Savell writes foreword for Robb Walsh’s new edition of “Legends of Texas Barbecue”

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"Legends of Texas Barbecue" by Robb Walsh

“Legends of Texas Barbecue” by Robb Walsh

What a great honor it was when Robb Walsh asked me to write the foreword to the latest edition of the “Legends of Texas Barbecue!” Buying Robb’s book in the mid-2000s and meeting Robb later in the decade set in motion so many activities from the establishment of ANSC 117, “Texas Barbecue,” help with founding Foodways Texas, and hosting the wildly popular Barbecue Summer Camp and Camp Brisket at Texas A&M University. My love of barbecue before all of this was centered mostly on eating it, but I have found that my chance encounter with Robb’s book sent me on a different path for the remaining part of my career where now I am both a student and teacher of Texas Barbecue.

Here is the first paragraph of my foreword:

My first encounter with Robb Walsh’s writings occurred one summer day about 10 years ago in a Harry & David’s store in San Marcos, Texas when my wife and I stopped in to do some shopping on the way back from a trip to San Antonio. While my wife was looking around the store, I saw a display of books entitled “Legends of Texas Barbecue” by Robb Walsh. What was interesting to me at the time was that this was the only cookbook in the store. I picked one of the books up and began to browse through it. What caught my attention was that the book was a mixture of detailed stories about barbecue as well as a recipe book, too. After reading some of the stories and seeing the variety of recipes, I made my impulse purchase, which now looking back, had a profound impact on how I have spent my life over the past six years.

I look forward to having the latest edition of the “Legends of Texas Barbecue” for our freshman class this fall. Thanks to Robb Walsh for documenting so much about this great culinary treat that we love to learn about and enjoy eating.

Barbecue Summer Camp, June 2016 version, photo and summary wrap up

Cinder-block pit fired up and smoking
Cinder-block pit fired up and smoking

Cinder-block pit fired up and smoking

The Barbecue Summer Camp, co-hosted by Foodways Texas and the Meat Science Section of the Department of Animal Science at Texas A&M University, was held on Friday, June 10th through Sunday, June 12th, 2016. The camp is coordinated by meat science educators, Davey Griffin, Ray Riley, and Jeff Savell, and activities were held at the Rosenthal Meat Center and O.D. Butler Animal Science Teaching, Research, and Extension Complex. This was the sixth Barbecue Summer Camp with the first one held in 2011. Because of the high demand for these camps, a second camp for the year will be held July 22-24, 2016.

On Thursday night, before the camp began, participants and instructors gathered at Kreuz Market in Bryan, Texas for some great barbecue and a glance at the newest barbecue establishment in the Bryan/College Station market. Pit master Lee Jasper and Manager Madeline Bell welcomed the group and showed off the pits after dinner.

On Friday, over 60 participants showed up at the Rosenthal Meat Center for welcomes and introductions led by Marvin Bendele of Foodways Texas and Jeff Savell, meat science professor at Texas A&M University.

The first panel was on pit design and maintenance and was led by Davey Griffin, professor and extension meat specialist at Texas A&M University. The panel consisted of Bryan Bracewell, Southside Market and Barbeque, Russell Roegels, Roegel’s Barbecue, Greg Gatlin, Gatlin’s BBQ, Joe Risky, Riscky’s Barbecue, and Ryan Zboril, Pitt’s & Spitt’s. Panelists discussed many different features of pits, advantages and disadvantages of each, and what people can do to get the best performance out of them.

Davey Griffin introducing the pit design and maintenance panel

Davey Griffin introducing the pit design and maintenance panel

Bryan Bracewell talking about pit design and maintenance

Bryan Bracewell talking about pit design and maintenance

Greg Gatlin and Russell Roegels

Greg Gatlin and Russell Roegels

Ryan Zboril, Greg Gatlin, Russell Roegels, Joe Riscky, Bryan Bracewell, and Davey Griffin

Ryan Zboril, Greg Gatlin, Russell Roegels, Joe Riscky, Bryan Bracewell, and Davey Griffin

 

One of the features of Barbecue Summer Camp is the visit to historic Martin’s Place in Bryan. Pit master and owner, Steve Kapchinskie along with his wife and daughter, provide a glimpse into the everyday workings of the brick pits used to smoke meat and share some of Martin’s Place wonderful brisket, ribs, and sausage for the participants.

Steve Kapchinsie, Martin's Place

Steve Kapchinsie, Martin’s Place

During the time at Martin’s Place, Robb Walsh, noted food historian and writer, read a passage from his book, Barbecue Crossroads, which features a small segment about Martin’s Place in it.

Robb Walsh reading from "Barbecue Crossroads"

Robb Walsh reading from “Barbecue Crossroads”

After lunch, the participants returned to the Rosenthal Meat Center for an afternoon of discussions on meat safety and thermometer use and calibration by Davey Griffin, a panel on barbecue wood and smoke, rubs and marinades by Ryan Heger, Adam’s Flavors, Foods and Ingredients, and brining basics by Geraldo Casco, Department of Poultry Science, Texas A&M University.

Demonstrating calibrating themometer in boiling water and ice slush

Demonstrating calibrating themometer in boiling water and ice slush

Ryan Heger of Adam’s Flavors, Foods and Ingredients led the participants through an exercise of preparing suggested or custom rubs for beef briskets, pork Boston butts, pork St. Louis-style pork ribs, and beef chuck short ribs. All of the products were smoked by Russell Roegels, Roegels Barbecue, and John Brotherton, Brotherton Barbecue using the Roegels Barbecue’s smoker.

Ryan Heger discussing the different types of seasonings

Ryan Heger discussing the different types of seasonings

Applying seasonings to beef ribs

Applying seasonings to beef ribs

Mixing seasonings

Mixing seasonings

Katy Jo Nickelson supervising rub recipe application

Katy Jo Nickelson supervising rub recipe application

Seasoned pork Boston butt; Barbecue Summer Camp

Seasoned pork Boston butt

Seasoned pork St. Louis style ribs

Seasoned pork St. Louis style ribs

The barbecue wood and smoke panel was led by Jeff Savell and had Bryan Bracewell, Southside Market and Barbeque, Nick Nickelson, Standard Meat Company, Russell Roegels, Roegels Barbecue, Greg Gatlin, Gatlin’s Barbecue, and Joe Riscky, Riscky’s Barbecue. Discussions ranged from the use of particular types of wood, using seasoned wood, and building fires to ensure clean smoke.

Nick Nickelson talking about wood and smoke

Nick Nickelson talking about wood and smoke

Bryan Bracewell on the wood and smoke panel

Bryan Bracewell on the wood and smoke panel

The evening featured great food from Southside Market and Barbeque at the O.D. Butler Animal Science Complex. Thanks to Bryan Bracewell and crew for a wonderful meal with the famous Southside Market and Barbeque specialties.

Bryan Bracewell talking about the meal prepared by Southside Market and Barbeque

Bryan Bracewell talking about the meal prepared by Southside Market and Barbeque

Bryan Bracewell discussing smoker

Bryan Bracewell discussing smoker

Saturday began with the participants traveling to the Savell home to see a pig being placed on a cinder block pit for all-day cooking for the evening gathering. Taylor Rowland was in charge of cooking the pig, and he did a great job of preparing it to perfection.

Pig on grate

Pig on grate

Pig on cinder-block smoker

Pig on cinder-block smoker

Saturday agenda featured detailed discussions on beef and pork anatomy including demonstrations of various cuts of beef and pork led by Davey Griffin and Ray Riley, manager of the Rosenthal Meat Center.

Davey Griffin wheeling beef carcass in to classroom

Davey Griffin wheeling beef carcass in to classroom

Ray Riley about to rib beef carcass

Ray Riley about to rib beef carcass

Hillary Henderson demonstrating different cuts of beef

Hillary Henderson demonstrating different cuts of beef

Clay Eastwood showing beef chuck cuts

Clay Eastwood showing beef chuck cuts

Aeriel Belk showing beef cuts

Aeriel Belk showing beef cuts

Mark Frenzel showing the anatomy of beef briskets

Mark Frenzel showing the anatomy of beef briskets

McKensie Harris showing beef rib cuts

McKensie Harris showing beef rib cuts

Davey Griffin discussing pork carcass anatomy

Davey Griffin discussing pork carcass anatomy

Mark Frenzel and Adam Murray demonstrating pork carcass cutting

Mark Frenzel and Adam Murray demonstrating pork carcass cutting

Courtney Boykin and Aeriel Belk talking about pork loins

Courtney Boykin and Aeriel Belk talking about pork loins

Drew Cassens demonstrating the different parts of the ham

Drew Cassens demonstrating the different parts of the ham

McKensie Harris showing different styles of pork ribs

McKensie Harris showing different styles of pork ribs

For lunch, specific cooked briskets and pork butts were evaluated by each group who seasoned them before everyone had a chance to sample each of the products. A traditional style Central Texas barbecue lunch with smoked meats, cheese, onions, pickles, and bread was served.

Jeff Savell slicing briskets

Jeff Savell slicing briskets

Demonstrating brisket cross section

Demonstrating brisket cross section

Everyone returned to the Savell home for an evening of pulled pork from the cooked pig as well as dining on the beef and pork ribs seasoned by the participants and prepared by Russell Roegels and John Brotherton.

Taylor Rowland checking the pig temperature

Taylor Rowland checking the pig temperature

Cooked pig; Barbecue Summer Camp

Cooked pig

One of the most highly photographed pigs in the state. #bbqcamp #tamubbq @foodwaystexas #bbq #txbbq #wholehog #shiner

A photo posted by Kelly Yandell (@themeaningofpie) on

Pulling pork from cooked pig

Pulling pork from cooked pig

Serving line

Serving line

Sunday morning was devoted to poultry, and the activities were led by Christine Alvarado, Department of Poultry Science and Brandon Burrows, Kerry Ingredients with preparation and cooking/smoking demonstrations conducted by the Poultry Science staff and students. Fajitas, homemade sausage, drumsticks with mayo/spices, and wings with siracha sauce were prepared by the participants. Brandon shared the recipe for Peruvian Rotisserie Seasoning and showed the participants how to make.

Christine Alvarado lecturing on poultry production and products

Christine Alvarado lecturing on poultry production and products

Brandon Burrows leading product seasoning demonstration; Barbecue Summer Camp

Brandon Burrows leading product seasoning demonstration

Seasoned chicken

Seasoned chicken

Marinating poultry products

Marinating poultry products

Cooked wings and chicken sausage

Cooked wings and chicken sausage

Dale Hyatt preparing spatchcock chicken; Barbecue Summer Camp

Dale Hyatt preparing spatchcock chicken

Spatchcock chicken, Barbecue Summer Camp

Spatchcock chicken

The sixth Barbecue Summer Camp came to an end with some sadness as participants had to leave, but each one left with some recipes and tips that will allow them to improve their commercial or backyard skills. Thanks for all of the participants, speakers, pit masters, and students who were involved in another outstanding camp!

Texas Barbecue at the head of the class | MEAT+POULTRY

Barbecue Summer Camp participants watching Crystal Waters break down a pork carcass
Barbecue Summer Camp participants marvel at the sight of a pork carcass being broken down by Crystal Waters

Barbecue Summer Camp participants marvel at the sight of a pork carcass being broken down by Crystal Waters

Note: Thanks for Bob Sims at Meat + Poultry magazine for the wonderful article

Sometime in the mid-2000s, Jeff Savell began to leaf through the only book at a Harry and David’s while he and his wife, Jackie, were shopping. The book, “Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook,” by Robb Walsh, interested Savell and he bought it. “I read through it and enjoyed the recipes, as well as the stories that Robb wrote,” Savell says. “I didn’t think anything about it, put it on a shelf and kind of went on.”

What Savell, University Distinguished Professor, Regents Professor, E.M. “Manny” Rosenthal Chairholder, and the leader of the Meat Science Section in the Dept. of Animal Science at Texas A&M Univ. didn’t know at the time, was that the book would start a chain of events that has brought Texas barbecue and Texas A&M barbecue educational offerings to its current celebrity status.

The beginning 

In 2009, Texas A&M University challenged its professors to come up with small section freshmen classes to help the newcomers acclimate to college life. Savell remembered a 2008 small section class on baseball and thought if baseball fit in, so too could a class on barbecue. “And then I thought, ‘we’ve got the perfect book,’” he says, remembering “Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook” that had been gathering dust on his bookshelf.He and his colleagues put the class together and got it approved. Since then, Texas Barbecue (ANSC 117) has become one of the most popular freshmen classes on campus.

Two months after the approval of the class, Savell received a serendipitous and unsolicited email from author Robb Walsh looking for information about fajitas. “I sent him a note back that said, ‘I know who you are, I’ve got your book, we’re going to use it for this class,’” he says. Walsh was invited to campus to speak with faculty about fajitas, but also to speak to the Texas Barbecue class about his book.

Source and the rest of the article: Texas Barbecue at the head of the class | MEAT+POULTRY

Aggies participate in Houston BBQ Festival, 2016 version

Taylor Rowland, McKensie Harris, Bryan Bracewell, Southside Market & Barbeque, Adam Murray, and Katy Jo Nickelson; Houston BBQ Festival
Taylor Rowland, McKensie Harris, Bryan Bracewell, Southside Market & Barbeque, Adam Murray, and Katy Jo Nickelson; Houston BBQ Festival

Taylor Rowland, McKensie Harris, Bryan Bracewell, Southside Market & Barbeque, Adam Murray, and Katy Jo Nickelson

We participated in the 4th Houston BBQ Festival, which was held in the NRG Park area in Houston on Sunday, May 22, 2016. Those in attendance from Texas A&M University were Davey Griffin, Ray Riley, Katy Jo Nickelson, Adam Murray, Taylor Rowland, and McKensie Harris, and we have been fortunate to have been at each of the festivals held to date. We enjoy going to the festival each year to talk to folks about Texas Barbecue and to see so many of the pitmasters we have gotten to know through festivals and camps and to make new acquaintances with those we have not met yet. One of the most common questions we get is not about how to cook better barbecue, but how to get into the always-sold-out Barbecue Summer Camp and Camp Brisket, two outstanding programs we conduct with Foodways Texas.

Thanks again to Chris Reid and Michael Fulmer, the event founders, for inviting us each year and allowing us to interact with barbecue specialists and enthusiasts from around the Houston area. Your passion for shedding the spotlight on these great barbecue endeavors is making a difference throughout the southeast Texas area.

Maxine Davis, Ray's BBQ Shack with Jeff Savell

Maxine Davis, Ray’s BBQ Shack with Jeff Savell

Ray Riley visiting with Barry Farm folks

Ray Riley visiting with Barry Farm folks

Davey Griffin and Ryan Zboril, Pitt's and Spitt's

Davey Griffin and Ryan Zboril, Pitt’s and Spitt’s

McKensie Harris, Katy Jo Nickelson, Taylor Rowland, Davey Griffin, Herb Taylor, Ray's BBQ Shack, and Adam Murray

McKensie Harris, Katy Jo Nickelson, Taylor Rowland, Davey Griffin, Herb Taylor, Ray’s BBQ Shack, and Adam Murray

Russell Roegels describing how his smoker works

Russell Roegels describing how his smoker works

Jeff Savell with Jason Tedford, Louie Mueller Barbecue

Jeff Savell with Jason Tedford, Louie Mueller Barbecue

Taylor Rowland, Katy Jo Nickelson, McKensie Harris, Brandon Allen, Jackson Street BBQ, and Adam Murray

Taylor Rowland, Katy Jo Nickelson, McKensie Harris, Brandon Allen, Jackson Street BBQ, and Adam Murray

Greg Gatlin, Gatlin's BBQ & Catering

Greg Gatlin, Gatlin’s BBQ & Catering

Ray Riley and Davey Griffin visiting with Ronnie Killen, Killen's Barbecue

Ray Riley and Davey Griffin visiting with Ronnie Killen, Killen’s Barbecue

Wayne Kammerl, The Brisket House with team members

Wayne Kammerl, The Brisket House with team members

Russell and Misty Roegels visiting with students

Russell and Misty Roegels visiting with students

As usual, we had a great time, but sampled way too much. The food was great, but the fun and fellowship was even greater. We look forward to next year’s event, and appreciate the opportunity to participate in these events across the state.

Opening the lid on Camp Brisket, one of Texas barbecue’s most exclusive events | GuideLive

Davey Griffin leading the discussion of pits
As Texas A&M professor Davey Griffin demonstrates, frequent monitoring of the smoker is part of the job. But don’t open the lid too much; that’s a no no. Camp Brisket. Michael Haskins/Special Contributor

As Texas A&M professor Davey Griffin demonstrates, frequent monitoring of the smoker is part of the job. But don’t open the lid too much; that’s a no no. Michael Haskins/Special Contributor

Sarah Blaskovich, GuideLive, sarahblaskovich@dallasnews.com

Tell any barbecue enthusiast you’ve spent two days at Camp Brisket at Texas A&M University, and the reaction will be unanimous: Take me with you next time. If only it were so easy.The $495 class last month sold out online via Foodways Texas in 10 seconds. The yearly event has gotten so popular since it started in 2013 that folks from nearly every corner of the U.S. – Seattle, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Buffalo, N.Y., and many points in between – traveled to College Station to hear Texas’ most notable barbecue experts share secrets.

Camp Brisket won’t get any larger or more frequent, either. Classes in an aging Texas A&M room max out at about 60 people each year, ensuring the high-priced boot camp feels like an exclusive two days spent tasting and talking about Texas barbecue’s most famous cut: brisket.

“If we had chicken fried steak camp, no one would come,” jokes Jeff Savell, a professor who specializes in meat science at A&M.

Yes, brisket is the reason Central Texas barbecue has become a worldwide curiosity, with restaurants opening as far away as Melbourne, Australia, emulating the Lone Star State style.

Camp Brisket, then, is barbecue church camp.

Down in the pulpit were panelists Wayne Mueller, owner of Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor; Bryan Bracewell, owner of the 134-year-old Southside Market & Barbeque in Elgin; Russell Roegels, owner of the new Roegels Barbecue Co. in Houston; Daniel Vaughn, barbecue editor of Texas Monthly; a team of meat scientists at Texas A&M; and the biggest celebrity of them all, Aaron Franklin, owner of Franklin Barbecue in Austin and one of the world’s most revered brisket experts.

“Here comes barbecue Jesus,” someone whispered as Franklin walked in during the first session of Camp Brisket.

And the revival had begun.

Cornering the barbecue obsession

Eager students at Camp Brisket were required to introduce themselves – to explain themselves, maybe – when the first class kicked off. One man said he was there “to justify the massive expenditures of barbecue equipment.”

He makes a good point: The steep $500 admission fee to Camp Brisket is nothing compared with the thousands of dollars that can be spent on a smoker, then on each $100 brisket, some of which might endure 15 hours of low, slow smoking only to turn out mediocre and land in the trash. (No telling how much Domino’s and Pizza Hut have made after failed barbecue attempts.)

Most had ambitions of opening a barbecue joint when they retire, or when the oil and gas industry finally tanks, or when their wives would let them quit their day jobs. Each shamelessly loved barbecue and desperately wanted pitmaster secrets.

“It’s pretty interesting to ponder why we do this to ourselves,” said Robb Walsh, a Texas food writer and speaker at Camp Brisket.

Smoking brisket is an art and a science that’s nearly impossible to perfect. It involves stoking a fire in a smoker located outdoors, then keeping the temperature consistent for more than half a day while the fatty piece of meat inside cooks slowly and develops a peppery bark and smoke flavor.

No wonder barbecue enthusiasts develop such a relationship with their smokers.

“You pray to it. You drink beer with it,” said Kevin Kolman of Weber. And you sit out there – for a long time.

Source: Opening the lid on Camp Brisket, one of Texas barbecue’s most exclusive events | GuideLive

11 brisket secrets for at-home barbecue enthusiasts | GuideLive

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Pecan Lodge is one of Dallas' most popular barbecue restaurants for brisket. Ben Torres/Special Contributor

Pecan Lodge is one of Dallas’ most popular barbecue restaurants for brisket. Ben Torres/Special Contributor

Sarah Blaskovich, GuideLive sblaskovich@dallasnews.com

This is not a brisket recipe. You can find thousands of those online and in cookbooks, and each of them will give you guidelines as to how to spend a dozen or so hours smoking a fatty hunk of meat. Instead, these are brisket tips from some of the Lone Star State’s most knowledgeable brisket cookers. They shared their secrets during Camp Brisket, a two-day intensive workshop for 60 beef-obsessed people. (For more on Camp Brisket, click here.)

“The barbecue tradition is taking meat and making it delicious through a time-consuming process,” says Texas food writer Robb Walsh. But because factors such as outdoor temperature, wind and fire can be so volatile, smoking brisket takes time. Be patient as you learn your pit and the science of barbecue.

Know your wood.

Texas barbecue experts disagree on which wood smokes brisket best. Popular options are post oak, mesquite, hickory and pecan, and Camp Brisket lets attendees taste briskets smoked with each. Wood does make a difference in how your brisket will taste, so experiment with them. Ask your favorite pitmasters what they use, too.

Fat is a good thing. But you’ll need to trim some of it off.

Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue in Austin recommends cutting off as much as 30 percent of the entire weight of the brisket. “Good fat is flavor,” Franklin explains. Good fat will keep a brisket moist while it cooks. “But bad fat: That’s bad fat.” And it has to go.

Your mission while trimming off fat is to make the fat layer even, about 1/4-inch thick. If you’re at a barbecue joint, a good bite of brisket should include some rendered fat. When you order, ask for “moist” slices and you’ll get the pitmaster’s best.

Source: 11 brisket secrets for at-home barbecue enthusiasts | GuideLive

Camp Brisket, 2016 edition

Aaron Franklin and Davey Griffin discussing briskets
Aaron Franklin and Davey Griffin discussing briskets

Aaron Franklin and Davey Griffin discussing briskets

The fourth Camp Brisket, a joint venture between Foodways Texas and the Meat Science Section of the Department of Animal Science at Texas A&M University, was held on January 8-9, 2016 at the Rosenthal Meat Center and the Beef Cattle Center at the O.D. Butler Animal Science Complex. Participants from around the U.S. embarked on a journey to learn more about the ultimate challenge preparing that most difficult dish of Texas Barbecue cuisine, the brisket.

Camp Brisket was coordinated by Texas A&M University meat science educators, Davey Griffin, Ray Riley, and Jeff Savell, and who were assisted by graduate students, undergraduate students, staff, and friends and family including Courtney Boykin, Hillary Henderson, Hannah Laird, Crystal Waters, Mark Frenzel, Leslie Frenzel, Patrick Frenzel, Micki Gooch, Madalynn Kainer, Max Martinez, Marc Vogelsang, Kyle Phillips, Stormy Joplin, Taylor Rowland, Katy Jo Nickelson, and Jennifer Willis. These great folks ensured that the needs of the briskets and guests were attended to through the camp.

Brisket history, background, and anatomy

The first talks were given by Robb Walsh, noted food and cookbook writer, on history of the use of briskets for Texas Barbecue, Jess Pryles, cook, writer, and TV personality, on the uses of brisket for competition barbecue and other dishes, and Davey Griffin, on the anatomy of a brisket.

Robb Walsh reading from his book, "Legends of Texas Barbecue"

Robb Walsh reading from his book, “Legends of Texas Barbecue”

Jess Pryles

Jess Pryles

Davey Griffin lecture on the anatomy of a brisket

Davey Griffin lecture on the anatomy of a brisket

Proper knife use and sharpening was covered by Jeff Savell before a demonstration on trimming raw briskets and slicing cooked briskets was led by Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas.

Aaron Franklin trimming raw briskets

Aaron Franklin trimming raw briskets

Tasting different grades of brisket

The first tasting test we did was for different grades of brisket. We obtained five different grades/types of briskets for use in this demonstration: Prime, Certified Angus Beef, Wagyu, Choice, and Select. These briskets and the remaining ones used for the camp were trimmed to have no more than about 1/4 inch of fat remaining anywhere. Each brisket was seasoned with 3/4-cup of a half and half mixture (by volume) of Kosher salt and coarse-ground black pepper. The briskets for the grade/type demonstration were cooked on a Southern Pride pit on loan from Slovacek Sausage in Snook, Texas using oak logs as the source of smoke.

Trimming briskets

Trimming briskets

Trimmed briskets

Trimmed briskets

Seasoned briskets

Seasoned briskets

Davey Griffin checking briskets on Southern Pride smoker

Davey Griffin checking briskets on Southern Pride smoker

Each grade/type of brisket was sliced so that each participant received a sample to rate on a ballot. When completed, the ballots were tabulated by the students to determine whether the participants could tell the difference in the grades or types of brisket. The winner? Prime, followed by Certified Angus Beef, with a tie between the Wagyu and Choice, and finally Select. The rankings each year we have conducted this taste test usually has the higher marbled briskets at or near the top, and the Select is always ranked last. There are perceivable differences in eating quality among different grades and types of briskets, and those interested in producing the best cooked briskets possible need to be aware of this.

Beef grading demonstration

Davey Griffin and Ray Riley presented a beef grading demonstration featuring calling the factors on a beef carcass side in the classroom. USDA beef grading is a topic that many people have an interest in and love to learn about. This demonstration provided the backdrop for the discussion related to the findings of the brisket grades/type taste session at lunch.

Ray Riley grading beef carcass

Ray Riley grading beef carcass

Wood and Smoke panel

There was a Wood and Smoke panel at the end of the afternoon featuring Daniel Vaughn, Texas Monthly barbecue editor, as the moderator, Jeff Savell, Aaron Franklin, Kevin Kolman, Weber Grills, and Nick Nickelson. Post oak is the featured wood for Texas Barbecue based on its abundance and how the smoke complements beef. Nick Nickelson discussed the topic of using properly seasoned wood to smoke with and how important it was to getting a clean fire that imparts the good aspects of the smoke onto the product. The positives and negatives of the other woods most commonly used in smoking — hickory, mesquite, and pecan — were discussed.

Friday night dinner

We moved to the Beef Center for the rest of the program. We were blessed to have two great people involved with dinner that night. Ronnie Killen of Killen’s Barbecue, Pearland, Texas, provided the main meal with his famous brisket and beef short ribs and sides. Homer Robertson, world champion chuck wagon competitor, provided bread pudding and peach cobbler for the crowd. The food was enjoyed by all!

 

Ronnie Killen (right) slicing and serving beef short ribs

Ronnie Killen (right) slicing and serving beef short ribs

Homer Robertson tending to the Dutch oven cobblers and bread pudding

Homer Robertson tending to the Dutch oven cobblers and bread pudding

Overnight smoking at Camp Brisket

The next brisket comparison was to smoke briskets overnight using the four primary woods — oak, hickory, mesquite, and pecan. Multiple pits were used for the overnight cooking including one brought in from Aaron Franklin. We used Choice briskets, trimmed and seasoned as mentioned before, for the comparison, and briskets were put on the smokers around 10 pm on Friday evening so that they would be ready to serve around lunch time on Saturday. Kevin Kolman from Weber Grills started four Weber Smokey Mountain cookers with chunks from the four woods as part of the demonstration.

The staff, students, and family tended to the pits overnight, which included a tornado warning, high winds, and rain around 1:30 AM. After seeking shelter for a time, everyone went back to work making sure the fires were just right throughout the night.

Aaron Franklin's "Laverne and Shirley" pit

Aaron Franklin’s “Laverne and Shirley” pit

Chuck wagon breakfast, starting fires, and pit discussion

After the rain and wind cleared out, Saturday morning became a time for a great chuck wagon breakfast of biscuits and gravy and breakfast tacos from Homer Robertson and friends, a primer on starting fires in off-set pits and Weber Smokey Mountain cookers, and a review of the different types of pits we used to cook with.

Lining up for breakfast

Lining up for breakfast

Great Dutch oven biscuits

Great Dutch oven biscuits

Heating tortillas for breakfast tacos

Heating tortillas for breakfast tacos

Kevin Kolman discussing starting a fire using a chimney starter

Kevin Kolman discussing starting a fire using a chimney starter

Davey Griffin showing off the features of his pit

Davey Griffin showing off the features of his pit

Davey Griffin leading the discussion of pits

Davey Griffin leading the discussion of pits

Pit design and maintenance panel

A pit design and maintenance panel was composed of Aaron Franklin, Wayne Mueller, Louie Mueller Barbecue, Taylor, Texas, Arnis Robbins, Evie Mae’s Pit Barbecue, Wolfforth, Texas, Kevin Kolman, with Davey Griffin as the moderator. Each panelist added his own take on what types of pits/cookers they preferred and what they did to make sure they were used to their best ability.

Pit design and maintenance panel

Pit design and maintenance panel

Pit design and maintenance panel

Pit design and maintenance panel

Aaron Franklin and Wayne Mueller discussing pit design and operation

Aaron Franklin and Wayne Mueller discussing pit design and operation

Seasonings and barbecue science

Jeff Savell spent some time going over different seasonings outside of the normal use of salt and pepper, and the science behind barbecue including the stall, Maillard Reaction, collagen solubility, smoke ring. He then fielded questions from the crowd regarding these subjects.

Smoke tasting panel

Lunch that day was the tasting of the briskets prepared using the four different smokes — oak, hickory, mesquite, and pecan. Each participant received a small slice of brisket from each smoke and were asked to rate it on 9-point scales. Students tabulated the results, and the winner was oak, followed by hickory with pecan and mesquite tying for third. Each year either oak or hickory wins this competition.

Life as a pitmaster panel

One of the most highly regarded parts of Camp Brisket is the final panel, which featured Russell Roegels, Roegels Barbecue, Houston, Bryan Bracewell, Southside Market and Barbeque, Elgin and Bastrop, Aaron Franklin, Franklin Barbecue, and Wayne Mueller, Louie Mueller Barbecue, Taylor. The title of the panel was “Life as a Pitmaster,” and it gave each person a time to reflect on their path to where they are now, the challenges and opportunities they each face, and why in this crazy world of barbecue, they love this business so much.

Send off meal

The final meal is a comparison of wrapped versus unwrapped briskets. At this point, we do not collect ballots any more to see who liked what. Most participants are facing “brisket fatigue” at this point, and are ready for something fairly light as they depart.

Wrapped and unwrapped briskets

Wrapped and unwrapped briskets

We end Camp Brisket for this year and know that many people from all walks of life have come together to bond over barbecue in general, but with the common goal of how to tackle the challenge that is the brisket!

Crowd at Camp Brisket

Crowd at Camp Brisket

Talking around the cookers

Talking around the cookers

Aaron Franklin tending the fire

Aaron Franklin tending the fire

 

 

 

 

Importance of seasoned wood for smoking barbecue

Split oak, fully seasoned, moisture content from 9% to 15%

Using properly seasoned wood to smoke barbecue is one of the keys to having great flavored meat. As a long-time contributor to the “Wood and Smoke” panels for the Foodways Texas Barbecue Summer Camp and Camp Brisket, Dr. Nick Nickelson of Fort Worth brings years of experience and technical knowledge to the subject of wood and smoke, and he always adds so much to the discussion of all things barbecue.

One of the points that Dr. Nick makes is that it is important to use seasoned wood when smoking. When green wood is used, so much of the fire is required to drive off moisture during the burning process, and along with this is where some of the undesirable flavor compounds are generated.

Dr. Nick Nickelson checking moisture of split logs

Dr. Nick Nickelson checking moisture of split logs

How do you tell when wood is properly seasoned? Dr. Nick purchased a wood moisture meter and visited Riscky’s Barbecue, Fort Worth to take some moisture measurements on different batches of wood destined for immediate or future use. Below are photos of three batches of wood from the restaurant.

Split oak, green, ranging in moisture from 15% to 30%

Split oak, green, ranging in moisture from 15% to 30%

Split oak, partially seasoned, moisture content from 14% to 25%; seasoned wood

Split oak, partially seasoned, moisture content from 14% to 25%

Split oak, fully seasoned, moisture content from 9% to 15%; seasoned wood

Split oak, fully seasoned, moisture content from 9% to 15%

It is clear that the photos reveal a change in the wood from a brown color in the greener wood to a silver-gray color in the seasoned wood. Dr. Nick also pointed out that it is important to split the wood into small enough pieces that the drying will be fairly uniform. On some of the greener wood, he found that the surface was relatively dry, but once he scrapped down below the surface, the moisture content was much higher.

Checking moisture content of split log

Checking moisture content of split log

Moisture meter reading of 17.8%

Moisture meter reading of 17.8%

Paying attention to the quality of the wood used for smoking is one of the keys in preparing great barbecue. Whether you use oak, mesquite, hickory, pecan or any other wood to smoke meats with, it is important that it is properly aged or seasoned to produce the best quality of smoke possible.

Camp Brisket schedule, January 8-9, 2016

Briskets for Camp Brisket
Briskets for Camp Brisket

Briskets for Camp Brisket

This year’s Foodways Texas Camp Brisket will feature a number of great speakers and panelists, and the tasting sessions will allow for evaluations of different grades, smoke, and wrapping techniques. The camp will be hosted by Davey Griffin, Ray Riley, Jeff Savell, and staff and students from the Meat Science Section in the Department of Animal Science at Texas A&M University and will be held at the Rosenthal Meat Science and Technology Center and the O.D. Butler Animal Science Complex.

Aaron Franklin speaking on pit design and maintenance panel

Aaron Franklin speaking on pit design and maintenance panel

Here is a list of speakers and panelists for Camp Brisket:

  • Robb Walsh
  • Jess Pryles
  • Aaron Franklin
  • Daniel Vaughn
  • Kevin Kolman
  • Nick Nickelson
  • Ronnie Killen
  • Wayne Mueller
  • Ryan Zboril
  • Bryan Bracewell
  • Russell Roegels

Meals will be provided by Killen’s Barbecue, Pearland, Texas, and Homer Robertson, World Champion Chuck Wagon competitor.

Here is the schedule for the 2016 Camp Brisket: 2016 Camp Brisket Schedule

Goodbye to Snazzy Seniors!

Jennifer Willis, Katy Jo Nickelson, Stephanie Lastovica, and Marc Vogelsang
Jennifer Willis, Katy Jo Nickelson, Stephanie Lastovica, and Marc Vogelsang (photo by Kathleen Meredith)

Jennifer Willis, Katy Jo Nickelson, Stephanie Lastovica, and Marc Vogelsang (photo by Kathleen Meredith)

The last class in ANSC 117, Texas Barbecue this semester was a time to say goodbye to four very important people, this year’s Snazzy Seniors — Jennifer Willis, Katy Jo Nickelson, Stephanie Lastovica, and Marc Vogelsang. These four students have been involved with the Texas Barbecue class since they first took it as freshmen and then as teaching assistants as Super Sophomores and Jazzy Juniors before their senior year. We know of no other opportunity for students to have a four-year college experience such as this, and we are so fortunate to have had these four students with us during their college careers.

Snazzy Seniors: Stephanie Lastovica, Katy Jo Nickelson, Jennifer Willis, and Marc Vogelsang

Snazzy Seniors: Stephanie Lastovica, Katy Jo Nickelson, Jennifer Willis, and Marc Vogelsang

Marc demonstrating rotisserie chicken

Marc demonstrating rotisserie chicken

Jennifer Willis, Wayne Kammerl, Jerry Pizzatola, Russell Roegels, and Katy Jo Nickelson

Jennifer Willis, Wayne Kammerl, Jerry Pizzatola, Russell Roegels, and Katy Jo Nickelson at Houston Barbecue Festival

It has been a privilege for Ray Riley and me to work with such great young people. The leadership skills they have developed over the years was especially evident this semester, and we will miss seeing them each week. Best of luck with your future endeavors, and know that you will always be welcomed back to ANSC 117!