Barbecue Catering How-to

BBQ basics used for Concession Catering and Competition cooking.


BBQ events catering and competition cooking can work hand and hand as a business or a part time hobby. Many BBQ’ers who compete at least dabble in concession catering. I’m going to assume, since your at this web site, you’re interested in competing and catering. I’m going to assume you’re interested in making money and most importantly interested in BBQ.

I wish someone had given me this information when I got started a few years ago. I started with BBQ catering back in the late 70’s. The catering business for most BBQ’ers around Iowa was agricultural related. Feeding the hungry farmer right out in the field, or in some cases, in the machine shed (barn).

This is how it worked: The Seed Corn, Chemical and Implement companies wanted to sell farmers their goods or services. What better way to get a local group of farmers together than a free meal. Pork chops on the charcoal grill served with corn on the cob, a few assorted salads, and apple crisp.

Some days I would have as many as five vehicles heading out to different sites and do a cater at noon, then on the way back do another cater for an early evening meal. All the charcoal grills used back then were made of old propane tanks or fuel barrels. Crude, but the meal was so simple they worked as well as anything around. I used Cambro carriers for hot and cold foods. So actually, the startup cost was very minimal.

The only problem was the limited timeline for business. This catering was profitable, as long as the farmer wasn’t in the field. When the farmer worked you didn’t dare bother him. I would have to laugh at many of the same farmers showing up for the different locations. In fact, I got to know many of them by their first name.

Enough about farm field catering and lets move on to what most of you are interested in, concession catering.

It’s not just selling hotdogs at the county fair or hamburgers off the Weber grill. It’s about serving specialty foods of all kinds. Deep fried Twinkies? Smoked Turkey Legs? Chicken on a Stick? Walking Tacos?
What happened to the simple Hotdog?

BBQ concession is one of the hottest markets going. Smoked meats served on buns, sticks or in the bag.

It’s that show and sell thing. All about what is easy to carry and looks good. You notice I didn’t mention taste good. Come on how in the world could deep fried Twinkies taste good?

Better get back to concession catering. The how to book is actually how I did it?

You’ll learn the qualifications and skills needed if you’re going to survive in this highly competitive business.

You’ll learn the type of equipment, utensils and how to create the menu that works for you.

You’ll learn about the different types of catering events such as social catering, corporate caterings and even selling sauce at the local Farmers Market.

You’ll learn organization skills such as scheduling, estimating food quantities and protection obligations like product and public liability insurance.

You’ll learn about many resources available today and how to get hooked up with pro’s in the business.

You’ll learn How to Competition Cook. A-Z set-up and tear down, product choices, sanctioning organizations and the thrill of winning the big prize money.

You’ll have access to proven techniques, recipes, handy lists and forms that will take the guess work out of the process.

The road to great BBQ is just down the hiway, or so it seems that easy. Many BBQ cooking teams have spent countless hours and thousands of dollars, not to mention the many miles traveled. Why! To have bragging’ rights for the best darn BBQ in the State or even the World?

What happens when you’ve been told by family and neighbors your BBQ is the best they have ever tasted? What happens when you win the local Rib Fest and become the city champ in BBQ? What happens after you visit the local BBQ joint and decide they have nothing over YOUR BBQ. You think you’re ready for the next big step. Questions run ramped. What new equipment will I need? What’s the initial start up costs? What about insurance? Is my vehicle adequate to travel the BBQ super highway? Will I need help at the contests? Do I really have the time? What are the rules at various contests?

Start Catering

What qualifications if any will I need?

Should I start catering before I consider BBQ contest cooking, or would it look better with a few blue ribbons on display? If you have the answer to the last question, great days are ahead of YOU! Why? It’s a proven fact people eat with their eyes first. It’s all about “Show and Sell”.

Does that mean it only needs to look good? Not at all! The real basics for all food groups are hot food hot, cold food cold.

If the above seems over whelming then take a deep breath and consider walking before you run.

Make an outline of important and relevant details. Think about this; don’t put off insurance till you win a big contest! Cover important financials before you run out to buy the new cooker. Make sure you have a dependable mode of transportation. Most of all make sure you can devote the time for contests and the much needed practice.

This is just a little about BBQ competition cooking and basic questions before you start advertising your new BBQ catering business. One quick note on advertising; don’t worry about tomorrow’s business before taking care of today’s.

Still interested and have the desire to keep reading we have compiled all the information needed to get started. Sorry I can’t help with the expenses but I can outline many of the costs you should be ready to absorb.