for a celebratory meal and hope I do it up right...
...it will work out fine...just gotta keep a cool head and stick to the plan.

Eric, What a absolutely wonderful thread, very informative which will be beneficial to most anyone planning for a large group or even the beginner.  Everything looks absolutly delicious.

Thank you so much for taking the time to compose such a nice thread.

Update: we have newly weds!!!!

Eric, What a absolutely wonderful thread, very informative which will be beneficial to most anyone planning for a large group or even the beginner.  Everything looks absolutly delicious.

Thank you so much for taking the time to compose such a nice thread.

Thanks Tom! I'm still catching my breath (so to speak) the morning of the second day after, and trying to collect my thoughts from what seemed like a very fast-paced event, so maybe I just need to get started writing and hopefully it will all come back to me.

I haven't had the time to do a journal or diary once we hit the road to set-up for the reception and ceremony venues. It has just been a very busy time for 3 days until we got home yesterday evening...3 days of controlled chaos for approx 8 hours of celebration. As you probably can imagine, just getting anything more than 3-4 hours of sleep each night was a challenge, especially sleeping in a strange room and bed. I will say this: if you take on an event like this, being the father of the bride, things can swing both ways regarding stress levels...it can remove you from the idle time where you may be thinking about nothing but giving your daughters hand in marriage...this was probably a big plus for me, as I had so little time to dwell on anything other than food that I handled everything else just fine. And, while I made final checks on cookers and just finished slicing the cheeses to head to the church, I was still in street clothes...had to toss on the tux at the church like everyone else did, but I was only there for less than 10 minutes to see my daughter before the wedding ceremony.

Everyone was busy doing their part and I charged myself with the entire set-up of reheating (including troubleshooting electrical issues), buffet layout, and final checks of reheat progress before and after the wedding ceremony. My daughter-in-law put the garden salad together for me when I realized I was pushing the clock about 2 hours before the ceremony, so I was still able to see when I wasn't going to be able to handle things alone. If i didn't have to do so much troubleshooting for my electrical requirements for the roaster ovens, I could have done the rest alone, but we do what we must...don't forget to ask for help if you need it...keep things in perspective and be able to realize that when it's crunch time it's probably too late for plan "B"...suck up that lump in your throat and do what it takes to make things happen. I did have my moments of stumbling trying to get things on track, but managed to keep things under control in the end. I found myself so busy until the ceremony that I didn't have much time to think about why we were really doing all of this, being my daughter's wedding, but when I did take brief moments to ponder solutions to issues I was encountering with the food, it allowed me to look at the big picture and give me the energy to continue moving forward and make everything work out. I could not allow this to fall apart, no matter what it took, so it made my creative side show a few times before I left the reception venue to get to the church (only 2 blocks away, thankfully). The outdoor ceremony was moved due to...yep, rain...it happens, but my daughter was thinking of this possibility far ahead of time and had a back-up plan.

I did run into issues with cookers on site. The venue had 3 parties going that day/evening, and their main ovens were all in use, so I had to make due with one small oven for reheating the ribs, then deal with electrical requirements for the roaster ovens which needed to be spread out a bit to avoid circuit overloads. I had one roaster with the baked beans in a separate kitchen, the ribs in another area of the kitchen, then, the pulled chick, pulled pork and brisket (3 separated roasters) on the buffet table. This was the best plan I could come up with after finding out what I could get away with in the banquette room...and yes, I did trip circuit breakers repeatedly, while trying to spread out the load over different circuits in the room, which probably took over 6 hours to determine what would work the day before. My roasters pull 1,450 watts each, so 5,800 watts total...three of these pull at least as much juice as an electric water heater...

For transport of the meats, I simply placed all the meats into coolers just before the road-trip, as tightly packed as I could the morning 26 hours before the reheat, no ice of course. I had to remove meats from the cooler to get them thawed enough to load the roaster ovens for reheating. I managed my reheat timing based on the amount of meat, and when I checked temps an hour before serving, the brisket was 176-178*, which would have continued to cook it slightly, as I planned. So, I dialed the roaster back to 150*, along with the pulled pork and chicken when they reached at least 165*. The 150 qt marine cooler had the bulk of the meats and cold sides, with a 70qt that had 10 slabs of BBs along with some salad ingredients. The garden salad was prepped approx 5 hours ahead of serving time on-site, and the cheese was sliced and covered on trays about 3 hours before service. I left approx 14lbs of pulled pork in the freezer, along with 5 slabs of BBs. I took all of the brisket, but could not fit 7.5lbs into the roaster for reheating, so I iced it down after it was fully thawed...gave some to family, and ate some last night after we got home...and yes, it is very good...

What we ended up with for hot food on the buffet table was a 16-qt roaster completely full of brisket, another 3/4 full of pulled pork, the 3rd was 2/3 full of pulled chicken, 2 - 1/2-size steam table pans of sliced baby backs, and the forth roaster 2/3+ full of beans.

For cold sides: approx 22qts of garden salad with romaine, carrots, onion with bacon bits and shredded cheese on the side with dressings (forget what else now). 5qts creamy cole slaw, 6qts tropical fruit salad, 10qts creamy potato salad, 3qts pasta salad (all rested in ice before, during and after serving).

EDIT: For additional carbs we had my daughter-in-law's homemade rolls (approx 140 ct, her grandmother's recipe...these rolls are stupid-good...to say they are addictive doesn't even do them justice), a nice variety of crackers and chips, salsas, hot sauce...oh my gosh, it was a lot of good food.

Beverages were 1/2 & 1/2 lemonade/tea, and lemonade. The only thing I didn't think of (probably due to it being a summer event) was coffee, which was requested by a few folks after the meal...so, that said, don't forget your coffee!!! LOL!!!

Leftovers with approx 75 in attendance: 6qts creamy potato salad, 2qts cole slaw, a ton of garden salad (approx 14qts), 1/2 a roaster of brisket, 1/2 a roaster of pulled pork, 1/4 roaster of pulled chicken, maybe 18-20 ribs and 1/2lb of smoked sharp/extra sharp cheddar (pepper-jack was gone, which made me wish I would have sliced it first...sigh).

I was a bit disappointed in how the meats held at temp in the roasters, as some of the meat was drying due to needing more frequent rotation to get away from the sides where the heat source was located, but I also have to realize that this was the first time I used these (brand new), so I knew there would be a learning curve. What did seem to help was the fact that I had far more meat than was needed, so by taking from the center, the drier meats could easily be avoided. I also could have used a bit more liquids to compensate for this, but was being cautious about diluting the flavors of the dry rubs used on all except for the chicken, which were naked birds when smoked.

The bride and groom are very grateful for everyone's efforts in pulling together and making this day such a memorable event...they were pleased, and that's what counts the most...I'm still sitting here, somewhat in disbelief, that it all worked out as well as it did, right down to the ceremony, which was beautiful.

I did get a lot of compliments from guests, young and old, and many were interested in the smoked cheese as well as the meats. The smoked cheese was like having a plate of gold sitting on that buffet table, but really, there was nothing that wasn't good eating. Even the morning of, employees at the venue and others who were there for a reunion in an adjacent banquette room came in to visit briefly and commented on how nice the decorations looked, the buffet table set-up, etc, the aromas of the food (reheating) and asked if I was was a caterer. When told that I was the father of the bride, a few jaws dropped...one said I was lucky to have the opportunity and be capable of doing this for my own daughter...that really made it hit home, and I do feel honored that the couple would allow me the privilege to do this for them on the biggest day of their life. It really is a big deal, I just tried to stay humble and focused on doing the best I knew how.

Oh, the night before, I got to the motel at around 12:30 am, and by the time I got to bed it was nearly 1:00 am. I'm laying there, almost asleep, when I had this strange feeling that I would come up short on food...something that there would be a high demand for, like maybe the pulled chicken, or the BBs...and extra 60 people show up unexpected...something just didn't seem right. After a few moments of mild panic which quickly brought my pleasant thoughts of sleep to a screeching halt, I realized that it was just those last-minute nervous "oh, crap!!! something's wrong!!!" moments, and dismissed the whole thing and reassured myself that there was no possible way that I could run our of food, and was asleep soon afterwards.

One of the main things to consider which I had to deal with head-on is being able to remain somewhat flexible in how you can reheat the meats or cook other hot side items. I had very limited options to make this happen, and this caused a very real and urgent need for finding a solution the morning of the wedding...not a lot of time, so I was getting a bit panicky now and then when plans "F, G & H" didn't work. Keep a cool head and work on the problem until you find a viable solution...then test it out as soon as you can so you know if it will work or not...don't ever assume.

Be sure everyone involved in the planning is on the same page, and if any changes are made, everyone effected knows of these changes...we had a minor glitch about 10 minutes before food service due to not being informed of a change in who was doing the beverages, so yes, I'm speaking from experience. Work it out, learn from it and move forward.

Lastly, don't expect perfection...that's not gonna happen...people who do this (catering) for a living rarely achieve perfection (I've never seen it, unfortunately), and you don't do this for a living or a side business, or you probably wouldn't be reading this. Just realize that what you put into an event like this will be directly reflected by what you get out of it, and I'm not speaking in terms of money, time and sweat...it's what comes from the heart. Give it everything you've got and you will not be disappointed in the outcome.

In hopes that this helps others make the decision to take the plunge, or, encourage them to do a little more research before they take on the challenge, my best wishes to all. Don't just walk away feeling overwhelmed and deny yourself the opportunity...you may regret that decision later. This was a milestone for me...something I'LL NEVER FORGET...I would hope that everyone who has the opportunity will step up to the plate, if for no other reason than to have a chance to put together a great meal for your loved ones on their big day. I can sit here now and say I have no regrets.

As I recall, I made mention of sliced pics of ribs when they were finished smoking, and when it was all said and done, I probably wouldn't have grabbed the camera if it weren't for that statement...just way too much going on...so, to fulfill that promise...these two pans were piled high...for reheating, I crowded all 10 slabs into a full-size liner covered with foil and a cup or so of apple juice in a 260-270* oven for ~5 hours...chine-bones down, cut tips up:

Wish I could have taken more pics of the buffet line, but many eyes were on me and a few others who stepped in to help as finishing touches were made releasing the food to the wedding party and guests. Someone who was there may have take some pics...if I get word of this I try to make them available.

I just realized something: even with several good bottled sauces on the buffet line, very little condiments were used except for salad dressings (the sauces had little use)...it must have been good BBQ, even if it was reheated!!! Overall, my experience throughout this event has been humbling...some things I thought I knew didn't always take me where I wanted to be, so it kept me thinking and looking for better ways to get what I wanted to see...never a dull moment. And, with the amount of leftovers, I knew that my secondary goal was met...NO ONE LEAVES HUNGRY. The primary goal being make great Q, of course, and I'm reasonably certain that goal was met with ease...if it wasn't worthy of the occasion, I didn't want to serve it...just me.

Anyway, that's the bulk of what my memory has stored from this event at this point in time which I thought others may be interested in. I will add more if anything pops into my tired brain. I'm still recovering from this most joyous celebration, so as the excitement begins to dissipate more, I should be able to remember more details...eventually I would like to break this all down into an easier to to use format of do's and don'ts to write a Wiki for future reference. I do have a lot to do for the next month or so which will likely prevent me from doing the Wiki for a while, but this extra time will also allow me to jot a few other things down before then so the Wiki will be more complete from the start, including things I may do differently if given the chance again in the future.

If any questions come up, don't hesitate to ask...we're all here to learn, and believe me, this event had many lessons to be learned and I'm still picking things up as days slowly pass.

Best wishes and great smokes to all!

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