200 person wedding

Discussion in 'Pork' started by dale-benson, Apr 7, 2014.

  1. dale-benson

    dale-benson Newbie

    I have been asked to provide the meal for a 200 person outdoor wedding reception.  They want pulled pork (I have only ever done 2 butts) and the necessary sides (slaw, potato salad, beans, mac & cheese).  My wife and I have provided appetizers for friends' weddings in the past, but never anything this extensive.

    I have a UDS and am reasonably new at smoking meat.  Everything I have smoked so far has turned out really good, but I know my inexperience is a detriment.  I'm looking for some help from some seasoned smokers.  How much meat?  How much of the sides?  How much in advance can I smoke the butts and how should I store/reheat?  Should I buy slaw & potato salad just to bring down the stress level?  

    I'm generally a "from scratch"guy, and I'm pretty sure I need to lower my standards a little for this one if I am to survive it. 

    Any/all comments welcome!
  2. alblancher

    alblancher Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    Nothing like putting yourself under a great deal of stress.  I've been smoking for many years and the thought of a 200 person event scares the devil out of me.

    There is a catering calculator available either on this site or somewhere on the internet that will help you decide how much of what you need.  I looked on my hard drive and couldn't find it.    You can also get percentage of waste for the different meats and determine how much of what you will need.

    Assume you want 1/4 lb pulled pork for each guest and waste is 40% for pulled pork   200 * .25 = 50lbs + waste allowance you need about 80 lbs of pork butt going into the smoker.  That's a lot of pork butt so you may want to do it early and just warm when you need it in crock pots

    Slaw, beans, etc are easy to do and can be done ahead of time also.   Figure maybe a 4 oz serving of beans per person times 200  you get the idea. 

    Problem with a wedding is that people tend to hang around and drink so they are eating all the time, you'll need to be bringing out food over a longer period and you should have other non-bbq stuff.

    Good luck,  I'm sure someone will chip in with better estimated amounts
  3. 200 people + wedding + one meat ( on one UDS) = A lot of stress.

    Al is right on his calculations. How are you pricing this? Are you dropping off or serving? That's a heavy lift either way.

    My recommendation would be to do a test cook with say 5 ten pounders and see what you're to timing is and the amount of effort.

    I'm not trying to discourage you but wedding are high visibility affairs. I would recommend sitting down with the couple and getting their expectations on the table and making a real assessment of what is in the realm of the possible.
  4. dale-benson

    dale-benson Newbie

    Thanks for your input, guys.  I understand the high visibility and that means if I disappoint, I disappoint a LOT of people.  Regarding the pricing, this is a favor for friends, so I'm pretty sure we will only charge the price for the food and call our labor a wedding gift.  I'm sure we will be expected to serve as well.  Does this just add to my potential insanity?  Based on the advice I'm getting, this sounds like less and less fun!
  5. bkbuilds

    bkbuilds Fire Starter

    If you can't fit all the meat on your smoker I bet somewhere around you offers rental commercial smokers. They are available around me, I think its about $200 a day or something. Assuming you are getting paid to cater this event you would just have to add that into your cost.

    Buy the potato salad but make the slaw while the meat is cookin.
  6. alblancher

    alblancher Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    You can get some of the young people attending the wedding to help serve.  Most of them will be board to tears so they will be looking for something to do, they can leave a tip jar by the serving table.  Also if you are doing it buffet style all you have to do is keep the food warm and plentiful.

    If you are not charging for the event just do it and have fun.  Provide safe options like finger sandwiches,  maybe mini sloppy Joes on buns, little muffulettas,  any type of finger food so that if the Q isn't appreciated by everyone they still have something to eat.

    Jambalaya is big down here,  it tastes good, is pretty cheap and keeps well.

    Open up your options so everyone can walk away sated even if they do not like one or two menu items.

    You can have a great time doing this.
  7. Dale, where are you located? Maybe there are some folks that could give you a hand the day of because this is a heavy lift for a UDS.

    Good luck
  8. dale-benson

    dale-benson Newbie

    Al- Great advice.  I like the idea of recruiting.

    va_connoisseur- I'm in Northern Illinois about 20 minutes from Lake Geneva, Wisc.  I may have a few people to call on.
  9. yotzee

    yotzee Smoking Fanatic

    Do you have the space for proper refrigeration, storing and serving?  Not to add any more stress, but you sure as hell don't want to give 200 people food poisoning
  10. fwismoker

    fwismoker Master of the Pit

    Piece of cake actually.  Do 8 bone in butts all at once but that's a lot of pulling and shredding to get done right away.   

    I would do 4 ten pound butts on one rack cooked and shredded (repeat).   Vacuum seal and just reheat the day of the event by putting the packets in boiling water.  The PP will be just like you pulled it of the smoker.   I'll give you my recipe for a sauce to mix in the pull and have some to put on the sandwiches.  Mix some sauce in the pull before vac sealing and freezing.

    yotzee likes this.
  11. fwismoker

    fwismoker Master of the Pit

    You could also do it like 1 or 2 days in advance and then you wouldn't have to vacuum seal, it would be fine in the refrigerator and easy to reheat. 
  12. yotzee

    yotzee Smoking Fanatic

    This.  Most restaurants don't cook these types of dishes to order.  They are heated on the fly as ordered, and honestly many of the sides are going to taste better the next day after flavors meld.
  13. demosthenes9

    demosthenes9 Master of the Pit OTBS Member


    Have to ask, have you ever done something like this before?     I guess what I'm wondering is if all you need is the info that you asked for in your first post, i.e. portion recommendations, etc.     Or if you need more help/assistance/guidance in planning and executing this event.
  14. I recently cooked brisket and 3 sides or a reception that had 150 invited guests.  My first event over 24 people.  After much research into catering for a wedding, I discovered that on average only about 75% of invited guests attend.  And of those, not everyone likes what's served, so you don't even have to account for 75%.   But being my first I wanted to be prepared in case all 150 attended.  Well, sure enough, only about 100 (at most) showed up and I had more leftovers than I knew what to do with so I ended up giving briskets and gallons of sides to the immediate family of the bride and groom.

    Some things I learned beforehand that served me well.  1) Make easy sides (cold sides are much easier to handle) and sides that appeal to as many people as possible.  Based on my research I chose a pasta salad and a baked potato salad since they could easily be made 1-2 days in advance, were served cold, and I had plenty of refrigeration at the venue.  I found a southwestern pasta salad that was really good and made Guy Fieri's baked potato salad.  Both were a hit, easy to make and easy to transport.  I 'outsourced' the beans to a friend and told them they had to manage the temperatures for them since I'd have the single stove covered up.  I based the serving quantity on side at 1/4 cup per person.  The more sides, the less they'll get of each.

    I used the following link to up-size my side recipes. http://www.webstaurantstore.com/recipe_resizer.html

    For the briskets, I planned on 1/2 lb per person (uncooked weight to allow for shrinkage).  That came to about 8 briskets.  I cooked well in advance (2 months out) and over the course of 2 weekends so I didn't over extend myself.  I trimmed some fat prior to cooking, then separated the flat and point to clean up some of the fat in between after they were done.  I then put the 2 pieces back together and vacuum sealed them - separating them allowed for smaller packaging and placed in the freezer.  If you're doing pork butts I'd suggest removing any bone or un-edible fat before vacuum sealing.

    4 days prior to the reception, I put the briskets in the refrigerator to begin thaw.  To heat up for the reception and starting 5 hours prior to the event,  I used 2 large canning cookpots that would hold 3 briskets each, heated on med heat for about 2 hrs maintaining water temp at abouto 150 to 160 (must be above 140).  Pulled them, put them in a cooler and covered in towels to maintain temp, then did the same for the last 2.

    I waited until the last minute to pull from the cooker, slice, and put on a warming tray since I wanted to be sure to serve them at optimum moistness, temp, etc.

    Create a schedule of every event, time, etc you have to do on the prep, cook and especially for the wedding day..  I even scheduled when I was going to costco for supplies 2 months prior.  Create a task list and assign others to assist and make sure they know when, what, etc and that failure or lateness is not an option.

    Get help on the serving.  We ended up hiring workers from the venue to serve, which meant I just had to heat the meat, slice it and hand it over to them.  They took care of all the sides and drinks (oh yeah, I had to buy drinks too).  If you're having friends or family help serve are participate, assign them exactly to what you want them to do (ie you're responsible for serving side #1 and assisting with filling glasses with tea).  Assign someone to supervise them to make sure they're not ganging up in one area or playing with their phones.

    Other than all that, it was a piece of cake.  My even was for my step-daughter and her to-be husband and it turned out really great.  The bride and groom especially liked all the leftovers I gave them.

    Good luck.
    noboundaries likes this.
  15. That's some great advice JD but am I reading it correctly, you froze the brisket for 2 months prior to serving? I never knew that was an option. I have a vacuum sealer that I have never used. That's pretty interesting.
  16. Yes sir!  The vacuum sealers keep things fresh so much longer.  I have a large smoker and I hate to see open space, so often I'll cook briskets, pork butts, chickens, ribs and sausage all in one day...one looooong day.  I'll then break up the cooked brisket and pork into 1lb servings and seal them up for future lunches, tacos, etc.  I've yet to notice any degradation of taste or texture, even after months of sitting in the freezer.
  17. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

  18. lancer

    lancer Smoking Fanatic

    Dale if you're cooking for 200 as a gift you are one heck of a guy!  Pulled pork can be the easiest thing to make for a large group though.  If you have a freezer with the necessary space it can be made months in advance.  I usually do batches of 5-6 butts even though it's just Nancy and me now.  Like others, we think it makes sense to fill the smoker.  The technique we've fallen into makes for a smokey moist pulled pork that keeps well.

    I'll usually smoke them for 3-4 hours with fairly heavy smoke to get a good bark started.  It is still thin blue smoke but on the heavy side.  Then they go in a covered roaster and into a 220 degree oven to finish.  That way I save the juices that would be lost in the smoker.

    When they reach a pulling temperature of 185 or so they go on a large cutting board to cool.  The juices get set aside to settle and then get de-fatted.  After shredding the pork and letting it cool somewhat the juices start getting stirred back in a bit at a time until the pork won't take any more.  You'd be surprised how much moisture and flavor you add back in.  Then the meat gets a quick chill in the fridge and gets bagged up.  After vacuum sealing and then freezing it will keep for months.  We suspect it will keep for a couple of years but as we have six kids who bring empty coolers when they visit we've never found out.

    The picture in my avatar is of a pair of butts done this way.

    With the exception of a green salad I think the advice you've gotten to make things that can be made ahead is solid.  You don't want to be doing more than putting things in serving dishes and garnishing it on the big day.

  19. I have catered events of up to 300 people in a hall I used to own.  A lot of the advice on here is spot on.  Do what you can ahead of time.  Pork is extremely forgiving and you should have no problem freezing / thawing.  Doing them a day or two out and refrigerating will also work but leaves you with less room for error.

    Please familiarize yourself with proper food handling techniques!  Serving that many people is quite a responsibility and food poisoning from mishandling is more common than you think.  Be aware of things like:


    -"danger zone" regarding temperature and times for food cooling / re-heating

    -storing food after preparation (large volumes and high risk foods especially)

    -keeping proper temps while serving

    Good luck!  Your preparation will reward you with a lot of satisfied guests!
  20. jarjarchef

    jarjarchef Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Sounds like fun!!!!!
    Not a cake walk, but very doable..... As mentioned planning will be key. Help will be good, but a good plan will be your best help.

    As mentioned earlier.... food safety will be the single most important thing, other then your plan, you need to focus on. Getting 200 people is not on anyones bucket list. Other then the UDS what other cooking and hot holding equiptment do you have? What other equiptment do you have to cook the beans, mac & cheese and other hot foods? You will need ways to reheat your meats as well.

    I will be happy to give more info, this is very much in my world, but i need more info on the other equiptment and location before event spacific suggestionscan be given.


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