For some, the idea of a, “Fantasy Camp” involves playing Baseball with the pros, being a cowboy, or pretending to go to Space. For me, it’s all about the BBQ. Years ago while I was cooking at an Eggfest, I met Pitmaster Konrad “Teddy Bear” Haskins – a Grand Champion Pitmaster featured on TV, The Food Network, and the Wall Street Journal. I was impressed by his laid back South African style and willingness to pass along a tip or two. We’ve kept in touch over the years and this summer, J and I decided to pull the trigger and organized a group of friends for a BBQ Fantasy Camp. Summer School was in session.
The class was in a traditional 101 format covering the basic meats. Konrad brought his own Weber Smokey Mountain cookers (WSM) and dutch oven which we used in addition to my own Big Green Egg, Traeger Texas, and Infrared Gas grill. With eight students and not a cloud in the sky, we went to business.
We started with the basics – how to judge a grade of brisket, and the finer details of the flat and point. From there it was dutch oven biscuits and a, “Fatty” – a sausage roll stuffed, rolled in seasonings and smoked till done.
Konrad’s an adopted Texan and a bit of a character. After cooking tens of thousands of pounds of BBQ in his own restaurants and events designed to welcome our men and women in the military home you could say he’s learned a few shortcuts. For example, he makes a clear distinction between BBQ that will win competitions and the kind of BBQ you’d want to sit down to for a full meal. Competition cooks are designed to impress in only one or two bites with a, “Flavor Profile” that stands up between successive tastings. As a KCBS judge, I can vouch – in some judging competitions you can get nearly 5 pounds of meat put in front of you!
Then there are the shortcuts. While other Grand Champions try and create an air of mystery, Konrad lays it all out for you, including the super-secret marinades you can find on the aisle at any Sam’s Club. Yep, that’s right. For pulled pork, Konrad showed us his fast cook method preserving the, “Money Muscle” – the most tender part of the pork shoulder and how to foil to keep the moisture high and the cook time down. The brisket was also foiled and then finished off at a higher temp to get a sear. The only issue we ran into was my 3 year old Char-Broil Commercial Series Infrared Grill wouldn’t get hot. Trust me when I say it’s worth investing in a good Big Green Egg or Weber over one of these units as the infrared burners have all rusted out and literally broken apart with light use.
We contrasted traditional brisket as well as a dutch oven specialty – after searing and smoking, Konrad finished it off in a Dutch Oven with generous amounts of wine and veggies. The chicken was smoked, roasted and tender. Experimentation is everything as Konrad taught us. Konrad shares of love of good food pairings with beer and wine, so we prepared ahead of time. J brought over a few growlers of local brew (Hopworks Urban Brewery’s Rise Up Red was the highlight) and for the beef, we tasted a few nice Tempranillos and Deschutes Black Butte Porter paired well.
Did I learn anything? Absolutely. Did it change the way I do every cook? No, but BBQ like any food preparation is a form of artistic expression. I learned from a master and will incorporate his techniques into my own and have a lifetime of professional “tech support” with Konrad. What’s more, we enjoyed it enough to consider other classes with competition legends Harry Soo and Myron Mixon.
Pitmaster Konrad Haskins can be reached at www.bbqinstitute.com.