Posted by Kurt on 6/27/2011 to Ask An Expert
We got the Chuckwagon set up and removed the tow arm. You don't forget to remove the tow arm after ganking the sh*t out of your shins a couple of times. So we were ready to go. The smoke time should have taken about a 1 1/2 hours at 275°. We had the smoker loaded with two 20 lb bags of Royal Oak Hardwood Charcoal. In addition to the leg quarters we had to grill 120+ vegetable kabobs. So we loaded the grill side up with a 20 lb bag of charcoal.

The Chuckwagon

While we were waiting to put the chicken on, I took a few pictures of the event layout. They had a few great spots set up for the patrons to enjoy their lunches.

Seating Area

Seating Area

They were holding cork boat races on Oak Creek. Dozens of contestants had built boats and were enthusiastic about winning.

Oak Creek

Oak Creek

During most of the event the musician played awesome reggae music. A lot of familiar favorites and some really great original music.

Cool Musician

This is what we were up against. 168 chicken leg quarters & 120 vegetable kabobs all needed to be served at 1:30 pm. We seasoned them with Three Little Pigs Memphis Style Rub and put them in the smoker at about 12:00 pm. We planned on grilling the kabobs during the last 15 minutes.

168 Chicken Leg Quaters

At about 12:45 pm the smoker was still sitting at 150°. Oh SH*T! We started to panic. The chicken was only at about°. To make matters worse, one of the hosts announced that the lunch was ready at 1:00pm. A full 1/2 an hour before we were supposed to have it ready. I started to get dizzy from the realization that the chicken was not going to be ready for AT LEAST another hour. No matter what we did we could not get the smoker to rise above 150°. The fire box was red hot, but the smoker temp wouldn't budge. I called Chris Marks (The 9 time national BBQ champion and spokesperson for Good One smokers). He explained that I needed to open up some smoke holes so the smoker could draft properly.

Too Much Chicken

I don't have a picture so I made this diagram. Essentially we removed a leg quarter in the area of each black box on every rack. This allowed the hot smokey air to rise unimpeded. On the top rack we only removed 4 leg quarters. The smoker temperature immediately started climbing.

Smoke Hole Placement

The hosts decided to have the boat racers return to the river for the finals, which was supposed to happen after the lunch. Yay! It bought us another 1/2 hour. We took advantage of this and let the smoker run up to about 350°. We took the 28 quarters and put them on the hot grill. They finished up in about 10 minutes over the high heat. Since we decided to use the grill to finish the chicken off of the smoker, we also fired up one of Page Springs gas grills to help with grilling the kabobs. There were about 2 dozen people that did not go back to the creek and they ate the first round of chicken and vegetable kabobs. Once we had the top rack on the smoker cleared we filled it with kabobs and finally knew that we were going to be able to stay ahead of the demand. Phew!

I think realistically, you can only smoke about 120 chicken leg quarters at a time. While that number is still huge, it was far short of what I thought it could accommodate.

Fortunately the attendees returned from Oak Creek in small groups and we were able to stay just ahead of the demand. Everyone got to eat chicken and kabobs that had only been off the grill/smoker for about 5 minutes.

In hindsight the experience was a bit surreal. While we were panicking that the lunch was not going to be ready all at once. Many people said that it was nice to get food right off the grill instead of it sitting in serving trays for a while. All that worrying and it ended up turning out really well. I suppose there is a lesson to be learned here.

In closing I would like to thank the PSC staff for all their help getting the meal served hot and on time.

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