I am often asked how does one throw a successful barbecue party? This week, my guest and Grand Champion pitmaster Donna Fong of Butchers Daughter BBQ of Alameda, California, will share her views on how to throw a successful barbecue party.
So you got a smoker, taken your first BBQ class (or read all you can tolerate on the internet) and tried cooking a few meats with good success. March Madness and baseball season are quickly approaching. Is it time to invite your friends over for a BBQ party? Sure it is!
There’s nothing like the pressure of cooking for 20 of your closest friends to inspire you to go beyond hamburgers and hot dogs and show off your culinary skills. First off, relax! Chances are, you are your own worst critic. Your friends and family are likely to love anything you cook. Start with your best meat and add a second meat for variety.
Two keys to a successful party are 1) proper planning and 2) execution.
Estimate how many people will arrive. Each average sized person can eat between 4 oz to 8 oz of meat. A great guide to party planning is to think about what you get when you go to a place like KFC or a BBQ joint. You’ll likely order two or three pieces of chicken, 1-2 side dishes, a biscuit and a drink. At a BBQ joint, a typical order is 1-2 sides, corn bread and a meat sandwich, or 1/3 slab of ribs, or half a chicken at most, right? Take that equation for one person and multiply it by the number of guests you will have.
If you want to translate that to a pork butt or a brisket, you can estimate that an average one-meat serving would be about 6 oz times the number of guests (you can go up to 8 oz if you feel generous or want leftovers). For a party of 20 people, that would be 120 oz (6 oz X 20) or about 8 lbs of meat. For brisket, the net yield is about 50% and for pork butt, the net yield is about 70%. Consequently, you will need to cook 16 lbs of brisket to yield 8 lbs of useable product. For pork butt, you’ll have to cook 12 lbs of pork to yield about 8 lb of useable product. You should also allow for some contingency room as it’s better to have meat left over than to find yourself short on food.
For pork ribs, estimate that two guests can eat one slab of baby backs (2.75 lb size) and three can eat one slab of spareribs (4 lbs size). Although there are about 13 bones per slab, you can usually only get 11 good looking bones as the first and last bones are likely to be dry and hard. If you buy an untrimmed sparerib then remember you can serve the rib tips which is a substantial amount of meat. For beef ribs, depending on the type of beef ribs you get, each person will only need two big bones so a 6-bone full size “dinosaur” beef rib is good for three guests. If the beef ribs are cut in half lengthwise, the portions will be the same as baby back pork ribs.
For chicken, expect a whole chicken to feed about 3 guests. If you want your guests to get a selection of two different meats, they are likely to eat no more than two ribs and a quarter chicken (or a meat sandwich).
Other alternatives to the above-mentioned meats would be salmon (6oz/person), tri-tip (6 oz), pork chops, smoked pastrami or prime rib. Traditional side dishes would be mac n’ cheese, cole slaw, fried pickles, hush puppies, mash potatoes n’ gravy, potato salad, macaroni salad, beans or corn on the cob. Popular appetizers would be rib tips, BBQ meat and cheese on nachos, fatties, hot wings, chili (veggie or meat), soup or salad. Serve drinks like iced tea, lemonade or beer.
To prepare for a party, do all of your meat shopping 3-4 days ahead of time. Your raw meat can hold in your refrigerator for several days. You can also trim 2-3 days ahead of time and freeze if necessary. Season the day before you plan on cooking and plan on finishing your cook in the morning and holding the meat until the party.
Brisket and pork shoulder can hold for 3-4 hours in an igloo. Just cook the meat, pull it off the smoker and let it come down in temp until it is about 170F so it doesn’t keep on cooking. Then store it in an igloo until you are ready to eat. That will give you time to shower and feel refreshed for your guests as they arrive. Alternatively, brisket and shoulder also freeze well. Just slice or pull and freeze in a sealed half foil pan. Let thaw the night before in your frig and re-heat that morning until the internal temperature registers 165F and you’re ready to eat. You can add a little apple juice or beef broth to keep everything moist. Done with enough planning, you could potentially cook all of your meats the week ahead of time and actually relax and enjoy your party!
If you want to look cool though and show off your equipment, you can still warm up your meats in the smoker or serve meats like tri-tip, pork chops or steaks for grilling while your guests are at the party. Enjoy!