Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you meet a barbecuer who thinks he knows it all, don’t bother with him. His ‘cue likely won’t be that good.

Why, because good barbecuers know that no one knows it all, and most, unless they’re among the growing ranks of competitors, are regular folks who love sharing their tricks of the trade and trying each other’s food.

The skills required for cooking meat over low smoky heat flavorfully (never, ever slow-baking it with dubious sauce in your oven) and the technology now available to barbecuers makes cooking this way an ever-changing craft and the upcoming Barbecue Boot Camp a tasty proposition.

Set for August 10 at Charcoal & More, a barbecue supplies store in Sellersburg, Ind. (specifically 840 South Penn Ave.), the class will be taught by owner Hal Wagner and champion barbecuer Chris Marks (of the Three Little Pigs BBQ team). Two classes for Aug. 11 and 12 sold out so quickly they added a third on Friday evening from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

“We’ll cover a lot of ground in that time, but it’s one of those classes that everyone walks away having learned a lot,” said Wagner. “We’ll have competitive barbecuers there sitting beside people who don’t know how to start their fire.”

In this hands-on class you’ll work with and get to eat some actual meat while learning to prepare baby back ribs, chicken, butts and brisket from start to finish. Discussion will center on types of meats, grills and smokers, barbecuing techniques, woods, charcoals, preparation of marinades, rubs injections, as well as common mistakes and how to avoid them.

Wagner said too few barbecuers know much about charcoal, a must in real barbecuing (which the USDA defines as meat slow smoked between 220 F and 240 F). Mainstream commercial brands, he said, are made mostly from sawmill castoff cuts and fillers that burn at low temperatures.

“Real hardwood charcoal burns much hotter, longer and cleaner, but that’s something most people tell us in the class that they didn’t know,” Wagner said. “If you don’t burn charcoal, you don’t create smoke. And if you don’t create smoke, you don’t create flavor.”

Another tidbit I picked up talking to Wagner: “Meat will only accept smoke until 140 degrees. After that, you’re just baking it.”

So when your meat is done cooking but doesn’t have much smoke flavor?

“Put it in the smoker cold so it’ll take longer to cook and get longer exposure to the smoke,” he said. Helpful advice given that many barbecuers let their meat temper 1 to 2 hours on the counter so it will cook faster. “If they’re getting enough smoke on it, there’s nothing wrong with doing that. And those different situations are things we’re going to talk about.”

Fee for the class is $95 per person, and it’s limited to the first 30 registrants.

To reserve your spot, call 812-248-2233 or click here to email Wagner.

Because perishable meat must be purchased for the class, all fees are non-refundable unless too few students sign up.

Though the class goes through dinnertime, Wagner said not to worry about being hungry.

“We’ll get to eat some for sure,” he said. “Chicken doesn’t take long to smoke and we’ll have other things smoking before the class starts.”

* A word of advice: Remember to check traffic on the Kennedy Bridge before attempting to drive through there at rush hour. Here’s to hoping repairs are done by then!

Steve Coomes is a restaurant veteran turned award-winning food, spirits and travel writer. In his 24-year career, he has edited and written for multiple national trade and consumer publications including Nation's Restaurant News and Southern Living. He is a feature writer for Louisville magazine, Edible Louisville & The Bluegrass and Food & Dining Magazine. The author of two books, "Country Ham: A Southern Tradition of Hogs, Salt & Smoke," and the "Home Distiller's Guide to Spirits," he also serves as a ghostwriter for multiple clients.


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