The Chicken Dinner at the Crane Broiler Festival has always been the premier item that brings people back year after year to visit Crane during this weekend event.
First we take 50 frozen chicken halves and load them onto a metal rack in one room of our cook shack. Each rack is loaded with the skin side of the chicken half facing up and placed as close together as possible on the rack so that each chicken half will cook evenly. Each full rack is then sprinked with a special spice mix and sprayed with a separate oil and vinegar sauce mix before being loaded onto the barbeque pit.
This large barbeque pit; by itself, is an attraction for many of the people that come to the Crane Broiler Festival. The “pit” is a 50 foot long by 6 foot wide concrete block cooking area that takes approximately 50 bags of charcoal to initially “fire” each morning that the chicken is cooked. During the two days (Friday and Saturday only) this pit area is “fired” at approximately 8:00am each morning and cooking will continue until around 4:00pm each day. Over the 2 day cooking period we will go through 3 to 3.5 tons of charcoal and over 50 gallons of various sauce mixes in the pit area. When the pit is full it will hold approximately 25 of these metal cooking racks. That is approximately 1150 halves of chicken on the cooking pit at one time when the pit is fully loaded. A metal rail system on the top of each side of the cooking pit allows each rack to be easily flipped by the pit workers to allow even cooking of each rack. Pit workers continually move these racks up closer to the “finish line” as fully cooked racks are removed and flipping other cooking racks to insure each chicken half cooks as evenly as possible. During the course of a rack’s journey down the length of the pit it will be sprayed at least 5 times again with the same special oil and vinegar mix to help keep each chicken half as moist and juicy as possible so that each chicken dinner produced will be as flavorful as we can make it, for you the purchaser of that chicken dinner. From the starting end of the pit to a fully cooked, succulently moist, chicken half at the finished end it will take approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes for one rack to complete its cooking journey at the Crane Broiler Festival. No chicken half will leave the cooking pit until its internal temperature exceeds 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Now that is hot if you consider that the charcoal in the pit itself is probably burning at over 225 degrees Fahrenheit at the finish end. You definitely do not want to hold your hand over the exposed coals in this area of the pit for very long or drop anything into the pit that you really want to keep.
Next the chicken goes into our “take off room” where each metal rack is unloaded, chicken halves are checked for correct amount of “doneness”, dipped into our barbeque sauce mix, loaded into large metal cookers, and placed into gas warming ovens to keep the chicken in its most flavorful state until it is placed on a plate with baked beans, potatoe salad, a slice of bread, a drink (water or soda), and served to you at the “Serving Shack” during the Crane Broiler Festival for your enjoyment. Oh yes, if you are one of those “few” people who would rather not have your chicken dipped into the barbeque sauce we even try to keep some chicken halves hidden in our warmers “unsauced” for your eating enjoyment also.
One thing that should be especially mentioned is the cooking crews that man these areas. It takes over 50 people during these two days to man just the chicken cooking area. Many of these people have worked here in the pit area over 10 years each and take great pride in the quality of the chicken produced during the Crane Broiler Festival. As an example of the community involvement; on Friday we usually will have the FFA (Future Farmers Of America) group from the Crane High School helping in the cooking pit area and on Saturday the Crane Volunteer Fire Department helps to man the cooking area. Stop by and visit with the “pit crew” during the Crane Broiler Festival. We always enjoy a break from the “heat” and to show off our “pit”.
The metal racks used in cooking were designed and produced by a local Crane metal shop especially for the Crane Broiler Festival and the cooking pit area was designed and built by a local contractor.
All the people who work in the cooking area, money takers, serving shack, and table crews in the public eating area are all volunteers who live in the local Crane area. Your chicken may have been loaded on its cooking rack by a local school teacher, cooked by a local volunteer fireman (yes, the fireman even knows how to keep the pit fire burning just right without putting the fire out), taken off the rack by a local building contractor, your money for the chicken dinner taken by a local business owner, your chicken dinner served to you our customer by a local banker, and your request for an extra napkin or more sauce just might be served to you by a local teenager from our high school. In total it takes over 250 local Crane area people; working in all parts of the Crane Broiler Festival, each year and yes they are all volunteers, willing to give up their time and energy to bring you a fabulous chicken dinner.
This chicken dinner is being brought to you for the price of $9.00 including your drink.