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I got the opportunity to attend a "class" put on by the Meat Science people at North Dakota State University (home of the Bison, they have a pretty good football team) on Wednesday and really came away impressed, and full of barbeque!  It's put on by the extension service and really it's purpose was to teach and explain food production, but like they said, would pay to go to "Let's learn about agriculture" or "BBQ Bootcamp". I grew up on a dairy farm and later ran some beef cows, but I've been off the farm and in the (sort of) big city for 20 years so it was fun to see all these people with a big passion for food and where it comes from.

It was divided into 4 sections, first they took us to their inhouse butcher shop that you can actually shop at. They had a whole side of beef hanging and they showed how it was broken down for the consumers and how even now they are coming up with "new" cuts. (I won't pass up a chuckeye or a Denver steak the next time I see them on sale!) They also talked about the grades prime, select etc.

Then we went to the closest thing to a cooking class they had set up, a BGE and a couple of gassers and they had a few samples passing around.  The big takeaway for me from this part was to look for the darker colored pork, more marbling, will hold the flavor better it's not darker because it's old.  Also they reinforced that pork is safe to eat at a medium temp, you don't have to dry it out like an old shoe. 

Next up was the rub and marinade class, and they had two full tables of about every spice imaginable, and they retired professor that gave the talk was like don't overdo it. Salt, pepper and garlic is 90% of the spice they use and then just add a little bit of something else to push it one way or another, in other words, let the meat speak for itself. Also talked a bit about mouthfeel and not to over marinate in an aggressive solution, don't turn your meat into mush.  They also had some very good vinegar and mayo based sauces, just to get people out of the habit that all BBQ has to be tomato based.

Last up was in the show arena and they had a live yearling heifer that they  demonstrated cuts of beef and also talked quite about about feeding and raising practices. Growing healthy and nutritious  meat for the consumer, and touching on fat content, grass fed vs traditional feeding methods, vaccines and even some on what makes up factors like "Certified Angus" and the beef grades.

Then it was time to eat!  Pulled pork, ribs, brisket, turkey and a whole mess of sides, and those sauces they were asking us to try. Seriously the best brisket I've ever eaten!  I don't know if other schools have a program like this but if they do I recommend going. If you're curious where your food comes from and how it gets to your plate, check it out!

Sorry for the long post, here's a link to their page and you can find the recipes they use for their rubs and sauces.  One curious thing is that they stressed about using weight measurement instead of volume, but I see they are all presenting in cups and teaspoons.


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@TKOBBQ it was totally worth it, I brought a friend who has never been near a farm and is a reluctant cooker, but he's a good eater and he loved it, a few people brought their teenage kids with, just good information and good vibes for all the meat eaters out there.  I wish it was some sort of nationwide program, but maybe more schools than I think do this sort of thing.

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Biggest take-away I ever got from a meat-cooking class is the idea of "resting" – and that meat continues to cook another 20º degrees or so while it rests.  So, if you want a "medium rare" steak, take it off at 120º and tent it under foil in the kitchen.  (In the cat-proof microwave, if you have cats!)   When you thermo the meat fifteen minutes later, it'll be 140º ... "perfect."  (Verify(!) that this is so!)  Whereas, if you took it off the fire at 140º what you're going to eat is well-done 160º.  An accurate thermometer is an absolute must.  Don't try to cool the meat down to keep this from happening.

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