Cooking for a crowd
I've been volunteered to cook for a local political club where I'm a member. I did this last year, and there were about 30 people nibbling away on some pulled pork and brisket. This year, we expect about 60 people to the meeting, so the task is a little more ambitious.
As of this writing, it's the Friday of the previous week. We have some company coming this weekend, so I'll start the cooking today, and update this page as parts of the menu become ready.
This should vary the tastes nicely and take into consideration some dietary restrictions of our members.
The butts I got are rather large, ranging in size from 7.5 lbs to 9.5 lbs. so there is close to 40 lbs of meat pictured below. Although the meeting is on a Thursday evening, I'm cooking the butts on the Friday before. I got 5 butts, one of which we'll eat when ready. I'll vacuum seal and refrigerate 4 of the whole cooked butts, heat them up and pull them the day of the meeting. This will let me cook the brisket overnight on Wednesday, and the wings will be grilled just prior to Thursday's meeting.
Butts times five
This is the most meat I've put on the Kamado at one time. As the photos above show, I put two of the 9 lb. butts on the 22.5" main grill, with my sliding drip pan below the grill. Three more butts were coerced onto the 18" grill resting on the "upper bracket".
The photo above shows some of the coal in my storage bin. The chunk size varies widely, depending on the bag and the amount of banging around it received during shipping.
I started several large chunks of coal by sitting them on the basket deflector of the gas burner. I then filled the firebox with coals, moved the lit coals on top of the unlit ones, and turned off the gas. Adjusting the draft door and damper top allowed me to stabilize the temperature at 230 degrees F. I tossed on some chunks of apple and cherry wood for smoke. I used the radio remote thermometer to keep an eye on the dome and meat temperature.
I put the meat on at about 6:30 pm, and my guess is that it will take about 20 hours to cook (to reach an internal temperature of 200 degrees).
The photo above on the left was taken after about six hours of cooking... the one on the right after about 22 hours (internal temperature slowly climbed to 200 degrees).
For dinner on Saturday night we chose the smallest of the butts, let it rest for about 20 minutes in an aluminum pan, and started pulling the meat apart with a couple of forks. Large pieces of fat were discarded, and there were lots of fingers picking at the crusty pieces (and making them disappear) while I was pulling.
I made two finishing sauces for the butts. One is a North Carolina style vinegar based sauce, and the second is a mid South Carolina style mustard based sauce. When I present both to guests, people usually much prefer one over the other, but it's pretty evenly split... half like one style, half like the other.
After dinner, we let the remaining four butts cool a bit, and vacuum sealed them in FoodSaver bags, and refrigerated them, for use later in the week. I'll reheat them in boiling water.
On Wednesday evening, it was time to start preparing the beef. We ordered a full brisket from the local prime butcher, and what he got for us was the 14 lb. chunk-of-chest shown below. I put the tablespoon
I coated the brisket with a nice spice rub and let it stand for about an hour. I then transferred it to the Kamado that had been filled with coal, stabilized at about 225 degrees and tossed in a couple of chunks of cherry and apple wood (my personal favorites).
I decided to use a steamer tray as a drip pan (we'll be using steamer trays and sterno during the meeting to keep the meat warm for serving). Some folk on the Kamado forum asked me why I didn't put the meat directly on the main grill and use my sliding drip pan setup. I certainly could have done that, but this particular piece of meat is pretty long, and would have overhung my sliding drip pan on each end. I've have considered using the main grill as part of the final reheating of the pork butts (after the boil-in-bag process, to crisp up the "bark"), so the multi-level setup gives me a little more flexibility in this particular instance.
I'll be inserting a thermometer into the meat after a few hours cooking. Once someone asked how you can tell if a brisket is done. The reply from an old timer was to use a thermometer.... he said that if you can insert the thermometer into the meat, it was done! This flip remark does point out just how tough a piece of meat the brisket is. Because it is a chest muscle, it's very tough, and if not cooked properly turns into something you can shingle a roof with.
Brisket does well with two basic types of cooking... the low and slow method shown here, and the wet methods such as braising, boiling and steaming.
The photo above was made at 11 a.m. on Thursday morning (a little more than 16 hours to this point). During the night, the temperature fluctuated a bit, but in the morning the Kamado was holding steadily at 228 degrees. The internal temperature of the "flat" portion of the meat was 192 degrees and 186 in the thicker "point" part of the cut. The meat should be ready when the flat is at 197 or so.
The thermometer glide in easily now, a good sign.
The finished brisket came off the Kamado at about 3:30 pm, 21 hours total cooking time. I could have taken it off earlier, but I was sort of parking it on the cooker, rather having it done early than chancing it being late. I wrapped the meat in foil and put it in an ice chest (no ice, of course) to keep it warm until the evening.
The chicken wings are brining. The time is drawing near.
I'll continue to update photos as they become available (pork, brisket, wings, sauces, etc).
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