Brisketeers, students bring science to barbecue

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Troubadour Festival draws thousands for food and music at Aggie Park while Texas A&M educates

The science behind Texas barbecue

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Texas A&M AgriLife elevates the barbecue industry through meat science teaching, research and outreach

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Aggies participate in 2022 Houston BBQ Festival

Texas A&M University graduate students at the Houston BBQ Festival
Texas A&M University graduate students at the Houston BBQ Festival

Texas A&M University graduate students at the Houston BBQ Festival

A group of Aggies involved in the Texas Barbecue program at Texas A&M University participated in the 2022 Houston BBQ Festival, which was held in the Humble Civic Center Arena in Humble, Texas on Sunday, April 3, 2022. Those in attendance from Texas A&M University were faculty Davey Griffin, Ray Riley, Jade Cooper, and Jeff Savell, and graduate students Sydni Borders, Kylie Burriss, MacKenzie Chapman, Shelley Curry, Ayleen Gonzalez, Kaylee Greiner, Katie Kendrick, Lilly Kochevar, Lauren Lee, Ian Lovell, Thachary Mayer, Trent Schwartz, Tori Teegarden, Paige Williams.

Texas A&M University Texas Barbecue program booth at the Houston BBQ Festival

Texas A&M University Texas Barbecue program booth at the Houston BBQ Festival

Setting up with booth at the Houston BBQ Festival

Setting up with booth at the Houston BBQ Festival

Jay Arnold, Ray Riley, and the graduate students

Jay Arnold, Ray Riley, and the graduate students

Trent Schwartz answering barbecue questions

Trent Schwartz answering barbecue questions

Tori Teegarden talking to Stuart Lapp

Tori Teegarden talking to Stuart Lapp

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.

Paul Ruffino, Larry Ruffino, Davey Griffin, and Ray Riley

Paul Ruffino, Larry Ruffino, Davey Griffin, and Ray Riley

Robert Sierra and Jeff Savell at the Houston BBQ Festival

Robert Sierra and Jeff Savell

Lilly Kochevar and Kaylee Greiner

Lilly Kochevar and Kaylee Greiner

Dominic Colbert, John Brotherton, Katie Kendrick, and Sydni Borders

Dominic Colbert, John Brotherton, Katie Kendrick, and Sydni Borders

Russell Roegels and Sydni Borders

Russell Roegels and Sydni Borders

Lauren Lee

Lauren Lee

Wonderful food from Houston BBQ Festival

Wonderful food from Houston BBQ Festival

Jade Cooper and Misty Roegels

Jade Cooper and Misty Roegels

The Houston BBQ Festival has two great champions, Chris Reid and Michael Fulmer. Chris and Michael are the event founders, and thanks for always 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. The number of great barbecue establishments in the Houston area keeps increasing, and your efforts to highlight and support them has made a difference in this recognition.

Camp Brisket, 2022 edition

Ray Riley discussing USDA beef grading at Camp Brisket
Ray Riley discussing USDA beef grading

Ray Riley discussing USDA beef grading at Camp Brisket

The tenth Camp Brisket, a joint venture between Foodways Texas and the Meat Science program of the Department of Animal Science at Texas A&M University, was held on January 7-8 , 2022 at the Rosenthal Meat Center and the Thomas G. Hildebrand, ’56 DVM Equine Complex. About 100 participants embarked on a journey to learn more about the ultimate challenge preparing that most difficult dish of Texas Barbecue cuisine, the brisket.

Davey Griffin, Ray Riley, Jade Cooper, and Jeff Savell

Davey Griffin, Ray Riley, Jade Cooper, and Jeff Savell

This year’s Camp Brisket was coordinated by Texas A&M University meat science educators, Davey Griffin, Ray Riley, Jade Cooper, and Jeff Savell, and who were assisted by graduate students and undergraduate students including Sydni Borders, Kylie Burriss, Ben Crockett, Shelley Curry, Julie Diebel, Ayleen Gonzalez, Reid Harris, Katie Kendrick, Lauren Lee, Ian Lovell, Karlie Lowe, Thachary Mayer, Mirjam Pearman, Trent Schwartz, Cory Sinkule, Tori Teegarden, and Anna Welch. Special thanks to Thomas Larriviere, McKinney, Texas and to Lauren Larriviere, Hays Middle School and Jackson Larriviere, Rock Hill High School, Frisco, Texas for their help in conducting the camp. These great folks ensured that the needs of the briskets, pitmasters, and guests were attended to through the camp.

Davey Griffin and Jade Cooper giong over data

Davey Griffin and Jade Cooper going over data

Marvin Bendele, Foodways Texas, welcomed the participants to Camp Brisket. Greetings and introductions are part of the beginning of each Camp Brisket. Getting to know each other is one way to create community that is so important when we conduct these workshops. With each camp, this process takes longer, but we know that many people enjoyed getting to know who all was there.

Brisket procurement and trimming

Before Camp Brisket starts, work begins on procuring the briskets representing different types and grades, trimming them, and applying the salt/pepper seasoning (we used a 4:1 volume of course pepper to Kosher salt). John Brotherton, Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue, led the brisket trimming and seasoning effort.

Ayleen Gonzalez

Ayleen Gonzalez

Vacuum packaged briskets at Camp Brisket

Vacuum packaged briskets at Camp Brisket

Brisket use and anatomy

The first talks were by Jess Pryles, cook, writer, and TV personality, on the difference between restaurant and competition brisket, and Davey Griffin, on the anatomy and trimming of a brisket.

Davey Griffin

Davey Griffin

Davey Griffin

Davey Griffin talking about where brisket comes from

Davey Griffin describing beef brisket anatomy

Davey Griffin describing beef brisket anatomy

Cooked brisket slicing

Aaron Franklin, Franklin Barbecue and Jeff Savell talked about and demonstrated proper cooked brisket slicing.

Aron Franklin slicing brisket at Camp Brisket

Aron Franklin slicing brisket at Camp Brisket

Aron Franklin slicing brisket at Camp Brisket

Aron Franklin slicing brisket at Camp Brisket

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: Snake River Farms’s American Wagyu, Prime, Tyson’s Chairman’s Reserve, 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 a 4:1 ratio by volume of restaurant-style coarse-ground black pepper and Kosher salt. The briskets for the grade/type demonstration  were cooked by John Brotherton of Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue on his offset smoker. We used oak logs as the source of heat and smoke.

John Brotherton and Israel "Pody" Campos seasoning briskets

John Brotherton and Israel “Pody” Campos seasoning briskets

Seasoned briskets beginning the smoking process

Seasoned briskets beginning the smoking process

Briskets for Camp Brisket

Briskets for Camp Brisket

Each grade/type of brisket was sliced so that each participant received a lean portion 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 winners? Chairman’s Reserve, Prime, and The Snake River Farms’ American Wagyu were at the top. Each year, this taste comparison usually results in Prime and Wagyu near the top and Select being near the bottom in ratings. 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.

Camp Brisket 2022 overall liking ratings

Camp Brisket 2022 overall liking ratings

Students serving different grades of beef brisket

Students serving different grades of beef brisket

Reid Harris, Julie Diebel, and Karlie Lowe

Reid Harris, Julie Diebel, and Karlie Lowe

Beef grading discussion

Ray Riley and Jade Cooper gave a beef grading demonstration talking about the USDA beef grades so that the participants would know more about the various labels and brands associated with the meat they purchase.

Jade Cooper and Ray Riley describing beef marbling scores

Jade Cooper and Ray Riley describing beef marbling scores

Ray Riley describing beef quality grades

Ray Riley describing beef quality grades

Ray Riley and Jade Cooper talking about beef grades and briskets

Ray Riley and Jade Cooper talking about beef grades and briskets

Jade Cooper discussing beef grading

Jade Cooper discussing beef grading

Friday night dinner

We moved to the Hildebrand Equine Complex for the rest of the program. We were blessed to have food from two groups involved with dinner that night. Israel “Pody” Campos from Pody’s BBQ, Pecos, Texas and friends prepared great food along with Homer Robertson, world champion chuck wagon competitor, who provided bread pudding and apple crisp for the crowd. The food was enjoyed by all!

Israel "Pody" Campos serving food at Camp Brisket

Israel “Pody” Campos serving food at Camp Brisket

Homer Robertson, Joe Riscky, Tuffy Stone, and JArthur Garcia

Homer Robertson, Joe Riscky, Tuffy Stone, and JArthur Garcia

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. We used Prime briskets, trimmed and seasoned as mentioned before, for the comparison, and briskets were put on the smokers Friday afternoon so that they would be ready to serve around lunch time on Saturday.

Davey Griffin checking briskets

Davey Griffin checking briskets

Chuck wagon breakfast

Saturday morning became a time for a great chuck wagon breakfast of biscuits and gravy and breakfast tacos made with sausage and brisket from Homer Robertson, JArthur Garcia, Joe Riscky, Joel Phillips, Misty Roegels, and some of the students. Thanks to everyone for such a great breakfast experience enjoying the chuck wagon breakfast.

Joe Riscky, Homer Robertson, and JArthur Garcia

Joe Riscky, Homer Robertson, and JArthur Garcia

Jackson Larriviere and Joel Phillips pouring campfire coffee

Jackson Larriviere and Joel Phillips pouring campfire coffee

Lauren Larriviere and Thachary Mayer making gravy

Lauren Larriviere and Thachary Mayer making gravy

Pit discussion

Participants had a chance to see the different types of pits that were used to cook with. In addition to the pitmasters who were in attendance for the camp, Coy Christoffel, Pitts and Spitts and Jason Pruitt, Weber-Stephen Products, LLC demonstrated various products from their companies.

Davey Griffin describing his barbecue pit

Davey Griffin describing his barbecue pit

Russell Roegels, Roegels Barbecue

Russell Roegels, Roegels Barbecue

Jason Pruitt, Weber-Stephen Products LLC

Jason Pruitt, Weber-Stephen Products LLC

Coy Christoffel, Pitts and Spitts

Coy Christoffel, Pitts and Spitts

Patrick Reardon

Patrick Reardon

Pit design and maintenance panel

A pit design and maintenance panel was composed of Arnis Robbins, Evie Mae’s BBQ; Jason Pruitt, Weber-Stephen Products, LLC; Bryan Bracewell, Southside Market and Barbeque; and Ryan Zboril, Pitts and Spitts; Sunny Moberg, Moberg Smokers 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.

Barbecue Pit Design and Maintenance Panel at Camp Brisket: Jason Pruitt, Bryan Bracewell, Arnis Robbins, Ryan Zboril, Sunny Moberg, and Davey Griffin

Barbecue Pit Design and Maintenance Panel at Camp Brisket.

Barbecue Pit Design and Maintenance Panel at Camp Brisket

Barbecue Pit Design and Maintenance Panel at Camp Brisket

Ryan Zboril

Ryan Zboril, Pitts and Spitts

Arnis Robbins, Evie Mae's BBQ, on Barbecue Pit Design and Maintenance Panel

Arnis Robbins, Evie Mae’s BBQ, on Barbecue Pit Design and Maintenance Panel

Davey Griffin, moderating the Barbecue Pit Design and Maintenance Panel

Davey Griffin, moderating the Barbecue Pit Design and Maintenance Panel

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 there were no differences among the four woods for sensory panel ratings. In 2019, participants found no differences in preference for the four different smokes used. Most other years, either oak or hickory wins this competition, but we are amazed that there are really few differences in how the participants rate these briskets cooked with different woods/smokes.

Tuffy Stone slicing briskets

Tuffy Stone slicing briskets

Students serving food at Camp Brisket

Students serving food at Camp Brisket

Pitmasters slicing briskets at Camp Brisket

Pitmasters slicing briskets at Camp Brisket

Ben Crockett, Reid Harris, and Thachary Mayer serving food

Ben Crockett, Reid Harris, and Thachary Mayer serving food

Seasonings and barbecue science

Ryan Heger, Adams Extract and Seasoning, spent some time going over different seasonings outside of the normal use of salt and pepper. Jeff Savell discussed some of the science behind meat and barbecue and fielded questions from the crowd regarding a wide array of topics.

Ryan Heger, Adams Extract and Seasoning at Camp Brisket

Ryan Heger, Adams Extract and Seasoning at Camp Brisket

One of the topics was whether postmortem aging was necessary for Texas-style briskets. Our works shows that postmortem aging does not improve tenderness of briskets.

Life as a pitmaster panel

One of the most highly regarded parts of Camp Brisket is the final panel, moderated by Jeff Savell, which featured Arnis Robbins and Nathan Pier, Evie Mae’s BBQ; Bryan Bracewell, Southside Market and Barbeque; Russell Roegels, Roegels Barbecue; John Brotherton, Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue; Israel “Pody” Campos, Pody’s BBQ; Tuffy Stone, Stick Burner/ Chef, Richmond, Virginia; Luis Rivis, Rivs Smoke & Grill; and Tootsie Tomanetz, Snow’s BBQ. 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.

Life as a Pitmaster Panel. Front row: Russell Roegels, Tuffy Stone, Israel "Pody" Campos, and Luis Rivis. Back row: Bryan Bracewell, Nathan Pier, Jeff Savell, John Brotherton, Arnis Robbins, and Tootsie Tomanetz.

Life as a Pitmaster Panel. Front row: Russell Roegels, Tuffy Stone, Israel “Pody” Campos, and Luis Rivis. Back row: Bryan Bracewell, Nathan Pier, Jeff Savell, John Brotherton, Arnis Robbins, and Tootsie Tomanetz.

Send off meal

The final meal was a comparison of wrapped versus unwrapped briskets. We did not conduct another taste test as most participants are facing “brisket fatigue” at this point, and are ready for something fairly light as they depart.

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! Thanks for Misty Roegels and Debra Reardon for coming to the camp along with their husbands.

Texas Barbecue Town Hall Meeting, January 24, 2022

Davey Griffin talking about beef carcasses in the Rosenthal Meat Center
Davey Griffin talking about beef carcasses in the Rosenthal Meat Center

Davey Griffin talking about beef carcasses in the Rosenthal Meat Center

The Texas Barbecue Town Hall Meeting, a one-day event dedicated to those involved in the commercial barbecue business, will be held at Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas on Monday, January 24, 2022. This meeting will be hosted by the Meat Science program of the Department of Animal Science and will be held in the The Shirley & Joe Swinbank ’74 AgriLife Center and the Rosenthal Meat Center.

Texas Barbecue Town Hall Meeting participants

Texas Barbecue Town Hall Meeting participants

“We have had six town hall meetings with great turnouts, and we look forward to this year’s event,” according to Jeff Savell, one of the leaders of the Texas Barbecue program at Texas A&M University.

Three speakers have been confirmed for this year’s town hall meeting: David Anderson, economist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, will be back again to give an update on the livestock and meat markets, Brandon Hurtado, Hurtado Barbecue, Arlington, Texas will discuss the role of social media in growing your business, and Homer Robertson, Deputy Fire Chief, City of Fort Worth and World Champion Chuck Wagon Competitor on how to fireproof your business. In addition, participants will get a chance to see view beef carcasses and meat cuts at the Rosenthal Center in the afternoon.

Rachel Cutrer speaking at the Texas Barbecue Town Hall Meeting

Rachel Cutrer speaking at the Texas Barbecue Town Hall Meeting

The meeting will begin at 10 AM (coffee and kolaches at 9:30 AM) and end around 3 PM and will involve both lectures and hands-on demonstrations. “We choose Mondays for these meetings knowing that many restaurants are closed that day, which may allow for some operators to bring key in-house staff with them,” said Savell. “Hopefully, people can drive in, attend the meeting and be back home later that night without having to spend too much time away.”

Davey Griffin with beef carcasses and cuts

Davey Griffin with beef carcasses and cuts

The Texas Barbecue program at Texas A&M University is coordinated by Davey Griffin, Ray Riley, and Jeff Savell, and it includes the first-year seminar, ANSC 117, Texas Barbecue; Barbecue Summer Camp and Camp Brisket, conducted with Foodways Texas; and the Barbecue Genius Counter.

Jeff Savell, Davey Griffin, and Ray Riley (photo courtesy of Kelly Yandell)

Jeff Savell, Davey Griffin, and Ray Riley (photo courtesy of Kelly Yandell)

 

The Texas Barbecue Town Hall Meeting is sponsored by the E.M. “Manny” Rosenthal Chair in Animal Science. To register for the meeting, email Jeff Savell at [email protected] or call at 979-845-3992 (office) or 979-255-6676 (mobile), or contact Davey Griffin at [email protected] or call at 979-229-0273. Details about parking, meeting locations, appropriate dress for the refrigerated meat coolers, etc., will be sent to the attendees before the meeting.

Previous Texas Barbecue Town Hall posts

Fifth Texas Barbecue Town Hall meeting held

Fourth Texas Barbecue Town Hall meeting held

Top pitmasters convene for third-annual Texas Barbecue Town Hall at Texas A&M

A&M BBQ Town Hall Meeting

Third Texas Barbecue Town Hall meeting held

Texas barbecue owners, pitmasters learn about price trends at town hall meeting

Second Texas Barbecue Town Hall meeting held

The End of Cheap Beef: TMBBQ

Texas barbecue restaurant owners hear beef price forecast, discuss trends | AgriLife Today

Barbecue town hall meeting attracts owners, pitmasters to Texas A&M

Camp Brisket, 2021 edition

Participants learning about brisket trimming at Camp Brisket
Participants learning about brisket trimming at Camp Brisket

Participants learning about brisket trimming at Camp Brisket (photo by Kelly Yandell)

The ninth Camp Brisket, a joint venture between Foodways Texas and the Meat Science program of the Department of Animal Science at Texas A&M University, was held on July 16-17 , 2021 at the Rosenthal Meat Center and the Thomas G. Hildebrand, ’56 DVM Equine Complex. About 100 participants 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 postponed from its usual January date because of COVID-19, and fortunately, it was able to be held in its usual manner.

This year’s 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 and undergraduate students including Sydni Borders, Cassie Brown, Mason Holmes, Rebecca Kemp, Thachary Mayer, Addie Rankin, Trent Schwartz, Reagan Wagner, and Paige Williams. Special thanks to Thomas Larriviere, McKinney, Texas and to Nathan Kerth, College Station High School, College Station, Texas, and Jackson Larriviere, Rock Hill High School, Frisco, Texas for their help in conducting the camp. These great folks ensured that the needs of the briskets, pitmasters, and guests were attended to through the camp.

Introducing students at Camp Brisket (photo by Kelly Yandell)

Introducing students at Camp Brisket (photo by Kelly Yandell)

Sydni Borders

Sydni Borders

Student introductions at Camp Brisket

Student introductions at Camp Brisket

Marvin Bendele, Foodways Texas, welcomed the participants to Camp Brisket. Greetings and introductions are part of the beginning of each Camp Brisket. Getting to know each other is one way to create community that is so important when we conduct these workshops. With each camp, this process takes longer, but we know that many people enjoyed getting to know who all was there.

Marvin Bendele, Foodways Texas

Marvin Bendele, Foodways Texas

Special thanks to Kelly Yandell for her assistance in capturing the events of the camp through her photography and for being there to visit with everyone helping them feel a special part of the program. Kelly has been a valuable part of Foodways Texas, and she brings such an energy to everything she does.

Kelly Yandell and JArthur Garcia at Camp Brisket

Kelly Yandell and JArthur Garcia at Camp Brisket

Brisket procurement and trimming

Before Camp Brisket starts, work begins on procuring the briskets representing different types and grades, trimming them, and applying the salt/pepper seasoning (we used a half and half mix by volume of Kosher salt and course ground pepper with 3/4 cup applied to each brisket). John Brotherton, Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue, led the brisket trimming and seasoning effort.

Brisket trimming for Camp Brisket

Brisket trimming for Camp Brisket

John Brotherton, Brotherton's Black Iron Barbecue, trimming briskets

John Brotherton, Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue, trimming briskets

Snake River Farms brisket

Snake River Farms brisket

Chairman's Reserve Platinum Angus Beef

Chairman’s Reserve Platinum Angus Beef

USDA Select brisket

USDA Select brisket

Brisket trimming

Brisket trimming

Brisket preparation for Camp Brisket

Brisket preparation for Camp Brisket

Weighing trimmed brisket

Weighing trimmed brisket

Trimmed and tagged briskets for Camp Brisket

Trimmed and tagged briskets for Camp Brisket

Brisket use and anatomy

The first talks were by Jess Pryles, cook, writer, and TV personality, on the difference between restaurant and competition brisket, and Davey Griffin, on the anatomy and trimming of a brisket. John Brotherton joined Davey in showing the participants how he trims briskets before cooking.

Jess Pryles at Camp Brisket

Jess Pryles (photo by Kelly Yandell)

Jess Pryles

Jess Pryles

Davey Griffin

Davey Griffin

Davey Griffin

Davey Griffin talking about where brisket comes from

Davey Griffin and John Brotherton talking about trimming briskets

Davey Griffin and John Brotherton talking about trimming briskets

Cooked brisket slicing

Russell Roegels, Roegels Barbecue, and Jeff Savell talked about and demonstrated proper cooked brisket slicing.

Russell Roegels and Jeff Savell talking about slicing cooked brisket

Russell Roegels and Jeff Savell talking about slicing cooked brisket (photo by Kelly Yandell)

Russell Roegels

Russell Roegels, Roegels Barbecue, demonstrating cooked brisket slicing (photo by Kelly Yandell)

Sliced brisket at Camp Brisket

Sliced brisket at Camp Brisket (photo by Kelly Yandell)

Sliced brisket at Camp Brisket

Sliced brisket at Camp Brisket

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: Snake River Farms’s American Wagyu, Prime, Tyson’s Chairman’s Reserve, 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 restaurant-style coarse-ground black pepper. The briskets for the grade/type demonstration were cooked on Russell Roegels of Roegels Barbecue pit with John Brotherton of Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue managing the cooking cycle. We used oak logs as the source of heat and smoke.

Each grade/type of brisket was sliced so that each participant received a lean portion 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? The Snake River Farms’ American Wagyu won, with Prime and Chairman’s Reserve being rated higher than Select. Each year, this taste comparison usually results in Prime and Wagyu near the top and Select being near the bottom in ratings. 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.

Participants sampling brisket at Camp Brisket

Beef grading taste evaluation at Camp Brisket (photo by Kelly Yandell)

Beef grading taste evaluation at Camp Brisket

Beef grading taste evaluation at Camp Brisket (photo by Kelly Yandell)

Participant completing taste ballot at Camp Brisket

Beef grading taste evaluation at Camp Brisket (photo by Kelly Yandell)

Camp Brisket 2021 participants' overall liking ratings

Beef grading discussion

Ray Riley gave a beef grading demonstration talking about the USDA beef grades so that the participants would know more about the various labels and brands associated with the meat they purchase.

Ray Riley discussing beef grading at Camp Brisket

Ray Riley discussing beef grading at Camp Brisket

Ray Riley discussing beef grading

Ray Riley discussing beef grading

Ray Riley showing marbling requirements for Prime Beef at Camp Brisket

Ray Riley showing marbling requirements for Prime Beef at Camp Brisket

Wood and Smoke panel

There was a Wood and Smoke panel in the afternoon featuring Dr. Nick Nickelson and Joe Riscky, The Meat Board; Homer Robertson, World Champion Chuck Wagon competitor and Fort Worth Fire Department leader; Bryan Bracewell, Southside Market and Barbeque; Chris Kerth, Department of Animal Science, Texas A&M University, and Jeff Savell. Post oak is the featured wood for Texas Barbecue based on its abundance and how the smoke complements beef. The panel 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.

Nick Nickelson, Joe Riscky, Homer Robertson, Bryan Bracewell, Chris Kerth, and Jeff Savell, Wood and Smoke Panel

Nick Nickelson, Joe Riscky, Homer Robertson, Bryan Bracewell, Chris Kerth, and Jeff Savell, Wood and Smoke Panel (photo by Kelly Yandell)

Friday night dinner

We moved to the Hildebrand Equine Complex for the rest of the program. We were blessed to have food from two groups involved with dinner that night. Hutchins Barbeque, Frisco, Texas provided wonderful brisket, sausage, its famous Texas Twinkies, and sides, and with Homer Robertson, world champion chuck wagon competitor, provided bread pudding and apple crisp for the crowd. The food was enjoyed by all!

Hutchins Barbeque at Camp Brisket

Hutchins Barbeque serving dinner at Camp Brisket (photo by Kelly Yandell)

JArthur Garcia, Homer Robertson, and Joe Riscky at Camp Brisket

JArthur Garcia, Homer Robertson, and Joe Riscky at Camp Brisket (photo by Kelly Yandell)

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. We used Prime briskets, trimmed and seasoned as mentioned before, for the comparison, and briskets were put on the smokers Friday afternoon so that they would be ready to serve around lunch time on Saturday.

Chuck wagon breakfast and pit discussion

Saturday morning became a time for a great chuck wagon breakfast of biscuits and gravy and breakfast tacos made with sausage and brisket from Homer Robertson, JArthur Garcia, Joe Riscky, Misty Roegels, and some of the students. Thanks to everyone for such a great breakfast experience enjoying the chuck wagon breakfast.

Early morning chuck wagon at Camp Brisket

Early morning chuck wagon at Camp Brisket

Homer Robertson's chuckwagon set up at Camp Brisket

Homer Robertson’s chuckwagon set up at Camp Brisket (photo by Kelly Yandell)

Jackson Larriviere tending to Dutch ovens at Camp Brisket

Jackson Larriviere tending to Dutch ovens at Camp Brisket

JArthur Garcia

JArthur Garcia

Pit discussion

Participants had a chance to see the different types of pits that were used to cook with. In addition to the pitmasters who were in attendance for the camp, Coy Christoffel, Pitts and Spitts, and Dustin Green and Jason Pruitt, Weber-Stephen Products, LLC demonstrated various products from their companies.

Trey Hutchins, Hutchins Barbeque

Trey Hutchins, Hutchins Barbeque (photo by Kelly Yandell)

Arnis Robbins talking about pit design

Arnis Robbins talking about pit design

Russell Roegels, Roegels Barbecue

Russell Roegels, Roegels Barbecue

Dustin Green, Weber-Stephen Products, LLC

Dustin Green, Weber-Stephen Products, LLC

Weber Summit® Kamado at Camp Brisket

Weber Summit® Kamado at Camp Brisket

Coy Christoffel, Pitts and Spitts

Coy Christoffel, Pitts and Spitts

Davey Griffin talking about smoker design

Davey Griffin talking about smoker design

Patrick Reardon discussing his Jambo cooker at Camp Brisket

Patrick Reardon discussing his Jambo cooker at Camp Brisket

Pit design and maintenance panel

A pit design and maintenance panel was composed of Arnis Robbins, Evie Mae’s BBQ; Dustin Green, Weber-Stephen Products, LLC; Bryan Bracewell, Southside Market and Barbeque; and Ryan Zboril, Pitts and Spitts; 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 at Camp Brisket

Pit Design and Maintenance Panel at Camp Brisket (photo by Kelly Yandell)

Ryan Zboril, Pitts and Spitts

Ryan Zboril, Pitts and Spitts (photo by Kelly Yandell)

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 there were no differences among the four woods for sensory panel ratings. In 2019, participants found no differences in preference for the four different smokes used. Most other years, either oak or hickory wins this competition, but we are amazed that there are really few differences in how the participants rate these briskets cooked with different woods/smokes.

Serving briskets cooked with different woods

Serving briskets cooked with different woods

Seasonings and barbecue science

Ryan Heger, Adams Extract and Seasoning, spent some time going over different seasonings outside of the normal use of salt and pepper. Jeff Savell discussed some of the science behind meat and barbecue and fielded questions from the crowd regarding a wide array of topics.

One of the topics was whether postmortem aging was necessary for Texas-style briskets. Our works shows that postmortem aging does not improve tenderness of briskets.

Ryan Heger, Adams Extract & Spice, LLC at Camp Brisket

Ryan Heger, Adams Extract & Spice, LLC at Camp Brisket

Life as a pitmaster panel

One of the most highly regarded parts of Camp Brisket is the final panel, moderated by Jeff Savell, which featured Arnis Robbins; Bryan Bracewell; Russell Roegels; John Brotherton; Dustin Green; Tim Hutchins; Trey Hutchins; and Kerry Bexley and Tootsie Tomanetz, Snow’s BBQ  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.

Tootsie Tomanetz, Snow's BBQ, on Life as a Pitmaster Panel at Camp Brisket

Tootsie Tomanetz, Snow’s BBQ, on Life as a Pitmaster Panel at Camp Brisket (photo by Kelly Yandell)

Life as a Pitmaster Panel at Camp Brisket

Life as a Pitmaster Panel at Camp Brisket (photo by Kelly Yandell)

Kerry Bexley and Tootsie Tomanetz from Snow’s BBQ came to the camp after finishing serving on their restaurant on Saturday morning. The number of people who got in line to take photos with Miss Tootsie shows how much she is revered as the Queen of Texas Barbecue!

Misty Roegels, Russell Roegels, and Tootsie Tomanetz at Camp Brisket

Misty Roegels, Russell Roegels, and Tootsie Tomanetz at Camp Brisket (photo by Kelly Yandell)

Arnis Robbins and Tootsie Tomanetz at Camp Brisket

Arnis Robbins and Tootsie Tomanetz at Camp Brisket (photo by Kelly Yandell)

John Brotherton and Tootsie Tomanetz at Camp Brisket

John Brotherton and Tootsie Tomanetz at Camp Brisket (photo by Kelly Yandell)

Tootsie Tomanetz and Bryan Bracewell

Tootsie Tomanetz and Bryan Bracewell (photo by Kelly Yandell)

Students with Miss Tootsie (Photo courtesy of Kelly Yandell)

Students with Miss Tootsie (Photo courtesy of Kelly Yandell)

Send off meal

The final meal was a comparison of wrapped versus unwrapped briskets. We did not conduct another taste test as most participants are facing “brisket fatigue” at this point, and are ready for something fairly light as they depart.

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! Thanks for Misty Roegels and Debra Reardon for coming to the camp along with their husbands.

Wood for Camp Brisket

Wood for Camp Brisket

Slicing cooked briskets

Slicing cooked briskets

Bryan Bracewell, Ray Riley, and Davey Griffin

Bryan Bracewell, Ray Riley, and Davey Griffin

Jess Pryles, Jess Timmons, and Misty Roegels at Camp Brisket

Jess Pryles, Jess Timmons, and Misty Roegels at Camp Brisket (photo by Kelly Yandell)

Ray Riley, Jeff Savell, and Davey Griffin at Camp Brisket

Ray Riley, Jeff Savell, and Davey Griffin at Camp Brisket (photo by Kelly Yandell)

Tootsie Tomanetz, Snow's BBQ, on Life as a Pitmaster Panel at Camp Brisket

Tootsie Tomanetz, Snow’s BBQ, on Life as a Pitmaster Panel at Camp Brisket (photo by Kelly Yandell)

Jeff Savell and Jackson Larriviere (photo courtesy of Kelly Yandell)

Jeff Savell and Jackson Larriviere (photo courtesy of Kelly Yandell)

Homer Robertson, Jeff Savell, Joe Riscky, Ray Riley, JArthur Garcia, and Davey Griffin at Camp Brisket

Homer Robertson, Jeff Savell, Joe Riscky, Ray Riley, JArthur Garcia, and Davey Griffin at Camp Brisket (photo by Kelly Yandell)

Wrapped briskets at Camp Brisket

Wrapped briskets at Camp Brisket (photo by Kelly Yandell)

Barbecue Summer Camp, 2021 edition

Pork cutting demonstration at Barbecue Summer Camp
Pork cutting demonstration at Barbecue Summer Camp

Pork cutting demonstration at Barbecue Summer Camp

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.

Grad student introductions at Barbecue Summer Camp

Grad student introductions

Undergraduate student introductions at Barbecue Summer Camp

Undergraduate student introductions

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.

Pit Design and Maintenance Panel at Barbecue Summer Camp

Pit Design and Maintenance Panel

Ryan Zboril at Barbecue Summer Camp

Ryan Zboril

Ryan Zboril, John Brotherton, Brett Boren, and Davey Griffin

Ryan Zboril, John Brotherton, Brett Boren, and Davey Griffin, Pit Design and Maintenance Panel

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.

Friday lunch

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.

Chad Wootan, Cooper's Old Time Pit BBQ, College Station

Chad Wootan, Cooper’s Old Time Pit BBQ, College Station

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 Heger, Adams Extract & Spice LLC

Ryan Heger, Adams Extract & Spice LLC

Ryan Heger, Adams Extract & Spice LLC

Ryan Heger, Adams Extract & Spice LLC

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).

Pork butt, St. Louis style pork ribs, and beef plate short ribs

Pork butt, St. Louis style pork ribs, and beef plate short ribs

Emily Brite and Sydni Borders

Emily Brite and Sydni Borders

Addie Rankin measuring seasonings

Addie Rankin measuring seasonings

Seasoning products at Barbecue Summer Camp

Seasoning products at Barbecue Summer Camp

Paige Williams helping participants season products

Paige Williams helping participants season products

Participants seasoning products at Barbecue Summer Camp

Participants seasoning products

Ayleen Gonzalez

Ayleen Gonzalez

Jack Detten and Luis Erazo weighing products

Jack Detten and Luis Erazo weighing products

Kenzy Hoffmann weighing seasonings at Barbecue Summer Camp

Kenzy Hoffmann weighing seasonings

Thomas Larriviere recording seasoning information

Thomas Larriviere recording seasoning information

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.

Homer Robertson, Wood and Smoke Panel

Homer Robertson, Wood and Smoke Panel

Tom Perini, Perini Ranch Steakhouse

Tom Perini, Perini Ranch Steakhouse

Bryan Bracewell, Southside Market & Barbeque

Bryan Bracewell, Southside Market & Barbeque

Wood and Smoke Panel at Barbecue Summer Camp

Russell Roegels, Bryan Bracewell, Tom Perini, and Homer Robertson, Wood and Smoke Panel at Barbecue Summer Camp

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.

Ray Riley and Davey Griffin pumping brine in pork carcass side

Ray Riley and Davey Griffin pumping brine in pork carcass side

Ray Riley and Davey Griffin pumping brine in pork carcass side

Ray Riley and Davey Griffin pumping brine in pork carcass 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.

Bryan Bracewell, Southside Market & Barbeque

Bryan Bracewell, Southside Market & Barbeque

Southside Market & Barbeque

Southside Market & Barbeque

Dining at the Hildebrand Equine Complex

Dining at the Hildebrand Equine Complex

Whole hog cookery

Russell Roegels, Roegels Barbecue, cooked the pork side on his specially designed pit.

Russell Roegels, Roegels Barbecue, at Barbecue Summer Camp

Russell Roegels, Roegels Barbecue, at Barbecue Summer Camp

Russell Roegels, Roegels Barbecue, at Barbecue Summer Camp

Russell Roegels, Roegels Barbecue

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.

John Brotherton, Brotherton's Black Iron Barbecue

John Brotherton, Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue

John Brotherton, Brotherton's Black Iron Barbecue

John Brotherton, Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue

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.

Davey Griffin and Ray Riley

Davey Griffin and Ray Riley

Ray Riley and Davey Griffin discussing beef cuts at Barbecue Summer Camp

Ray Riley and Davey Griffin discussing beef cuts

Beef cutting room demonstrations

Sydni Borders

Sydni Borders

Paige Williams

Paige Williams

Ayleen Gonzalez talking showing beef briskets at Barbecue Summer Camp

Ayleen Gonzalez talking showing beef briskets

Thachary Mayer

Thachary Mayer

Becca Kemp and Lilly Kochevar

Becca Kemp and Lilly Kochevar

Sydni Borders talking about beef chucks

Sydni Borders talking about beef chucks

Kenzy Hoffmann and Ayleen Gonzalez at Barbecue Summer Camp

Kenzy Hoffmann and Ayleen Gonzalez

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.

John Brotherton and Jeff Savell at Barbecue Summer Camp

John Brotherton and Jeff Savell

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.

John Brotherton and Jeff Savell

John Brotherton and Jeff Savell

John Brotherton, Brotherton Black Iron Barbecue, slicing brisket

John Brotherton, Brotherton Black Iron Barbecue, slicing brisket

John Brotherton, Brotherton Black Iron Barbecue, slicing brisket

John Brotherton, Brotherton Black Iron Barbecue, slicing brisket

Pork anatomy overview

Davey Griffin presented an overview of pork carcass anatomy and terminology.

Davey Griffin

Davey Griffin

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.

Thachary, Trent, and Sydni cutting pork at Barbecue Summer Camp

Thachary, Trent, and Sydni cutting pork at Barbecue Summer Camp

Pork cutting demonstration

Pork cutting demonstration

Paige Williams and Lilly Kochevar showing pork shoulder cuts

Paige Williams and Lilly Kochevar showing pork shoulder cuts

Pork loins

Pork loins

Pork cutting demonstration at Barbecue Summer Camp

Pork cutting demonstration at Barbecue Summer Camp

Sydni Borders showing differences between the types of pork ribs

Sydni Borders showing differences between the types of pork ribs

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.

Jack Detten and Thachary Mayer pulling pork

Jack Detten and Thachary Mayer pulling pork

Students and pitmasters at Barbecue Summer Camp

Students and pitmasters at Barbecue Summer Camp

Poultry sessions

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.

Seasoning drumsticks with mayonnaise and Hidden Valley Ranch dry seasoning

Seasoning drumsticks with mayonnaise and Hidden Valley Ranch dry seasoning

Ayleen and Paige seasoning poultry

Ayleen and Paige seasoning poultry

Becca Kemp and Kenzy Hoffmann

Becca Kemp and Kenzy Hoffmann

Trent Schwartz and Nathan Kerth demonstrating sausage stuffing

Trent Schwartz and Nathan Kerth demonstrating sausage stuffing

Thachary Mayer injecting poultry at Barbecue Summer Camp

Thachary Mayer injecting poultry

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.

Craig Coufal

Craig Coufal

Summary

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!

Students at Barbecue Summer Camp

Trent Schwartz, Paige Williams, Lilly Kochevar, Sydni Borders, Mason Holmes, Luis Erazo, Jack Detten, Emily Brite, Kenzy Hoffmann, Thachary Mayer, and Addie Rankin

Thachary Mayer

Thachary Mayer

Chris Kerth

Chris Kerth talking about marination

Adams seasonings

Adams seasonings

Serving brisket samples to participants

Serving brisket samples to participants

 

Smoking Ground Beef Patties

Cooked and Smoked Patties Cross Section

Color and Food Safety Considerations When Smoking versus Grilling Ground Beef Patties

Dr. Davey Griffin, Professor and Extension Meat Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Cooked and Smoked Patties Cross Section

Cooked and Smoked Patties Cross Section

Several barbecue companies have been featuring specials such as smoked hamburgers to expand their menu selections.  Dr. Davey Griffin recently wrote “Color and Food Safety Considerations When Smoking versus Grilling Ground Beef Patties” to help chefs and consumers understand what differences to expect when smoking ground beef.  Internal pink color associated with a traditional smoke ring can oftentimes be mistaken for the ground beef being undercooked and perceived to be a food safety risk. See the entire publication at: ASWeb 121 Smoking Beef Patties.

Camp Brisket, 2020 edition

Ray Riley discussing beef grading at Camp Brisket
Ray Riley discussing beef grading at Camp Brisket

Ray Riley discussing beef grading at Camp Brisket

The eighth Camp Brisket, a joint venture between Foodways Texas and the Meat Science program of the Department of Animal Science at Texas A&M University, was held on January 10-11, 2020 at the Rosenthal Meat Center and the Beef Cattle Center at the O.D. Butler Animal Science Complex. About 70 participants from around the U.S., Australia, Norway, South Korea, Mexico, and Canada embarked on a journey to learn more about the ultimate challenge preparing that most difficult dish of Texas Barbecue cuisine, the brisket.

This year’s 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, and staff including Wade Baty, Sarah Bludau, Hayden Blumberg, Brenyn Burkholder, Kyle Caldwell, Shelley Curry, Morgan Foster, Forest Francis, Ashley Fuqua, Clayton Garrett, Kaylee Greiner, Ayleen Gonzalez, Madison Matlock, Kalee McCann, Holly Sanders, Trent Schwartz, Stayci Seaquist, and Ryan Yeatts. Special thanks to Eric Hamilton and Thomas Larriviere for helping with the camp. These great folks ensured that the needs of the briskets, pitmasters, and guests were attended to through the camp.

Introduction of Texas A&M University students who help with Camp Brisket

Introduction of Texas A&M University students who help with Camp Brisket

Marvin Bendele, Foodways Texas, welcomed the participants to Camp Brisket. Greetings and introductions are part of the beginning of each Camp Brisket. Getting to know each other is one way to create community that is so important when we conduct these workshops. With each camp, this process takes longer, but we know that many people enjoyed getting to know who all was there.

Two important members of the Texas Barbecue community were in attendance for the beginning of Camp Brisket: Kerry Bexley and Tootsie Tomanetz of Snow’s BBQ. We appreciate that they were able to come for a short time before they had to go back home to begin cooking for their Saturday opening.

Marvin Bendele, Foodways Texas, welcoming the participants to Camp Brisket

Marvin Bendele, Foodways Texas, welcoming the participants to Camp Brisket

Brisket procurement and trimming

Before Camp Brisket starts, work begins on procuring the briskets representing different types and grades, trimming them, and applying the salt/pepper seasoning (we used a half and half mix by volume of Kosher salt and course ground pepper with 3/4 cup applied to each brisket). We were blessed to have John Brotherton, Dominic Colbert, and Alanmykal Jackson of Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue of Pfluegerville and Alton Matthews of The Dawgfatha’s BBQ working with Davey Griffin and our students to get the briskets ready to go. Daniel Genho of Bettcher Industries brought some of the Bettcher Whizard knives for everyone to try out to see how they liked using these trimming devices rather than hand knives.

Briskets for Camp Brisket

Briskets for Camp Brisket

Dan Genho, Bettcher Industries, demonstrating the use of the Bettcher Whizard knife

Dan Genho, Bettcher Industries, demonstrating the use of the Bettcher Whizard knife

John Brotherton, Brotherton's Black Iron Barbecue, trimming brisket with Bettcher Whizard knife at Camp Brisket

John Brotherton, Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue, trimming brisket with Bettcher Whizard knife

Trimmed briskets ready for seasoning at Camp Brisket

Trimmed briskets ready for seasoning

Trimming the briskets for Camp Brisket

Trimming the briskets for Camp Brisket

Holly and Shelley seasoning briskets for Camp Brisket

Holly and Shelley seasoning briskets

Seasoned briskets ready for the smoker

Seasoned briskets ready for the smoker

Simple seasonings for Camp Brisket: equal parts by volume Kosher salt and black pepper with 3/4 cup applied to each brisket

Simple seasonings for Camp Brisket: equal parts by volume Kosher salt and black pepper with 3/4 cup applied to each brisket

Brisket use and anatomy

The first talks were by Jess Pryles, cook, writer, and TV personality, on the difference between restaurant and competition brisket, and Davey Griffin, on the anatomy and trimming of a brisket. John Brotherton joined Davey in showing the participants how he trims briskets before cooking. We thank Jess for arranging support from Kingsford Charcoal for providing products for the camp.

Jess Pryles, Hardcore Carnivore

Jess Pryles, Hardcore Carnivore

Jess Pryles talking about the comparison between restaurant and competition styles of briskets at Camp Brisket

Jess Pryles talking about the comparison between restaurant and competition styles of briskets at Camp Brisket

Example of a packer-style brisket

Example of a packer-style brisket

Davey Griffin describing where briskets come from

Davey Griffin describing where briskets come from

Davey Griffin talking about brisket anatomy at Camp Brisket

Davey Griffin talking about brisket anatomy

John Brotherton and Davey Griffin demonstrating brisket trimming at Camp Brisket

John Brotherton and Davey Griffin demonstrating brisket trimming

Knife selection and cooked brisket slicing

Proper knife use and sharpening was covered by Jeff Savell before a demonstration by John Brotherton on slicing cooked briskets was conducted.

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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, Chairman’s Reserve, 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 restaurant-style coarse-ground black pepper. The briskets for the grade/type demonstration were cooked on Russell Roegels of Roegels Barbecue pit with John Brotherton of Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue and others managing the cooking cycle. We used oak logs as the source of heat and smoke.

Each grade/type of brisket was sliced so that each participant received a lean portion 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? The Wagyu won, with the other grades/types being rating similarly. This was the same findings from last year. Each year, this taste comparison usually results in Prime and Wagyu near the top and Select being near the bottom in ratings. 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.

Tootsie Tomanetz and Kerry Bexley, Snow's BBQ

Tootsie Tomanetz and Kerry Bexley, Snow’s BBQ

Serving the grading comparisons at Camp Brisket

Serving the grading comparisons at Camp Brisket

We thank A BAR N Ranch for providing the Wagyu briskets again this year for the taste comparisons.

Camp Brisket 2020 participants' ratings of briskets from five different brands/grades

Wood and Smoke panel

There was a Wood and Smoke panel in the afternoon featuring Daniel Vaughn, Barbecue Editor of Texas Monthly magazine as the moderator, Daniel Bennett, Diva BBQ; Dr. Nick Nickelson, The Meat Board; Homer Robertson, World Champion Chuck Wagon competitor and Fort Worth Fire Department leader; Kevin Kolman, Weber Grills; and Jeff Savell. Post oak is the featured wood for Texas Barbecue based on its abundance and how the smoke complements beef. The panel 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.

Wood and Smoke Panel at Camp Brisket

Wood and Smoke Panel at Camp Brisket

Beef grading discussion

Ray Riley gave a beef grading demonstration talking about the USDA beef grades so that the participants would know more about the various labels and brands associated with the meat they purchase.

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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. Brad Doan and family with 1775 Texas Pit Barbecue provided the main meal with brisket,  sausages, and wonderful sides and with Homer Robertson, world champion chuck wagon competitor, provided bread pudding and apple crisp for the crowd. The food was enjoyed by all!

We thank Frank Mancuso and Ryan Skillman from Saint Arnold Brewing Company for providing the great refreshments for the meals. We also thank Fontana Coffee Roasters and R.C. Tortorice for providing coffee and tea for the weekend.

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. We used Prime briskets, trimmed and seasoned as mentioned before, for the comparison, and briskets were put on the smokers around 8 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.

We thank Larry Lewis from A.N. Bewley Fabricators for providing two of his units for the overnight cook along with Pat Reardon and Davey Griffin.

To add fun to the evening, a major cold front blew through the area around 10 PM on Friday night with strong winds and rain. The overnight crew survived, but Camp Brisket is well known for having major weather events during the camp.

Chuck wagon breakfast and pit discussion

Saturday morning became a time for a great chuck wagon breakfast of biscuits and gravy and breakfast tacos made with sausage and brisket from Homer Robertson, Ty Robertson, JArthur Garcia, Joel Phillips, and a review of the different types of pits we used to cook with. Thanks to everyone for such a great breakfast experience eating in the cold and enjoying the chuck wagon breakfast.

Joel Phillips and JArthur Garcia preparing the chuck wagon breakfast

Joel Phillips and JArthur Garcia preparing the chuck wagon breakfast

Breakfast at the chuck wagon at Camp Brisket

Breakfast at the chuck wagon at Camp Brisket

Ty Robertson preparing breakfast at the chuck wagon for Camp Brisket

Ty Robertson preparing breakfast at the chuck wagon for Camp Brisket

Russell Roegels, Roegels Barbecue, with Bewley Pits at Camp Brisket

Russell Roegels, Roegels Barbecue, with Bewley Pits

Larry Lewis, A.N. Bewley Fabricators, at Camp Brisket

Larry Lewis, A.N. Bewley Fabricators

Kevin Kolman discussing the Smokey Mountain Cookers at Camp Brisket

Kevin Kolman discussing the Smokey Mountain Cookers at Camp Brisket

Pat Reardon talking about his Jambo pit used at Camp Brisket

Pat Reardon talking about his Jambo pit used at Camp Brisket

Ryan Zboril, Pitts and Spitts, discussing pellet smoker at Camp Brisket

Ryan Zboril, Pitts and Spitts, discussing pellet smoker at Camp Brisket

Pit design and maintenance panel

A pit design and maintenance panel was composed of Arnis Robbins, Evie Mae’s BBQ; Wayne Mueller, Louie Mueller Barbecue; Bryan Bracewell, Southside Market and Barbeque; Sunny Moberg, Moberg Smokers; Ryan Zboril, Pitts and Spitts; 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.

Davey Griffin moderating the Pit Design and Maintenance Panel at Camp Brisket

Davey Griffin moderating the Pit Design and Maintenance Panel at Camp Brisket

Pit Design and Maintenance Panel at Camp Brisket

Pit Design and Maintenance Panel at Camp Brisket

Sunny Moberg, Moberg Smokers

Sunny Moberg, Moberg Smokers

Bryan Bracewell, Southside Market and Barbeque, speaking on the Pit Design and Maintenance Panel at Camp Brisket

Bryan Bracewell, Southside Market and Barbeque

Wayne Mueller, Louie Mueller Barbecue, speaking at Camp Brisket

Wayne Mueller, Louie Mueller Barbecue

Arnis Robbins, Evie Mae's BBQ, speaking at Camp Brisket

Arnis Robbins, Evie Mae’s BBQ, speaking at Camp Brisket

Seasonings and barbecue science

Ryan Heger, Adams Extract and Seasoning, spent some time going over different seasonings outside of the normal use of salt and pepper. Jeff Savell discussed some of the science behind meat and barbecue and fielded questions from the crowd regarding a wide array of topics.

Ryan Heger, Adams Extract & Spice, speaking at Camp Brisket

Ryan Heger, Adams Extract & Spice, speaking at Camp Brisket

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 briskets smoked with mesquite and pecan were rated among the highest, those smoked with hickory were among the lowest, and those smoked with oak were intermediate. Last year, participants found no differences in preference for the four different smokes used. Most other years, either oak or hickory wins this competition, but we are amazed that there are really few differences in how the participants rate these briskets cooked with different woods/smokes.

Camp Brisket participants' ratings of briskets cooked with different woods

Life as a pitmaster panel

One of the most highly regarded parts of Camp Brisket is the final panel, moderated by Jeff Savell, which featured Arnis Robbins; Bryan Bracewell; Russell Roegels; Wayne Mueller; John Brotherton; Domenic Colbert; Alanmykal Jackson; and Todd David, Cattleack Barbeque.  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.

Bryan Bracewell, Southside Market and Barbeque at Camp Brisket

Bryan Bracewell, Southside Market and Barbeque

Life as a Pitmaster Panel at Camp Brisket

Life as a Pitmaster Panel at Camp Brisket

Send off meal

The final meal was a comparison of wrapped versus unwrapped briskets. There was no difference between wrapped and unwrapped briskets. Most participants are facing “brisket fatigue” at this point, and are ready for something fairly light as they depart.

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! Thanks for Misty Roegels, Mallory Robbins, and Debra Reardon for coming to the camp along with their husbands.

Kevin Kolman and the Weber Smokey Mountain Cookers

Kevin Kolman and the Weber Smokey Mountain Cookers

Smoking low and slow

Smoking low and slow

John Brotherton checking brisket temperatures

John Brotherton checking brisket temperatures

Pat Reardon's Jambo smoker

Pat Reardon’s Jambo smoker

6th Texas Barbecue Town Hall Meeting held

Rachel Cutrer, Ranch House Designs, presenting at the Texas Barbecue Town Hall Meeting
Rachel Cutrer, Ranch House Designs, presenting at the Texas Barbecue Town Hall Meeting

Rachel Cutrer, Ranch House Designs, presenting at the Texas Barbecue Town Hall Meeting

Pitmasters and owner/operators from some of the leading barbecue establishments throughout Texas participated in the sixth Texas Barbecue Town Hall Meeting, which was held at the AgriLife Center and the Rosenthal Meat Center on Monday, December 9, 2019.

Jeff Savell welcoming participants to Texas Barbecue Town Hall Meeting

Jeff Savell welcoming participants to Texas Barbecue Town Hall Meeting

About 60 people were in attendance, and participants received updates on livestock and meat markets for beef, pork, chicken, and turkey by David Anderson, professor and extension economist, Department of Agricultural Economics, Texas A&M University, tips about effective marketing from Rachel Cutrer, Ranch House Designs, and a beef grading and beef cutting demonstration by Davey Griffin and Ray Riley.

Texas Barbecue Town Hall Meeting participants

Texas Barbecue Town Hall Meeting participants

The meeting was sponsored by the E.M. “Manny” Rosenthal Chair in the Department of Animal Science at Texas A&M University, and Davey Griffin, Ray Riley, and Jeff Savell served as hosts with assistance from students, Sarah Bludau, Ayleen Gonzalez, Caitlyn Harmon, Brogan Horton, Lauren Lee, Steven Mancillas, Sterling Pieniazek, Addie Rankin, Brittany Shipp, Trent Stolowski, and Wilsey Wendler. Special thanks to Kelly Yandell for coming to the meeting, visiting with folks, and taking and sharing photos.

David Anderson

David Anderson gave a market update and shared with the participants what was going on in the beef, pork, turkey, and chicken markets. Anderson stated that the beef market remains strong, but the pork, turkey, and chicken markets are showing both high supplies and weaker demand. Factors such as African Swine Fever will continue to play a role on the worldwide supply of pork.

David Anderson speaking at the Texas Barbecue Town Hall Meeting

David Anderson

David Anderson, Texas A&M University, speaking at the Texas Barbecue Town Hall Meeting

David Anderson, Texas A&M University

Iowa Market Hog Report shown by David Anderson

Iowa Market Hog Report shown by David Anderson

Rachel Cutrer

Rachel Cutrer gave some interesting points about how to effectively market your barbecue business. She gave great examples using some of the barbecue establishments at the meeting about good use of logos and colors, websites and social media, and email lists.

Rachel Cutrer, Ranch House Designs, speaking at the Texas Barbecue Town Hall Meeting

Rachel Cutrer, Ranch House Designs

 

Rachel Cutrer's Branding Foundation presented at the Texas Barbecue Town Hall Meeting

Rachel Cutrer’s Branding Foundation

Example of logos at Texas Barbecue Town Hall Meeting

Example of logos at Texas Barbecue Town Hall Meeting

Rachel Cutrer presenting about the importance of websites at the Texas Barbecue Town Hall Meeting

Rachel Cutrer presenting about the importance of websites at the Texas Barbecue Town Hall Meeting

Lunch by Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue and Daniel Vaughn

Thanks to John Brotherton, Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue and Daniel Vaughn for preparing fajitas and pork for lunch.We greatly appreciate everyone who helped prepare and serve the lunch for the town hall meeting.

John Brotherton, Brotherton's Black Iron Barbecue

John Brotherton, Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue

Lunch provided by Brotherton's Black Iron Barbecue

Lunch provided by Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue

Lunch provided by Brotherton's Black Iron Barbecue at the Texas Barbecue Town Hall Meeting

Lunch provided by Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue

There was time before and after lunch for visiting with old friends and making new friendships. Thanks to Kelly again for taking some of these great photos.

The Desert Oak Barbecue folks

The Desert Oak Barbecue folks

Ingrid Marrero and Randy Evans, H-E-B True Texas BBQ

Ingrid Marrero and Randy Evans, H-E-B True Texas BBQ

Chad Wootan and Terry Wootan, Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que with Ray Riley (center)

Chad Wootan and Terry Wootan, Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que with Ray Riley (center)

Tootsie Tomanetz, Snow's BBQ, and Brett Boren, Brett's Backyard Bar-B-Q

Tootsie Tomanetz, Snow’s BBQ, and Brett Boren, Brett’s Backyard Bar-B-Q

Steven and Kristen Rossler, Rossler's Blue Cord Barbecue

Steven and Kristen Rossler, Rossler’s Blue Cord Barbecue

Brett Boren, Brett's Backyard Bar-B-Que, and Wayne Mueller, Louis Mueller Barbecue

Brett Boren, Brett’s Backyard Bar-B-Que, and Wayne Mueller, Louis Mueller Barbecue

John Sanford, B-B-Q on the Brazos; Tootsie Tomanetz, Snow's BBQ; and Bryan McLarty, 407BBQ

John Sanford, B-B-Q on the Brazos; Tootsie Tomanetz, Snow’s BBQ; and Bryan McLarty, 407BBQ

Rachel Cutrer, Tootsie Tomanetz, and Bryan Bracewell

Rachel Cutrer, Tootsie Tomanetz, and Bryan Bracewell

Lance and Boo Eaker, Eaker Barbecue

Lance and Boo Eaker, Eaker Barbecue

Tootsie Tomanetz, Snow's BBQ, and Bryan Bracewell, Southside Market & Barbeque at the Texas Barbecue Town Hall Meeting

Tootsie Tomanetz, Snow’s BBQ, and Bryan Bracewell, Southside Market & Barbeque

Beef grading and beef cutting demonstrations

After lunch, the participants moved over to the Rosenthal Meat Center for a demonstration of beef carcass quality and yield grading and for a beef top sirloin cut-out demonstration. Davey Griffin and Ray Riley led this exercise and answered questions about both topics.

Davey Griffin talking about beef grading at Texas Barbecue Town Hall Meeting

Davey Griffin talking about beef grading

Davey Griffin discussing beef quality grading at the Texas Barbecue Town Hall Meeting

Davey Griffin discussing beef quality grading

Ray Riley

Ray Riley

Davey Griffin and Lance Eaker

Davey Griffin and Lance Eaker

Ray Riley showing beef marbling levels at the Texas Barbecue Town Hall Meeting

Ray Riley showing beef marbling levels

Davey Griffin cutting up at top sirloin butt

Davey Griffin cutting up at top sirloin butt

Davey Griffin cutting beef at the Texas Barbecue Town Hall Meeting

Davey Griffin cutting beef

We thank everyone who came to the town hall meeting, and we look forward to working with the the great folks who prepare Texas Barbecue.