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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Slow Cooked BBQ Requires Careful Planning

BBQ is becoming very popular in a lot of new places. My clients with BBQ oriented menus include a professionally managed public golf club and an authentic BBQ in midtown Manhattan (both use a Southern Pride Smoker . While BBQ chicken and ribs are found just about anywhere, pulled pork, tritips and Texas-style brisket are relatively new to many regions of the country.

Proper BBQ takes time. The meat needs to marinate for hours and the smoky flavor is provided by hours of slow cooking in a warm pit or smoker. If you expect a crowd on the weekend, the meat order needs to be complete on Wednesday (at the latest). After an early delivery Thursday morning, preparation begins with trimming excess fat, cartilage and deckle. The meat may be cooked on the bone or boneless.

After the trimming process, the marinating begins with a dry and/or wet mop. The marinated meat will need to rest for a day or more in many operations. With the slow cooking process in the near future, veteran BBQ artisans are already watching both the calendar and the clock.

Since purchasing needs to take place days ahead of service, proper forecasting is at the heart of BBQ operations. When buying the meat, it’s necessary to be completely fluent with trim factors and yields. Let’s look at three popular BBQ items and discuss the yields one may expect:

A big Beef Brisket 118 will weigh about 20 pounds. Some brisket buyers choose the boneless version – Beef Brisket 120 – weighing in at about 12 pounds. Some favor smoking the brisket with bones. Others like the less fatty, fully trimmed version.

The bone in version will yield about half when fully cooked and the boneless will yield about 2/3. Our 20# purchase will yield 20 generous 8 ounce servings for platters or 40 sandwiches. If you allow your customers to specify lean only, the yield falls substantially.

Pulled Pork:
If you like to use Fresh Ham, Boneless 402B, you’ll be purchasing large pieces weighing between 20 and 30 pounds. A Boston Butt, Boneless 406A will weigh about 8 pounds and is really shoulder meat.

Both cuts will yield over 2/3 fully cooked but will plummet to half if the customer specifies lean only.

Most BBQ operations carefully choose the rib specifications. A rack of Back Ribs can average anywhere from 1.25 pounds to over 2.25 pounds. A rack of St. Louis Spareribs can weigh between 1.5 and 3 pounds. Some operators prefer the heavy, untrimmed racks which can be over 5 pounds. The skeletons are identical but age and feed vary. Customers usually order ribs by the rack, half rack or by the number of bones (not by weight).

My clients study their sales data carefully using the prior week, previous year and weather forecasts before placing their pre-weekend orders. They forecast the servings and use models to calculate the optimal order. Since ribs are often sold frozen, many well managed BBQ operations use long term predictions to go long when prices are favorable. All this math is rewarded with great profits since the best tasting BBQ is served straight from the smoker.

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