Tips on Cooking for a Crowd (part 2)June 2nd, 2012
In a recent post, I talked about the importance of good planning when you’re cooking for a crowd. Maybe I am a bit imbalanced since I always like to have my chickens lined up, but I think my concerns were valid.
Today I want to move on to my second tip on cooking for a crowd: using decent equipment.
So you are interested in catering for money, fund-raising for non-profits, or being the honored chef at family gatherings, graduation parties, church picnics, or some sort of crowd setting. You are serious about cooking and don’t mind investing in your dream. A good smoker or grill is a solid investment and the best way to achieve your goals.
When it comes to the equipment, here is what you need to think about:
- Size of cooking space/amount of output.
- Ease of use.
- Ease of cleanup.
- Lifetime value for your investment.
Cooking Space: For example, you can certainly turn a kettle grill into a low and slow smoker (sort of), but you won’t get very far trying to smoke ribs for a crowd, one or two racks at a time. Neither you do you necessarily want a 500 gallon tank smoker or 10 pit chicken grill if you’re only feeding 100 people.
Set some goals and figure out where you’re going with your cooking. Then choose one that will crank out the amount of que you need, but not a ton of overkill. Check out my Meadow Creek capacity and crowd size charts for help in choosing the right size smoker or grill.
Ease of Use: One thing that will really drain your energy tank is trying to cook for crowds with equipment that does not make barbecue easy. I have personally cooked for sizable groups and it is vital to use equipment that works for you, especially when you don’t have help to spare.
Meadow Creek has done an awesome job of making barbecue for crowds easy. Here are some reasons I love Meadow Creek, and I think you will too:
- Grill chicken for thousands on chicken cooker grates that flip in the middle. Flip a whole rack with one hand.
- Roast a whole pig without flipping the meat or opening the lid.
- Cook low and slow with charcoal and easily keep the temperature on track all day with very little adjusting.
Besides this, some of the units are extremely versatile too. For example, a pig roaster is really an all-in-one smoker. The BBQ42 Chicken Cooker can flip for chicken or cook any grill foods with the grate close to the fire. I could tell you more about how easy Meadow Creek makes it to cook amazing barbecue for crowds, but I will have to save some for later.
Ease of Cleanup: I’ll just tell you, cleanup after the cook is my worst part of barbecue. Anything you can do to make this dreaded part easier, will be a plus. Stainless steel grates that never rust, drip pans with a drain, ash pans, and stainless steel work shelves can really make your life easier. Meadow Creek has designed some very cool features and add-ons to make your barbecue more fun through the entire process (even clean-up).
Lifetime Value: Barbecue budgets vary as much as from the homemade DIYs to a $30,000 custom trailer. I feel it’s important to know your goals and establish a budget.
In the small cooker market, you have those cheap models you can pick up at home and garden stores. I’m thinking especially of the thin-walled Chargrillers. I’ve never owned one myself, but I’ve heard from people who have, and it sounds like they can be a pain to run with consistent temperature and the metal rusts through in a few years. If that’s all you can afford and it works, great. It can be a good starting point, better than doing without. But if you are serious and in it for the long haul, think about your annual cost to purchase, replace, and maintain a cheapo, versus investing in a legacy that you can pass on to your children.
Not just that, but you must also factor in the frustration, stress, and embarrassment that might surface, trying to feed a crowd with dinky equipment. Compare that with a Meadow Creek smoker that’s built to outlast you and make your clients think you are the coolest chef around.
Conclusion: I hope these tips are helpful to you as you pursue your dream of cooking for crowds. If you missed my previous blog post on planning and crowd cooking, check it out. Also be lookin’ for more tips on cooking for large groups. I’ve got more stuff coming.
If you have any questions about cooking for crowds or choosing a barbecue cooker, feel free to contact us. I look forward to hearing from you.
PS. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out my Meadow Creek Buyer’s Guide, a free 52-page full color PDF on how to choose the perfect Meadow Creek cooker for your needs and wants.