Squadron Family Day/ Meadow Creek TS250 Smoker

Discussion in 'Catering & Large Group Gatherings' started by evilhomer, Mar 5, 2016.

  1. evilhomer

    evilhomer Newbie

    In an effort to avoid the typical burgers and dogs grilling out for our squadrons family day this year, I have nominated myself to prepare pulled pork and smoked chicken for the event.  Looking at a head count of about 150 (ish).  There will be burgers and dogs as well running on a separate grill, but I do not plan on this being the main meal, more for kids and folks who want them.  I have bodies, side dishes and that kind of thing covered.

    I have access to a Meadow Creek TS250, which I have never used anything of this size before.  My plan is to start the cook the evening before with a serve time of about noon the following day.  I'm having trouble finding a "guide" for using this cooker, but from what I have found it can burn wood or charcoal or a combo of both.  I try and follow the rule of never trying anything new when cooking for a crowd.  So i am planning on a test run next week using the TS250.  My goal is to get a basic understanding of how much fuel I will need and how much to add to hold temp.  The test cook will be a couple of shoulders and some chickens.  I assume when I load this thing up on the actual day, cook times will be longer so i plan on starting early with a lot of leeway, then hold the shoulders in marine coolers till ready to serve.  So, my main questions:

    1. Fuel, should I use charcoal only with woodchips for smoke?  Charcoal with logs added to maintain temp and smoke?  What kind of soot issues can I expect?

    2. Wrap the shoulders to push through stall or let them cook all they through?  This is more of a logistics issue i suppose, my main concern is that the shoulders would take 16 hours to fully cook, which Im fine with, I just don't know a good starting point.

    3. As for the chicken, I'm planning on 3 hours for cook time.  Do i do halfs then qtr when done or qtr the chix prior to smoke or do thighs?  I guess dealers choice there, but any advice would be helpful.

    I'm sure many of found themselves in a similar situation with being on the hook for a crowd.  Ten folks at my house drinking beer and eating pork from my pit barrel is one thing, cooking a large amount for large crowd is a whole other thing.  I feel I have a good handle on what to expect, but I wanted feedback from folks who have been there before to avoid unforseen pitfalls.  Thanks for any assistance

  2. jcbigler

    jcbigler Smoking Fanatic SMF Premier Member

    I don't have any advise, but am tagging this for pics and updates and pics later.
  3. foamheart

    foamheart Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Just a thought, if the Squardon Picnic is not too far off, I would test out a bunch of butts. The pork has that ability to be packaged , even frozen and be better than when first off the pit. You can smoke some ahead, and not have the worries off stannding around and worrying if the pork will make it on time or not. The people who can do the timed cook are usually those who do it daily, weekly, etc... for competitions or for catering.

    That's the best suggestion I can make.

    Cooking ahead takes care of the second question. But FYI I never use foil, seems sort of senseless when I am doing an approx 18 hours smoke to worry about a stall time,. I have had bad stalls and though if I had only foiled, I have had really short cooks also. I just always figure on 24 hours of smoking. if I put it on at noon today, I know it will be all done without worry at noon tomorrow. Its easy for a simple minded country boy like me to remember. Mostly It keeps me from having to call the Pizza Coach.

    Chickens, I have cooked enough to say half 'em. I use electrican's rubber gloves. I used to use a pigtail but it tears up the chickens too much. Torn skin and or meat means less juices, no one likes dry chicken.

    As to fuel, what can you get most easily, what are you accustomed to, That's what I would use. With a large smoker I think I would use lump and splits, but that would be me.

    I have not used a large pit in years now. I am sure someone with much more recent experience will no doubt be glad to help. 

    Patience, start really early, and stay with what you know, and don't worry. 

    PS I forgot to mention Chef JJ's fabulous famous Finishing sauce. I highly recommend it for the aroma and taste, and it can cure a dry butt in a heartbeat.


    Good luck with it. 
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2016
  4. I agree with Foamheart. (BTW, how does Foamheart jive with Hephaestus?)

    Cook your pork ahead of time and 'fridge (or freeze if the event is aways away) and then worry about

    the chicken and such on the day.  We do it all the time just because I don't have the smoking

    capacity for some of the events we do, and every now and then something comes up at the last


    I also agree about JJ's finishing sauce - good stuff.

    Good Luck!
  5. bauchjw

    bauchjw Master of the Pit

    Yes! How does that jive? And why not Vulcan? Are You a bigger fan of Greeks?

    I back what these two gentlemen said. Foam helped me through my first big unit cook. Doing pork ahead of time is key to sanity. If you still want the drama/smell/back slaps of a smoker going at the event (I do!) I set it up so pork is pulled and in pan then I reheat in the smoker.. I put the finishing sauce on then.

    Don't use chips. IMHO they are only good in electric smokers or in small foil packs. Unless you are experienced cook with charcoal with a split/chunks for flavor. If you reheat use chunks for more flavor.

    Chicken is good morning of. I'd set up a flattop to crisp or just in case they don't get done quick enough! Good luck!
  6. evilhomer

    evilhomer Newbie

    Thanks for the feedback, it seems you guys have felt the pain of not delivering on time.  I have a couple more questions though, 

    1.  What are the logistics of freezing the pork?  Shred then freeze?  I'm worried about freezer space for 15 shoulders.  Also, would I just put the frozen pork in the smoker a couple hours out?

    2. I am doing a test cook this week with the smoker to measure temps and rough time it takes to cook a shoulder, I guess I couldn't predict what a loaded up smoker would do time wise with the shoulders, but suppose I cook 3 shoulders in 14 hours.  Would allowing 18 hours for more shoulders be a safe estimate?  Holding the pork in coolers for a few hours if they finish early wouldn't be bad.


  7. foamheart

    foamheart Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Yes, shred and then freeze. Ziplocs work fine. Add a little finishing sauce to the bag and freeze.

    I would usually throw my bags out on the counter the night before. That way its easier to get them into what ever you are using to reheat. Be it a chafing dish, crock pot or alumium trays. remember to use something covered to help hold that moisture. Don't forget the sauce is there if ya need it.

    Even if you put three shoulders on at the same time, they will actually be done at different times although you'll be able to hold some and wait for the others. Pork ain't the same. Also smokers ain't the same you'll have to learn what yours will do. Not knowing your abilities, I would most highly recommend a therma pen. I don't own one or I could tell you about what they cost. But seems like a 100.00 bucks. Gives almost immediate temp readings. Like I said if you were more familiar with your smoker you'd know the hot and cold spots. You'd know more about estimate cook time. That's one of the reasons I always recommend cooking ahead and rehearing. Another is, with pork it just tastes better IMHO, it also allows time for the spices in the finishing sauce to meld in with the meat. Its also allows you time to adjust for moisture. You can't be late serving. And the best part is you have not been up for two days when serving....LOL

    You have your chickens, so you can stand around and lie about the good old days at the smoker. You might consider some sausage, or there is some wicked on the smoker beans and mac & cheese recipes here on the board.

    You can't cook pork by a formula. I have had 10 lb butts take 23 hours and on the other side I had a 13 hour one last year. Same size butt, same smoker. They just don't know and the pigs ain't telling. Its why us dumb old country boys can do it, just sit around and drink till your tired and hungry and then its usually ready or at that point it just doesn't matter..LOL
  8. bauchjw

    bauchjw Master of the Pit

    Foams taught me a lot, I default to him. However, another option is not freezing the pork. My recent unit functions I cooked a couple days out, shredded, covered in aluminum pans, then reheated. I used fridges at HQ to store. I haven't cooked as many butts as these guys here, but my experiences are similar; one butt takes 14 hrs the next 20. You can do a test run to figure out some nuances of your rig, but the pork will decide how long it will cook.
  9. evilhomer

    evilhomer Newbie

    Thanks again, I think I'm sold on precooking.  That will make D-Day more manageable. I do own a thermapen and a couple dual zone thermometers.  I've cooked many shoulders on my weber kettle and Pit Barrel, I'm very comfortable with the process, but with such a big change in scale and new tool..........little nervous.

     So based on your recommendations, I plan on cooking and freezing a week out.  Pull out the night before and thaw.  D-Day I think I will drop the birds about 4 hours out from service.  The dogs and brats won't take long.  Salmon and veggie burgers for the non meat folks, all set. 

      Thanks for all the advice, I will post pics/results and lessons learned from this cook. 

  10. foamheart

    foamheart Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Just relax, the smoke does all the work, it just lets you sit around and stoke the fire. Heck you know what you are doing, you've just got a new stove to cook in.
  11. nybbq

    nybbq Fire Starter

    I have a TS250 and it’s fun to cook on. Start out with 20 lbs of charcoal to get it going with and bring up to temp. Then just add wood to keep the temps at 225 to 250, I normally add 2 solid chunks of wood at a time. This being about 6 inch around by 16 inch long. I usually have the draft open 1.5 inch on each side and the one on the stack wider open. On a long cook I will add some charcoal here and there so you always have some good coals in the bottom. Depending on how much food you have/ temp outside you may have to add a bit more wood, try 3 pieces instead of 2 if the temp seems to stay low for you. Hope this helps.

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