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Published May 03, 2010, 03:20 PM

Boot camp for barbecuers

FARGO, N.D. — Enrollees in the first “BBQ Boot Camp” of the season April 24 in Fargo, N.D., got a heaping helping of advice on how to prepare red meat favorites outdoors. David Newman, an assistant professor of animal sciences and swine extension specialist at North Dakota State University in Fargo, was one of the coordinators and presenters at the event,

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

FARGO, N.D. — Enrollees in the first “BBQ Boot Camp” of the season April 24 in Fargo, N.D., got a heaping helping of advice on how to prepare red meat favorites outdoors.

David Newman, an assistant professor of animal sciences and swine extension specialist at North Dakota State University in Fargo, was one of the coordinators and presenters at the event, which brought in a class of 160 people, paying $30 each or $50 a couple to listen to cooking advice.

Among the campers was Mike Kempel of Fargo, owner of Dakota Refrigeration, who says he decided to attend simply “to be a better barbecue cook.” He was one of those taking the occasional note as he listened to the animal and meat scientists talk about some of the misconceptions and science of outdoor cookery.

The boot camp approach was started two years ago at the NDSU Extension Research Station in Carrington, N.D. The program is the only one of its kind going on around the country, as far as the NDSU officials know.

“It’s something where we can bring an ag-based program to the community. It’s been a big success,” Newman says. “We can talk about where we can have some fun with the meat and livestock industry.”

In 2009, there were 10 boot camp events, involving 1,000 people. In 2010, officials say they’re anticipating the same number but perhaps in fewer events.

The next BBQ Boot Camp is May 26 in Bismarck, N.D.

For the main course in the camp, there are three main stations that pertain to cooking — slow cooking and smoking; grilling and grilling techniques; and “degree of doneness” on steaks and chops. Among other things, enrollees learned about the proper use of a thermometer as one tool to control the palatability of meat.

Two other stations pertain to spices (spices, rubs, marinades and meat selection) and food safety and nutrition issues.

Besides cooking, attendees learn about animal welfare issues — “the high standard of animal welfare that producers implement in their programs,” Newman says. He notes that the North Dakota Beef Commission, the North Dakota Pork Council and other animal agriculture groups have “strict guidelines” for quality assurance programs and care.

The groups also learned that NDSU animal science has nine competitive teams, including four judging teams that compete with some of the nation’s best-known larger schools.

Animal science faculty several years started Carnivore Catering, a graduate student business. Last year, the group served 150 events, feeding up to 1,700 people at the North Dakota State Fair in Minot.

Other barbecue advice:

n Paul Berg, an animal geneticist, says “rub” is a favorite technique of his for meat because it is dry and is highly storable and effective.

“People ask how much do you use,” he says. “Well, you grab a handful, rub it on, and whatever sticks is the right amount.”

Among other things, Berg suggests putting spices on fully thawed meat 10 minutes before putting them over a grill.

n To smoke meat, Trent Gilbery suggests the cook dry it for a short time with dry heat initially to help the smoke stick to the product.

“Wet meat doesn’t absorb smoke as well,” he says.

Gilbery also offers tips about slow-cooking beef brisket, among other things. This tip: keep the fat on the meat to add flavor so it self-bastes. An 8- to 10-pound brisket is slow-cooked for 12 to 15 hours. Ribs are cooked for five hours total but wrapped in foil at the end.

n Robert Maddock, another animal scientist, says the cut of meat is one of the most important determinants of how a beef steak or pork chop will cook. He notes that “choice” steaks have marbled fat within the meat not only assures better cooking, but is more desirable than the outside back fat from a health standpoint.

n Steaks should be flipped every four minutes — about twice during a 12-minute average cooking period. Generally, darker-colored pork is better quality than lighter-colored pork. Grilling meat is best if it’s 1 inch thick or more.

Information: www.ndsu.edu/

bbqbootcamp, 701-231-7641 or ndsu.bbq@ndsu.edu.

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