Not sure if it’s brisket or pulled pork that everyone likes? Ordering BBQ may seem straightforward, but there are a lot of menu options. We talked to Michelle Matthews, VP of Direct Sales and Catering at Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, a third-generation family owned and operated BBQ restaurant with decades of catering experience, about how to order BBQ catering.
When placing a BBQ catering order for a large group, what should you order to appeal to most tastes?
“We recommend ordering a dark meat and a light meat,” says Michelle. Not everyone prefers dark meat, so ordering one of each makes sure that you cover your bases. Look for an entrée like a brisket or pulled pork and then a chicken. Need help deciding? “Brisket is probably our most popular nationwide,” Michelle shares. “Pulled pork is our most popular if you go over to the East Coast, especially in the Carolinas. And then if you go over to the West Coast, it’s the brisket.”
For the sides, Michelle says “you really can’t go wrong with the classics,” like BBQ beans, coleslaw, and potato salad. While mac and cheese is a newer addition to the BBQ catering menu, it’s a hit too. And don’t forget something green, like a salad or green beans, to round out your meal.
So, what are Michelle’s favorite orders? “I love our chicken, pulled pork and our mac and cheese.”
What vegetarian menu options work well for BBQ catering?
Remember to ask for vegetarian entrées. Dickey’s Barbecue Pit offers a Giant Stuffed Baker, a stuffed baked potato that serves as an entrée that makes for a great vegetarian option. Looking for something different? Use sides to create a meal. Put together mac and cheese, coleslaw, spinach and salad to create a boxed lunch option that separates vegetarian meals and won’t feel skimpy. Another option is to create a salad just for vegetarians.
If you’re going with a BBQ buffet, ask about separating your vegetarian meals out from the line and into boxed meals to help vegetarians identify what’s safe to eat and keep the line moving.
When thinking about BBQ catering portions per person, how much should you order?
Aim for about 1/3 of a pound of meat per person. To put that in perspective, Michelle shares, “think about when you go to the grocery store and get a pound of turkey for the week. Imagine taking that entire pound of turkey and three of you eating it at the same time. It’s a good amount of food.” If you’re making sandwiches, go for a 1/4 pound of meat per person. Add three sides and you have a well portioned meal.
If you’re not sure how much of each side to order, Michelle advises getting 5.33 ounces each of three sides. If you’re ordering family size portions that come in gallon aluminum trays, one gallon will feed between 20-25 people.
Wondering how to order BBQ catering for a child? One adult meal portion will feed two kids under the age of 12.
To follow up on catering portions, do you need to change the quantity you’re ordering with the type of meat?
Not unless you’re getting ribs. Remember that ribs come bone in, so the portions are done by bone not weight. At Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, when ribs are ordered for catering, they are portioned at two bones per person if ribs are one of two types of meat being ordered.
What are the differences between BBQ styles?
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit has three sauces on the menu: Classic Original Barbecue sauce, Spicy Barbecue sauce, and Sweet Barbecue sauce. All of which they serve nationwide. However, “the Carolina’s are their own entity,” says Michelle, they “have their own Sweet Carolina vinegar based barbecue sauce.”
So, what are the differences between BBQ styles? And why does it matter that Dickey’s has a sauce just for the Carolina’s? There are nuances in BBQ styles. All of which boil down to the base of the sauce, which meat is popular in the state, or how the meat is smoked. Each state has a history with BBQ and it comes through in the way they serve it. Here a few of the BBQ styles:
Kentucky – According to Eater, Kentucky BBQ is known for its sheep barbecue given its history with sheep farming. It’s most famous sauce is Worcestershire based, but they also have a vinegar and tomato based sauce.
Texas – With its past in cattle ranching, Texas is known for its smoked beef brisket.
Memphis, Tennessee – Memphis is famous for its two styles of ribs: dry or wet. Dry ribs are dry rubbed with a spice mix, while wet ribs are covered with a tomato and vinegar based sauce.
The Carolinas – While the Carolinas are frequently lumped together, these two states have two separate sauce styles. North Carolina is known for their vinegar sauce, while South Carolina has their mustard sauce.
Kansas City, Missouri – Kansas City is the birthplace of burnt ends, the ends of beef brisket. They’re also well known for sweet molasses and tomato based BBQ sauce.
Lastly, what tips can you share for eating BBQ without making a mess?
“That’s half the fun, right?!” says Michelle. “It’s inevitable. You know what you’re getting into.”
While we agree couldn’t agree more, here are Michelle’s tips to try to avoid the mess if you need to stay presentable while eating your pulled pork sandwich:
- Put the sauces on the side
- Cover your shirt in napkins or wear an apron
- Lean over the table and go for it
For more pro tips on ordering BBQ catering, check out our latest BBQ article, “How Much BBQ Should I Order Per Person?”