Myself and my fellow Grillin Fools will be asked to cook for large groups quite often over the next few months. My family needs no more than word that the sun is going to rise as an excuse to get together for a family function in the warm months. And with us that means grilling. With Memorial Day a few days away, graduation parties, pool parties, and 4th of July right around the corner we find ourselves cooking for a crowd much more often than in the cooler months.
Sometimes we find ourselves seemingly strapped to the grills while the party goes on around us, only able to mingle with the people that wandered over to us to see how the food is coming along. We may be at a party but sometimes we feel more like hired help than party attendees. This post is all about ways to cook for a crowd and still be able to join in the festivities. To be able to feed the group but also have fun with them at the same time. Click below to find a number of possibilities for low maintenance high yield grilling recipes.
Go Whole Hog
I know this sounds nuts. That doing an entire pig does not seem like it’s low maintenance, but honestly, it’s really easy to do. It’s pretty much a set it and forget it deal. As long as you can rent a grill like the one we rented from Kenrick’s it’s very simple. One hour per 10 pounds so that 60 pound beauty was done in six hours. No getting up in the middle of the night to start the cook. I put Maribelle on at 10:40 am and we were pulling pork at 6:00 pm. You can find the full write up on exactly how to do it here.
Brats and Dogs
This is usually the first thing that comes to minds of most people when it comes to feeding the masses at a cookout is brats and dogs. Both cook fairly quickly over high heat. But cooking 30 brats and 15 dogs can take quite some time. This is where the beer bath comes in. Grill your brats and dogs prior to your guests arrival. Buy a high sided disposable aluminum pan, pour in your favorite beer, some slices of onion, maybe a garlic clove or two, place directly on the grill, and put the brats and dogs in the new beer Jacuzzi you just made. Place the pan over enough of the coals to get a simmer going, or put it in the oven at about 200. Now, go get a shower and when the party starts the grilling is already done. If someone does not want the beer dripping off their brat, just throw the brat back on the heat for a couple minutes to steam that off.
How about taking those brats and dogs to the next level? Walk right past the meat cases with the Johnsonvilles and the Oscar Meyers. Go to the meat cutter at your local grocer and see if they have specialty brats and dogs they make in house. They will be better than the mass produced stuff in the cases. Even better. Go to a local butcher and see what they have. Throw a few Jalapeno brats on. Maybe a garlic brat. Try some Italian sausages or some other ethnic sausage like an Irish banger, Polish Sausage, Chorizo, Greek brat, Cajun brat, or Hungarian brat. How about my favorite the apple brat? Natural casing hot dogs are heads and shoulders better than what Oscar Meyer makes.
Next up, Burgers. Everyone makes burgers. Everyone knows how to make a burger. But does everyone know how to make a good burger? First, don’t thaw out any meat for this. Go buy it fresh. The morning of the event would be best. Think of the hamburger meat as the vehicle to get all the extra goodies you can mix in with it to your mouth. Put the bulk burger in a large mixing bowl and make that boring meat into much more than a boring old burger. There are all sorts of things you can add:
Diced bell or jalapeno peppers
Even better, ground chorizo
Herbs like basil or oregano
Andrias Steak Sauce
And of course salt and black pepper to taste.
This is not an all inclusive list. Get creative.Just don’t spring a new combo of those ingredients on a group of people without trying it out first.
Check out these burgers that my Cousin Tom and his Wife did recently:
Or a healthy alternative of Turkey Burgers:
Beer Can Chicken with a Twist
If you have a relatively stable smoker that holds the temps fairly constant there is no reason you couldn’t smoke ribs, brisket, chicken, fatties or a combination of these. If all it requires is adding more fuel or smoke wood every 30-60 minutes and maybe a location adjustment of the meat then smoking these items is extremely low maintenance. Maybe go with a beer can chicken. Or even better the Grillin Fools new and improved beer can chicken – beer can chicken stew:
While ribs are not always the cheapest alternative they sure are divine and very easy to do. Click here to see how these perfect baby backs were done in 2 hours:
Or maybe some brisket. How good does that smoke ring look?
One way to cut the cost of ribs for a crowd is to supplement the ribs with a lower cost alternative. Instead of making enough to feed everyone ribs make less ribs and throw on a few fatties. Generally fatties take just as long as ribs to cook. As long as the space is there, go with a few fatties which are always a hit.
Rib Eye Steak Sandwiches
Something that is not all that common and will likely blow the minds of your guests – Rib eye steak sammiches. Go to your butcher, have him/her thinly slice a rib eye into 1/3-1/4 inch thick sliced of rib eye. Marinade in Adria’s (Worcestershire and emulsified garlic for those not able to get Andria’s), coke, garlic and black pepper. Grill over high heat for just a little bit and then throw then in an aluminum pan with more of the marinade to keep the meat warm and moist. This is not a cheap alternative to cook for a crowd but definitely low maintenance.
Grillin the rib eye slices:
In the pan to simmer. These will get a tin foil cover and be thrown in the oven on low heat. They could be left on the grill but this was shot the day of the 2009 Super Bowl so it was a little chilly outside:
After being in the oven a couple of hours they are ready to serve:
A bun, some cheese, a little mayo for me and I had heaven on a plate:
Some would argue that pulled pork is a cheap and easy way to feed a crowd. Total work is less than 90 minutes but that is stretched out over 8-12 hours at 200-225. It can be started the night before but if the smoker has a hard time keeping a constant temp then it will require some maintenance in the middle of the night or at the crack of dawn or both. But we can take these two four pound pork shoulders:
And turn them into this in less than six hours total cook time:
By using the high heat method, which is a bit of a misnomer as it’s more like medium heat at 300-325, but the results are just as good as doing them from 200-225 but in much shorter time. Click here to learn how to do it.
And now we come to the pork steak. What an amazing cut of meat. Not all that prevalent outside of the Midwest but this is a true gem of low maintenance BBQing. Click here to see how to not only ask for pork steaks at your local butcher but one of the many ways of cooking them. Speaking of the many ways to cook pork steaks, you can smoke them slow and low for many hours. You can BBQ them at a medium heat, indirect for a couple of hours with some smoke wood or you can grill them hot and fast. For me, I go the indirect route for a couple of hours on the side with no heat and some good smoke wood on the coals and then sear them to get a flavor crust before I slather them with sauce which gives me a smokey pork steak with many levels of flavor that look like this:
With this smoke ring:
At the end, a BBQ hot tub in a (you guessed it) aluminum tray will keep them warm and juicy for hours. The fat content makes it very difficult to dry them out and it also keeps them oh so tender. You can feed an army with pork steaks and do so really inexpensively.