The Barbecue Summer Camp, co-hosted by Foodways Texas and the Meat Science Program of the Department of Animal Science at Texas A&M University, was held on Friday, June 7th through Sunday, June 9th, 2019. 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 tenth Barbecue Summer Camp with the first one held in 2011, and two of them held in 2016.
Introductions to Barbecue Summer Camp
On Friday morning, Marvin Bendele of Foodways Texas and Jeff Savell, meat science professor at Texas A&M University welcomed about 70 participants to the camp. Before the participants spent some time introducing themselves to the the instructors and to the rest of the camp, Savell introduced the grad, undergraduate, and high school students and staff who would be serving vital roles in the camp.
Texas A&M University grad students who helped with the camp were Brogan Horton, Trent Schwartz, Zena Hicks, and Hillary Martinez. Texas A&M University undergraduate students who are Texas Barbecue teaching assistants who helped were Carsyn Burney, Marcee Cooke, Ashley Fuqua, Natalie Hoelscher, Lauren Lee, Sterling Pieniazek, and Robert Sturdivant. Student workers included Ayleen Gonzalez, Brittany Shipp, and Wilsey Wendler. Additional help was provided by College Station High School students Cassie Brown, Nathan Kerth, and Meagan McMurray, Thomas Larriviere and Jackson Larriviere, Chris Kerth, Devon King, Kenzie Lackey, and Eric Hamilton. Thanks to all of the people who helped make Barbecue Summer Camp successful.
Participants were from all over Texas, the United States, and the world. Thanks to everyone for hanging in there waiting for the lottery system to select them to attend.
Pit design and maintenance
The first panel was on pit design and maintenance, and another great group of pitmasters and pit manufacturers were led by Davey Griffin, professor and extension meat specialist at Texas A&M University. The panel consisted of Kerry Bexley, Snow’s BBQ, John Brotherton, Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue, Brett Boren, Brett’s BBQ, and Ryan Zboril, Pitts and Spitts. The panelists talked about the pits they use or have used, proper design for creating good, clean smoke, and how to get the best performance out of them. In addition, the panelists discussed proper break-in, maintenance, and cleaning to get maximize performance.
Texas Barbecue history and culture primer/tour of Martin’s Place
A long-standing tradition at Barbecue Summer Camp is to go to the historic Martin’s Place in Bryan. Pit master and owner, Steve Kapchinskie along with his wife and daughter do a great job of showing off the wonderful brick pits and feed everyone a great lunch of brisket, ribs, and sausage to get the camp started off well.
Robb Walsh, noted food historian and writer, answered questions from the participants about the history of barbecue and included a reading from his book, Barbecue Crossroads, which features a segment about Martin’s Place in it. This tradition is so great because reading this segment in the actual setting of Martin’s brings everything to life.
Meat safety and thermometers
After returning to the Rosenthal Meat Center after lunch, Davey Griffin gave an overview about food safety and proper food handling. One item of special emphasis this camp was to discuss the issue of small particles of wire brushes breaking off and getting ingested. There have been a number of cases of emergency surgery due to the presence of these metal fragments in food, and Davey recommended using great care when cleaning grills and grates so as to not introduce these physical hazards into cooked products.
Davey also showed how best to calibrate thermometers. His recommendation is to be sure to use the best and most accurate thermometers possible so that proper cooking and cooling temperatures can be met.
Barbecue wood and smoke panel
One of the more popular panels at Barbecue Summer Camp is the one on barbecue wood and smoke. Texas is known for having four basic woods for smoking: oak, hickory, pecan, and mesquite. Panelists included Bryan Bracewell, Russell Roegels, Dr. Nick Nickelson, and Homer Robertson. Each panelist gave their thoughts about their favorite woods to use in smoking meats with most of them using post oak because of its availability in the part of the state they are cooking in.
Rubs and marinades
Ryan Heger from Adams Flavors, Foods & Ingredients once again gave a great overview of the different types of seasonings available along with current trends in food. Ryan discussed the importance of shelf-life of particular products such as black pepper, and he spent a great deal of time talking about how to add heat to flavors without exceeding what people might enjoy eating.
Ryan provided a variety of seasonings for the participants to experiment with, and the students assisted them in seasoning briskets, pork Boston butts, pork baby back ribs, and beef chuck short ribs that would be cooked either overnight (briskets and pork butts) or the next day (pork baby back ribs and beef chuck short ribs).
Brandon Burrows discussed the chemistry of meat and how brining works. The major feature of this presentation was that brining without some form of injection or vacuum tumbling is not an effective way of increasing the introduction of brine.
Dinner and refreshments
Bryan Bracewell and the crew from Southside Market and Barbeque provided an outstanding meal of brisket, baby back ribs, and their famous hot guts beef and jalapeño and cheese sausage for the evening. The meal was topped off with the choice of blackberry cobbler or peach cobbler along with Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream.
Special thanks go to the Saint Arnold Brewing Company for providing beer for the Friday and Saturday evening meals.
Whole hog cookery
This year, Todd and Riley David, Cattleack Barbeque, came to the camp to prepare the whole hog using their trailer cooking setup. Both sides of a pork carcass were placed in the cooker where coals were placed under them for the cooking process.
Beef anatomy overview
Davey Griffin and Ray Riley spent the morning going over the various cuts that come from beef along with a USDA beef grading overview. Ray ribbed a carcass in front of the participants, which always creates quite a photographic frenzy for those wanting to capture the moment on their cameras or phones.
Beef cutting room demonstrations
Various cuts of beef were displayed in the teaching cutting room of the Rosenthal Meat Center with graduate students standing by to discuss the different cuts and their uses in barbecue or other methods of preparation.
Lunch: heavy tasting – meat market style
A typical market-style lunch of smoked meats, cheese, onions, pickles and bread were served to the participants. Individual cooked briskets and pork butts seasoned by the participants the day before were sliced or pulled with the teams of people who seasoned them having the first chance at sampling the cuts. Each team talked about the type of seasonings they used and how they thought the products turned out.
Barbecue Summer Camp would not be as successful as it is without the help of the pitmasters who cook and slice the products the participants season. Thanks go to John Brotherton, Dominic Colbert, and Russell and Misty Roegels, and others for this valuable help.
Pork anatomy overview
Davey Griffin presented an overview of pork carcass anatomy and terminology.
Pork cutting room demonstrations
Various cuts of pork were displayed in the teaching cutting room of the Rosenthal Meat Center. Graduate students talked about the cuts, and Trent Schwartz and Brogan Horton conducted cutting demonstrations for the participants.
Saturday night dinner with Cattleack Barbeque pork and beef and pork ribs
Saturday night’s meal was Cattleack Barbeque’s special cooked pork along with the participants beef and pork ribs. Each group had the chance to sample the ribs they seasoned. The pork and beef and pork ribs were outstanding.
Sunday morning was devoted to poultry, and the activities were led by Brandon Burrows with preparation and cooking/smoking demonstrations led Meat Science students. Fajitas, homemade sausage, drumsticks with mayo/spices, were prepared by the participants.
Brandon also presented an overview of current trends in flavor and answered questions from the participants regarding various seasonings and their usefulness for barbecue and other applications.
The tenth Barbecue Summer Camp came to an end with everyone leaving full of knowledge and barbecue! Thanks for all of the participants, speakers, pit masters, and students who were involved in another outstanding camp! Thanks to Kelly Yandell with Foodways Texas for coming to support the camp and helping to chronicle the activities through her special photographic and social media talents.