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Barbeque For 700 In 24 Hours!

Jan 23, 2008
Even by my standards it's daunting to know that we have to cook 30 pork shoulders, 25 whole chickens and a whole bunch of ribs in order to feed to 600 to 700 people, and we have to do all this in less than 24 hours.

The last Saturday in September our church holds its annual homecoming celebration, welcoming back folks who are members, have been members, want to be members and anyone who has visited in the last 40 years. It's always quite a party, with far more folks than our present membership attending.

Like most southern churches, we wouldn't dream of having anything but barbeque for our celebration. Our congregation is not much different from other churches in that there are always a few men who are experienced barbeque cooks, me included. We make our own, complete with all the trimmings!

Preparation for the big event begins the week before, when we order the meat, potato chips, baked beans, bread, rolls, tea, soft drinks, salt, pepper and gallons of barbeque sauce, both hot and mild. We have folks in charge of each item to make sure we haven't missed ordering anything.

This annual barbeque festival is held outdoors unless it rains. Some of us set up tables, table cloths, napkins, paper towels, chairs, trash cans, ice chests, plates, plastic cups and knives, forks, spoons, salt, pepper and plenty of hot barbeque sauce! For those with a delicate palate, we also have mild barbeque sauce. If it looks as if the weather is not going to cooperate, we move the whole thing indoors!

Late Friday afternoon, the day before the celebration, we set up the barbeque pit out back on the church property. Stacked next to the storage building behind the church, there are approximately 150 concrete blocks, blackened from barbeque fires of years past, which are swiftly laid onto the site of last year's cookout. The pit itself is about 4 feet wide, 10 feet long and roughly 40 inches high.

On each end of the pit, we leave an opening large enough to toss glowing embers we take from our fire barrel. We keep a roaring fire of hickory logs going in a 55 gallon barrel. We shovel coals from an opening near the bottom of the barrel that we throw into the bottom of the barbeque pit.

On the perimeter of the cinder block pit, on top of the steel screen we use as a grill top, we stacked another layer of blocks to hold a cover for the meat. We covered the pit occasionally when the coals got a little too hot, allowing the coals to cool to let the smoke be distributed throughout the pit.

Through the night, all of us guys took turns adding wood to the barrel, scooping out coals to spread under the cooking meat and slathering the pork shoulders, chicken and ribs with a special vinegar based barbeque sauce that we invented several years ago. No one ever complains about the sauce or the barbeque!

By noon on Saturday the meat is done. The chickens and ribs were added to the grill screen much later than the pork shoulders, timed for both to be ready at the same time. We had a long table set up to hold the aluminum pans where we would store the barbequed pork, barbequed chickens and barbequed ribs. There was quite a crew of us working and as we were finishing, the first of the hungry church members began arriving.

Other church members had been working just as hard as those of us cooking and preparing the meat. They had been laying aside mountains of potato salad, potato chips, pickles, vinegar based as well as mayonnaise based slaw, and what seemed to be a truck load of bread and rolls! Gallons of iced tea, cokes and water rounded out the meal. If one could survive all that, there were still 3 tables sagging under the weight of cakes, pies, puddings and cookies for those with a sweet tooth!

Last year's cookout was a huge success, with more pounds of food than I could count, being devoured by either the folks in attendance, or those that took some home to shut-ins who couldn't make the picnic. We finished the clean up from the celebration about midnight, just in time to go home, sleep a little and get ready for church the next morning.
About the Author
Bob Alexander is well experienced in outdoor cooking, fishing and leisure living. Bob is also the author and owner of this article. Visit his sites at:
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