The very popular Foodways Texas Barbecue Summer Camp was held at the Rosenthal Meat Center at Texas A&M University on June 6-8, 2014. This is the fourth year of the camp, and about 60 participants from all walks of life, but with a common love for all things barbecue were in attendance this year. To start the morning, Marvin Bendele of Foodways Texas and Jeff Savell of the Meat Science Section of the Department of Animal Science gave a welcome to everyone and led the class introductions of the participants.
A pit design and maintenance panel was held with Bryan Bracewell of Southside Market and Barbecue, Elgin; Russell Roegels of Baker’s Ribs, Houston; Robert Smith and Ryan Zboril of Pitt’s & Spitt’s, Houston, and John Lewis, La Barbecue of Austin. After the panel discussion, participants viewed different pits and discussed features of each style with the pitmasters.
A field trip taken each year is to Martin’s Place, Bryan, Texas, where brick-pit cooking/smoking has been employed over the years. The trip includes a tour of the pits led by Steve Kapchinskie, grandson of the founder, Martin Kapchinskie, and current pit master, Robb Walsh’s reading of his article on Zen and the Art of Barbecue in Saveur magazine, which included a segment about Martin’s, and having our first barbecue meal of the day there.
Upon arrival back on campus, Davey Griffin lectured on food safety and how to make sure that the barbecue prepared was safe to eat. Griffin spent some time going over how to check thermometers for accuracy and demonstrated the proper use of thermometers in checking product temperatures.
Greg Luchak of Tyson Foods gave a presentation on the merits of brining/marination for pork and poultry cuts. Proper brining/marination can enhance the juiciness and tenderness of meat.
As part of the experience, Barbecue Summer Camp participants get to season briskets, beef ribs, pork ribs, and Boston butts. The session on flavors and seasonings was led by Ryan Heger, Adams Flavors, Foods and Ingredients, who brings everything needed for the participants to play with or to use one of four recipes provided by Adams.
A panel on wood/smoke was held with three key cooking/barbecue experts, Tom Perini, of Perini Ranch Steakhouse, Buffalo Gap; Bryan Bracewell of Southside Market and Barbecue, Elgin; and Russell Roegels of Baker’s Ribs, Houston, discussing their experiences with smoking meats. The two dominant woods discussed were mesquite and oak, which probably represent the vast majority of fuel/smoke used in Texas Barbecue. Wood products for the weekend camp were supplied by Western Premiums BBQ Products of Pleasanton, Texas.
The final session of the day’s technical program was Ray Riley, Thomas Larriviere, and Mark Frenzel injecting the pig to be cooked the next day with a brine solution. This allowed the brine in the pig (about 80 pounds dressed weight) to equilibrate overnight before it was placed on the cinder block pit at Jeff Savell’s home.
Friday night’s barbecue meal was provided by Bryan Bracewell and Southside Market and Barbecue. Thanks to Bryan and his team for bringing the big catering rig over and feeding everyone. Spoetzl’s Brewery in Shiner, Texas provided great Shiner Beer for both evening’s dinners.
Friday night begins the process of cooking the briskets and Boston butts. Mark Frenzel, Michael Berto, Jeff Savell, and Thomas Larriviere tended the pits overnight so that the products would be ready to sample mid-day on Saturday.
Saturday morning begins with the participants arriving at Jeff Savell’s home to put the pig on to cook on the cinder block pit. Thomas Larriviere spent the day tending to the pig so that it was ready to eat that night at the dinner.
Davey Griffin led the beef anatomy overview with assistance from Ray Riley and Crystal Waters.
A key feature of Barbecue Summer Camp is the opportunity for participants to see the different cuts of beef and pork up close and under the direction of graduate student leaders Michael Berto, Clay Eastwood, Leslie Frenzel, Mark Frenzel, Hillary Henderson, Helen Kline, Lindsey Mehall, and Crystal Waters.
This year, a side of pork was cut in front of the participants to demonstrate where the cuts were from and to allow the participants to ask questions during the cutting demonstration.
Shane and Catherine Stiles of Stiles Switch Barbecue, Austin were able to join the class on Saturday and provide some key insight into their experiences with barbecue.
Saturday evening ends with the pig roast at Jeff Savell’s home. The pig was delicious and was served as pulled pork. The participants beef and pork ribs were served at the dinner, too.
Sunday morning is all poultry led by Christine Alvarado from the Department of Poultry Science. After classroom time where Christine presents an overview of the poultry industry and poultry products, the participants go to the processing room at the Rosenthal Meat Center and make a variety of products that are cooked and sampled for the departing lunch.
Thanks to the participants, faculty, students, and sponsors of the Barbecue Summer Camp. Each year just gets better, and we expect that next year’s camp to be highly demanded and the place to be in the summer of 2015.