COLLEGE STATION – They came from all walks of life: school teachers, information technology specialists, engineers and pitmasters. They all convened at Texas A&M University in College Station recently to learn how to cook better barbecue at the Barbecue Summer Camp.
There was no textbook, but lots of visual demonstrations and, of course, heavy tasting.
The camp is a partnership between Foodways Texas and the meat science section in the department of animal science at Texas A&M University. More than 60 participants spent two and a half days learning the finer points of barbecue.
“I teach barbecue, but I’m also a student of barbecue,” said Dr. Jeff Savell, instructor and E.M. “Manny” Rosenthal chair at Texas A&M and Texas A&M AgriLife Research meat scientist. “I’m always trying to learn something new.”
Berry Madden of Pits and Spits in Houston told attendees, “There’s no real secret to what you are doing. A hot, humid day is easy to regulate a pit and temperature. The meat comes out so much better.”
Participants learned everything there was to ever know about barbecue – from rubs to cutting up sides of beef – it was all about the meat and how to cook it to perfection.
Dr. Davey Griffin, professor and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service meat specialist in College Station, discussed food safety practices. He said ice chests, cutting boards and kitchen towels need to be clean to prevent contamination. Above all, clean hands are important.
“Our hands carry bacteria all of the time,” he said. “A lot of times I see people put gloves on and they think they are invincible. You can still cross-contaminate.”
Griffin said when cleaning, “first remove the big stuff. Use some elbow grease to ensure you are cleaning the bacteria that is there.”
Griffin said one tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water makes it about 205 parts per million.
“Mix it up real good and put in a spray bottle and it works just fine,” he said.
Griffin said keep meat cool, preferably below 40 degrees Farenheit and cool in small portions.
“Thaw meat in the refrigerator or in cold water to keep the surface temperature level,” he said.
Keep food hot at 140 degrees Farenheit. On thermometers, Griffin said it is a good idea to calibrate. Digital thermometers can be calibrated by using boiling water.
“If they are two degrees off, factor that in,” he said.
If they are 10 degrees off he said, get a new one.
There’s even an iGrill thermometer where you can insert the probe, sit inside the living room and monitor temperature on your phone.
“Knowing temperature not only has something to do with safety, it also has something to do with quality,” he said.