The trick to pulling this off was my FoodSaver. Each day I’d put the meat I’d smoked into FoodSaver bags and vacuum sealed them. This does three things: It preserves them at the peak of freshness, allows you to store them longer and it gives you a gentle way to reheat the food without drying it out or cooking it more. To reheat these items you put the bags in 170 degree (77 C) water for a slow gentle reheat. I’ve even found that the vacuum action of the FoodSaver helps the pulled pork by infusing the meat with the sauce. The pulled pork tastes much better the second time around after it has been in the FoodSaver bag. The one exception to this was the chicken which stored in a plastic bag overnight.The chicken wings would be he reheated in the oven in an attempt to crisp up their skins.
The vacuum saved food can be reheated right in the bags
When using the FoodSaver you should package the Food one of two ways. The first is divided into serving size portions. Or if you are going to reheat the whole lot, then divide it up into sizes that are not too bulky and will reheat well. The ribs had been stored in 4 rib sections in the FoodSaver bags. These represented the individual portion size method. You want some ribs, reheat one bag of ribs. The pulled pork I divided into 4 equal portions for ease of reheating. The brisket was divided into 4 equal portions as well, but this time it was to keep the bulk down so the bag would heat through. Knowing I would reheat the hot dogs together instead of two per bag like I normally do, I stored them in two bags of 8 hot dogs. These were kept flat to maximize the surface area exposed to the heat.
A candy thermometer helps you monitor & maintain 170 degrees (170 C)
This was the most food I had ever prepared in one operation so some advanced planning was in order. The beans would be reheated in the microwave and the chicken wings would be coming from the oven. Everything else would be coming from the bags being reheated in two large pans of 170 degree (77 C) water. One virtue of reheating this way is you do not have to worry about overcooking. If the items are heated longer it doesn’t matter. So if the ribs were fully heated before the pulled pork there is zero harm in that. So really the trick would be to make sure the wings and beans were heated and the other items would all be done. One thing I did was make sure there was room on the dinner table for all of these plates and bowls . While the food was reheating I laid the serving plates out to make sure there was a place for everything. The last thing I wanted to happen was have a bunch of hot food coming out together and finding out there was no place to put some of it.
The food is out and it is time to eat
The food was reheated in two large pots of water. I used two candy thermometers to monitor the temperature. The water temperature always drops when you add the cold bags of meat. I let the temperature go about 10 degrees (5.5 C) higher, 180 degrees (82 C) for this much food. The temps dropped about 12 degrees (6.6 C) when I added the bags so I had come pretty close to the mark. From that point I kept an eye on the temperatures and made sure none of the bags floated to the top. You want them to be covered on all sides.
Ribs, doctored Bush beans & cole slaw
The other thing you need to watch is the temperature swings. Trying to set the temperature of this much water is like trying to get a long train moving or stopping. It takes miles for the train to get up to speed and miles for it to come to a stop. You want to start turning the heat down before the water hits your target temperature and let it drift up to the right temperature. It took me a few attempts before I got the feel for each of the three stoves I have used. This is a case where I like my electric cooktop better than my mother’s gas range. The amount of heat you need to apply once the water hits 170 (77 C) is minimal. Trying to hold 170 (77 C) on the gas range, the flame was set so low I had to watch that it didn’t blow out.
Pulled pork, brisket & smoked hot dogs
Normally I reheat these items for 45 minutes. With this much food I heated them for a full hour. While this was going on I took the 3 sauces (ribs, brisket and chicken) out of the fridge and let them come to room temperature. I also checked that the dishes would all fit on the table as mentioned above. I put out the rolls for the hot dogs and pulled pork. My mother reheated the chicken wings in the oven and took care of reheating the beans. When the wings went into the oven I began pulling the bags out of the water. Be sure to use some rubber kitchen gloves or some tongs to hold the bags: 170 (77 C) will be too hot to hold very long. Using some kitchen shears I cut the bags open and put the various items on their plates or bowls. In short order the food was good to go. I was glad I pre-planned this as I didn’t need to do much thinking when things were at their most hectic.
Pulled pork & the three BBQ sauces
It was time to eat. It was hard to know where to start. This was BBQ sensory overload. I was happy to see the ribs were nearly as good as the day they were made, although they did cool off quickly. The pulled pork was actually better the second time around. The hot dogs were as good as the first day. The chicken wings were actually crispier than they were fresh off the smoker. I need to try some other recipes for smoked chicken wings that will give me a crispy skin coming right off the smoker. I’m sure it will involve a higher cooking temperature than 225 (110 C). The doctored Bush beans had developed a richer flavor the second time around. The only disappointment was the brisket. When I sliced it at 5AM this same morning, it was the best brisket I had ever made. Reheated it was nowhere near as moist and didn’t seem as flavorful. The flavor may be subjective but there was no mistaking the change in moistness. I am thinking that steaming may be a better way to reheat the brisket. If any of you reading this have had success with reheating brisket in the FoodSaver bags, please post a comment and let me know.
It was hard to decide where to start first
Looking at the plate of food in front of me I realized that this was a special day for me because I won’t often have the time to make all three items of the barbecue trinity. The only way I can usually do this is to go to a BBQ joint. Bottom line: This meal for my family and the one the next day and made it all worth it. My three days of cooking fed 12 people for two nice meals. There was something for everyone. This is what makes this hobby fun: Sharing the end results with others.