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 4th through Sunday, June 6th, 2021. 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 the Hildebrand Equine Complex on the campus of Texas A&M University. This was the 11th Barbecue Summer Camp with the first one held in 2011, two held in 2016, and because of COVID-19 restrictions, none was held in 2020. It was so good host the camp with so many activities on hold during the past 14 months or so.
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 50 participants to the camp. Valuable helpers who were introduced later included a number of grad and undergraduate students and others who were vital to the success of the camp. Texas A&M University grad students who helped with the camp were Sydni Borders, Ayleen Gonzalez, Becca Kemp, Lilly Kochevar, Thachary Mayer, Trent Schwartz, and Paige Williams. Texas A&M University undergraduate students who are Texas Barbecue teaching assistants who helped were Emily Brite, Jack Detten, Luis Erazo, Kenzy Hoffmann, Mason Holmes, Addie Rankin, and Ryanne Young. Additional help was provided by Thomas Larriviere and College Station High School student Nathan Kerth. Thanks to all of the people who helped make Barbecue Summer Camp successful.
Participants were from Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, South Carolina, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington.
Pit design and maintenance
The camp led with the first panel on Pit Design and Maintenance. The panel was led by Davey Griffin, professor and extension specialist at Texas A&M University. The panel consisted of 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.
Meat safety and thermometers
Davey Griffin gave an overview about food safety and proper food handling. One item of special emphasis 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 talked about how 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.
We were pleased to have Cooper’s Old Time Pit BBQ, College Station, provide lunch for the participants. Chad Wootan with Cooper’s visited about the history of the company, where expansion had occurred, and some of the challenges of the business during the COVID-19 time period.
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).
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, Southside Market and Barbeque, Russell Roegels, Roegels Barbecue, Tom Perini, Perini Ranch Steakhouse, and Homer Robertson, Robertson Chuck Wagon. 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. Tom Perini does cook with mesquite because of where he is located, and he described the process of burning logs to produce coals to cook with.
Preparing the pig for cooking
Ray Riley prepared a basic salt. sugar, water brine to inject into the pork side that Russell Roegels would cook the next day. Ray demonstrated the use of a stitch pump to inject the brine into the pork side.
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.
Whole hog cookery
Russell Roegels, Roegels Barbecue, cooked the pork side on his specially designed pit.
Discussion of overnight cooking at Barbecue Summer Camp
John Brotherton, Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue, showed the participants how the briskets and pork butts were cooked in the Bewley Smoker, nicknamed Bertha.
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
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 and Russell and Misty Roegels, Roegels Barbecue, 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, Thachary Mayer, and Sydni Borders conducted cutting demonstrations for the participants.
Saturday night dinner with 1775 Texas Pit BBQ Catering, Roegels Barbecue pork, and beef and pork ribs
Saturday night’s meal was 1775 Texas Pit BBQ Catering, Roegels Barbecue special cooked pork, and 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 Chris Kerth with preparation and cooking/smoking demonstrations led Meat Science students. Fajitas, homemade sausage, spatchcock chicken, drumsticks with mayo/spices, were prepared by the participants.
Craig Coufal, Associate Professor & Extension Specialist in the Department of Poultry Science, gave an overview of the poultry industry to the participants and answer questions regarding poultry production and marketing claims.
The eleventh 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!