Summer camp and BBQ are fundamental parts of the American summer experience. But are they two great tastes that taste great together?
Apparently, they taste fantastic together. TEXAZ Grill's Steve Freidkin, who considers himself, "...the westernmost outpost of Texas culture," headed out to Bryan/College Station, Texas for Barbecue Summer Camp in June. Even with 25 years of professional barbecue experience under his belt he says he would attend another barbecue summer camp, "in a New York minute."
Foodways Texas and the Meat Science Department of Texas A&M hosted the camp. Around 40 people attended, evenly divided between professional cooks such as Freidkin, competition cooks and backyard enthusiasts.
So what exactly do you do at a Texas Barbecue Summer Camp? Make pictures of cows out of painted macaroni?
Although it's called the Texas Barbecue Summer Camp it sounds a bit more like a delicious barbecue boot camp.
Last year's schedule can be found here. Freidkin said many of the classes are taught by Texas A&M faculty and are extraordinarily informative as a result. These are people with Ph.D.s in meat science, individuals so dedicated to the arts of heat and smoke that they have published scholarly papers on the matter. Classes covered everything from "chuck wagon food safety," to a 30 minute lecture on the chemical composition of smoke and were all book-ended by periods of practical applications. Since this is BBQ camp, "practical applications" translates into consuming vast quantities of the meat you just spent hours preparing.
Some take home tips from BBQ camp:
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- When brining meats, avoid iodized salt because the iodine impedes the ability of the meat to retain moisture.
- Hickory, pecan and oak are favored woods for smoking because they produce a white smoke which imparts a "cleaner" taste to the meat.
- The size of your smoke ring is a matter of aesthetics but actually has very little impact on overall taste.*
If all of that sounded insanely cool than you are you luck. Foodways Texas recently announced plans for a new summer camp and tickets will go on sale in November. Tickets this year ran close to $500 but if a professionally taught hour-long lecture on the "Science of Rubs/Marinades" gets your blood pumping, it will probably be worth it.
*This was a topic of hot debate at the camp but this was the final consensus.