Op-Ed Is Running out of BBQ Good or Bad? | Grilling with Rich Op-Ed Is Running out of BBQ Good or Bad?


How come they ran out of Brisket?

Posted By: Seth Mellin
Published: November 6, 2014


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My friends all know I love BBQ and am a big fan so they are always keeping me informed when they try new places. I love that fact because it keeps me informed and gives me places to go.

However, one of the biggest complaints I hear is. “I went to Y place and they ran out of X meat! Why?”

BBQ Sold OutThe thing is most people are not accustomed to going someplace and trying to order dinner and being told the place is out of food. However, this is common practice when it comes to BBQ that I have to explain. The reason for this is because  BBQ is cooked low-n-slow, its what makes BBQ so damn good, if you ask me.  Therefore, when you go to a BBQ restaurant who sells only what they cook its not like ordering food at any other establishment where the cook takes the meat out of a fridge and prepares your meal.

BBQ Restaurants (at least top notch ones) pride themselves on serving fresh ‘que that has just finished the prerequisite resting time after being smoked. Therefore, they are in a constant guessing game about how much to make on any given day.  They try not to have left overs and always serve fresh meat. To achieve this many places stagger their cooking times throw on meat at predetermined intervals based on when they expect to need it, due to the trends a their restaurant. This is a constant game in motion.

I reached out to two pitmasters from two of the top BBQ joints in America to get their thoughts.

Matt Fisher, Pitmaster of Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbecue in Brooklyn, NY (a personal favorite of mine) said:

“Cooking for a BBQ joint is not like most other types of restaurants because of one central complication– most people fire (cook) an item in a kitchen when it is ordered, but we start our fires (pun intended) many hours before the doors even open. We take an informed look at our previous sales for given days, and we cook based on those numbers. We never know for sure which items might get ordered most on a given night, and if we run out, we just can’t fire another one….”

The 2013 BBQ Person of the Year Steve Coddington and pitmaster of Lockhart’s BBQ in Royal Oak, MI said:

How can a BBQ restaurant run out of food?

I’ m asked this question often , and usually reply with “Because great BBQ takes time.”

There are plenty of BBQ joints that get away with cooking fresh and selling until it’s gone… if you live in Austin. Yet, most restaurants will cook ahead, cool, and reheat for serving. Some do it better than others, but ultimately, unless you’re smoking briskets and butts days ahead, and you have a magic ball that will tell you what your par will be, sooner or later, you are going to sell more product than you have in house.

While running out of of good BBQ is never ideal, the fact that a place cares enough about its craft to possibly run out to ensure they are only selling the freshest and best BBQ possible is a sign the place truly cares about their final product.

Of course this doesn’t hold true for all great BBQ restaurant’s and its comes down to how a certain place decides to operate, and that is good too as long as the product is great.

So … next time you are headed out for BBQ and your local place is prone to selling out, if you want your favorite cut, head in early and enjoy!

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