Top 10 Tips for Catering a BBQ
Whether you are catering for an outdoor party, BBQ competition or a festival, you need to be well-prepared for the event. Use these ideas to provide all of your diners with the tasty barbecue that they will love.
- Get the right equipment. Great BBQ is produced with high-quality grills and smokers. You can purchase a grill specifically made for smoking, but most caterers cook meat on a standard outdoor grill and use a smoker box to give it that distinct, smoky flavor. You will also need turner tongs and a chef’s fork to turn and serve the meat, and a grill scraper or brush to keep your grill clean.
- Season the grill. Before you put anything on the grill, make sure the grill is properly seasoned. Pour some cooking oil onto a paper towel and smear it on the cast iron grill. This will keep your cast-iron in good condition, and it will also keep your meat from sticking to the grid.
- Choose the best meat. Make sure that the meat you are using is suitable. For pork, look for lean meat that has light pink flesh and firm, cream-colored fat. Ribs and shoulder cuts are the most commonly barbecued parts of the pig. For grilled steak, many chefs recommend choosing rib-eye, since it has the most marble, which will drip and feed the flames of the grill, and because it does not lose tenderness or flavor when cooked well-done.
- Get smoking early. You can turn any grill with a cover into a smoker. First, soak the wood chips in water for an hour. For coal grilling, you can throw the wood chips directly on the embers. For gas grilling, fill the smoker box with the wood chips and light the nearest burner until it produces smoke. If you don’t have a smoker box, wrap the chips in aluminum foil and poke holes on the top. Put the wood packet directly on the flames. Move the meat to the top grid, and close the lid so the chamber fills with smoke. It can take 4-5 hours to cook meat this way, so make sure you begin several hours before the guests expect food.
- Experiment with multiple woods. Try as many hard woods as you have access to and determine which wood type or combination of woods produces the best flavor to match your BBQ sauce. Popular woods include hickory, mesquite, apple, cherry, apricot, pecan, plum, alder, birch, cedar, peach, lemon, pear, maple and oak. In general, certain woods go best with certain meats. Cherry works well with all meats, and pear works best with poultry and pork, while mesquite works particularly well with beef and vegetables. Never smoke with soft woods or pressure-treated wood, which contains toxic chemicals.
- Make it a saucy event. Sauce is what differentiates BBQ from other forms of grilling and smoking. To create good barbecue, you must frequently apply sauce to your meat with a barbecue brush. This will slowly tenderize the meat and infuse it with that tasty BBQ flavor. If you are at a festival or competition, try selling bottles of your sauce retail in addition to your smoked and grilled meats.
- Turn without stabbing. Stabbing meats while they are on the grill will create passages to the center of the meat, forcing it to cook too fast. It will also cause the meat to lose its juices, robbing it of its tenderness. Instead of using a kitchen fork, turn the meat with barbecue tongs.
- Never overcook it. The idea that it is best to cook BBQ pork until it falls off the bone is a common misconception. If it falls off the bone on its own, it is overdone. In fact, you should only cook it until it can be pulled off the bone, but it should still offer some resistance.
- Check for doneness. Because BBQ is slow-cooked over several hours and barbecue sauce often turns meats red, it is often difficult to tell when it is done. There are several ways to check the doneness of your meat. You can use an instant-read meat thermometer to verify that the internal temperature of the meat is 165° F for poultry and 160° F for red meats and pork. You can also use the “touch” method. The firmer the meat, the more cooked it is. However, this is not as reliable as a thermometer, and underdone meats could lead to food-born illnesses, so an instant-read thermometer is usually best.
- Think outside of the animal kingdom. Meat isn’t the only thing that tastes great hot off the grill smothered in BBQ sauce. Determine whether any vegetarians will be present at the event. For your vegetarian guests, offer other food items like grilled chile rellenos, BBQ pineapple and tofu steaks. Meat lovers may also appreciate these tasty treats alongside their pork or chicken.
Because the smoking and grilling of BBQ usually occurs on-site, at the scene of the event, it is out of the comfort zone of many caterers, who are used to preparing everything well in advance. However, BBQ catering is in high demand, especially during the summer and fall. Adding barbecue to your menu can help increase your profits, as long as it is done right. Follow these guidelines and your next barbecue event is sure to be a hit.
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