BBQ Meats

Joined Aug 31, 2010
I have been catering for 10 years now and in the middle of taking a big step and opening our own BBQ restaurant. We will be the only real BBQ joint in town. My question is even though I don't want to I know we are going to have to reheat some meats on a daily basis like Ribs, brisket and Tri-Tip when we first open up until we can figure out the right amount to cook and have less loss. What is the best way to do this?
Joined Aug 19, 2010
I don't have any advice but I'll be watching responses with keen interest.  The only thing I've learned is to never pull pork before you're going to serve it.  Always keep mine wrapped in foil.
Joined Mar 21, 2008
Wrapped in foil and into a cambro or other type of holding box ribs, pork shoulder(do not pull until almost ready to use), and brisket will stay hot for 3-4 hours. Pulled pork will keep in a covered crock pot (covered steam table pan? Maybe someone else will have a better idea here) for over an hour also. Don't cut/pull/chop until close to serving time and things will hold better. When I was doing on-site catering I used coolers lined with old towels to hold food until serving time.
Joined Feb 13, 2008
Mary's very knowledgeable, but catering and restauarants are not necessarily the same.

Depending on local codes and individual inspectors you may not be able to hold food in a cambro or other insulated chest.  You may need something with its own heat source -- Alto Shaam warming ovens or drawers, for instance -- if you're going to hold hot.   Alto Shaams (doesn't have to be that particular brand) are a very good way to hold.

You mentioned learning quantities.  It's not just a question of adjusting quantity to customer flow.  There are some timing issues that are just plain peculiar to things which require hours and hours of cooking.  A lot of night pitmasters start most everything so that it's done at opening.  That means everything after lunch is held. 

Some places keep the fire in their pit low enough that it functions as a holding oven.  Others wrap and keep everything in drawers.  There's no real best way here.  One consideration:  If your guests can see into the kitchen, pulling meat out of the pit looks better.  But electric warming cabinets are easier.

Some meats are easier to hold at pit temp than others.  Brisket can go a long time, especially wrapped.  Don't let a whole brisket get over 197* and your jake.  Ribs though -- cook them too long enough and they turn to mush.

Pulled chicken can be pre-portioned, bagged, refrigerated, and reheated in a skillet with some sauce, if (a) it's dark meat; and (b) you serve it sauced to begin with.

Holdover from lunch to dinner aside, nobody's perfect.  There's always going to be some leftovers that you'll want to use the next day.  The alternative is that you ran out of meat before closing.  Can't have that.

There are a few ways to reheat 'q after it's been held in the refrigerator.  "Best" depends on whether or not you've pulled, sliced, portioned or are still in whole or large pieces. 

Even if you cook hot and fast, you always want to reheat 'q low and slow. 

Low and slow, even if it's [shudder] individual portions of pulled pork heated in the [shudder] microwave.  Not that I'm suggesting this as a good way to go. 

I disagree mildly with masalaguy, in that I think pork should be pulled as soon as it's completely rested and held that way, rather than as a single piece.  Pull it into a pan, moistening it with just enough of a Caroina style sauce (which can be nothing more than diluted vinegar if you like) to keep it from getting greasy or drying out.  Then cover, and either hold warm for service or refrigerate. 

Chicken pieces and halves can be finished on a grill. I favor a grill finish for chicken anyway.

I know a lot of guys who smoke their ribs to "not quite," hold wrapped and refrigerated, then finish them on the grill for event catering.  When I say event, I'm including things like "Rib Fest" and MIM comps.  One of the advantages from a commercial standpoint is that you don't have to strip the membrane -- the grill will burn it off.

Generally, you want to reheat as slowly as possible in as large pieces as possible.  If there's one verity of 'q, it's "Low and Slow."  On the other hand, I've had plenty of great 'q which went (wrapped) into a hot oven straight from the refrigerator and came out perfectly fine. 

Joined Nov 6, 2004
   I cannot comment at all on your post with respects to catering or working in the food service, where one must adhere to certain rules.  My comments are strictly limited to my experiences at home with pulled pork.

   Like many of the others I've found that pulled pork holds extremely well.  I've often had much more trouble reheating pulled pork rather than problems with holding.  I've tried many different methods to re-heat pulled pork and the only method with consistently good results (without drying it out) was sous-vide.

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Joined Oct 23, 2008
Another thing to consider is how to utilize what is not consumed on the first day. Pulled chicken for instance, can be turned into "smoked chicken salad" for use in sandwiches, not everyone that goes to a BBQ joint wants classic BBQ (they may have tagged along because of others). The beef brisket can be used in chili or vegetable beef soup which helps you with your starters. In all cases you are adding moisture, just as BDL mentioned with the chicken by saucing it.
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Joined Aug 7, 2013
So then, in light of our being relegated to to-go or delivery-only, would smoking a brisket, to perfection, resting it correctly, and slicing it ahead of time, holding on a steam table and drizzling in warm brisket fat occasionally would be a decent idea correct? And uncovered, I would assume.

The ideal finish of brisket would be so that the slice holds its shape when held, but can be pulled apart. How long can this finish last if held at say, 135F? And using leftovers for beans/stews is an excellent idea, by the way.

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