Friday, May 14, 2010

Northeast Ohio Barbecue Classes

I love all things barbecue. I love reading about it. I love talking to others about it. I love cooking it. I love sharing it. Most of all, I love eating it.

I recently finished reading Mike Mills’ Peace, Love & Barbecue, and went to the KCBS website that was listed in the back of the book. While I was wandering around the site I noticed a link for classes. To my surprise The Heat Exchange Hearth and Patio Shoppe was holding a class taught by award winning pitmaster Chris Marks of Three Little Pigs in Kansas City, Missouri. I knew this was something I really wanted to do.

It’s been my experience that barbecue classes (like food) can range from the very expensive (Myron Mixon from Jack’s Old South offers a three day course for the low, low price of $750) to the extremely reasonable five hour course with Chris Marks for just $75. A cursory search through the KCBS website showed that classes offered by these experienced pitmasters hovered in the $200-$300 range.

If you haven’t been to Heat Exchange Hearth and Patio Shoppe in North Ridgeville, you’ve got to go. If there’s a store in northeast Ohio with a better selection of barbecue and grilling gear I’d like to know where it is. They sell an absolute ton of grills, smokers, tools, charcoal, and smoking wood. Most places carry either chips or chunks, but I was pretty stoked to find quartered logs of apple wood that measure roughly 6” in length.

Piece of Apple wood from a bag of Good One brand

The two main subjects covered for the class were ribs and chicken. We started the class off by prepping ribs the way Chris likes to do it. We removed the membrane, tenderized the meat with a fork, covered them with mustard, and then applied the rub. I personally had never used the mustard or the fork methods before, so I was interested to see how they worked.

Without giving the blow by blow of the entire class, all I can say is that there really wasn’t a point where you weren’t talking about barbecue with either Chris or your fellow classmates. In fact, I found the exchanges between some of the others at my table equally enlightening. A guy at my table, who also has a Big Green Egg, was telling me about how great the BBQ Guru works. The value of the class wasn’t just what the instructor was sharing, but also the exchange of information from the other attendees.

At the end of the class you took home the ribs that you prepped (that had been smoking during the entire instruction) to be finished in the oven. I can say that I walked away with a few more tricks than I had come with. I think what I liked most was that the lessons weren’t being delivered as the absolute right way or wrong way. Chris Mark does a great job of patiently answering every question that is asked of him. It was just a great experience.

So is all lost? Did you miss your opportunity? Well, yes and no. Chris will be coming back on Friday September 24th for a 3 hour grilling class that covers meat, fish, and vegetables. The next day he will be holding a Brisket and Pork Butt class that covers everything from marinades to rubs to injection to finishing techniques. If it’s anything like the Ribs and Chicken class, he will answer any and every question that relates to the subject.

I typically don’t post anything that I myself am not going to, but literally three days before this Brisket and Pork Butt class was scheduled we booked our vacation to San Francisco. My recommendation is that you sign up sooner rather than later (there’s only 30 seats). There were people who had come from Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and even one from Canada who ended up not showing. I have no financial interest in any of this, but walked away so impressed with both the store and the class that I want people who truly love barbecue to know about this.

These are some other classes that are a little more expensive (Viking) and a little cheaper (OCBC) for those who might live on the east side or in Akron/Canton. If you haven’t been to Old Carolina you should try it.

Other barbecue classes currently available (Click class title for links to the class):

The Heat Exchange Hearth & Patio Shoppe - $75.00 Brisket and Pork Butt, $50.00 Grilling Class

Old Carolina Barbecue Co. (at Belden Village Store) - $29.95 Basic Barbecue, $19.95 Creative Grilling

Loretta Paganini - $55.00 How to make four different kinds of ribs (4 seats left)

Viking Cooking School - $135 Barbecue Basics


  1. That definitely sounds like a class I would have liked to have taken. I have a "lost then found" Loretta Paganini gift certificate that expires in October, so I might look into that rib class. Then again, it's unclear if there's discussion of smoking (which is the cornerstone of good ribs as far as I'm concerned).

  2. My guess is that it probably doesn't include the smoke element, but you'd better not lose that thing again! Natural smoke flavor is definitely an integral part of barbecue, otherwise it's just grilling.

  3. I am interested in hearing more about the reheating process of the ribs. How did he recommend reheating the smoked ribs?

  4. Why remove the membrane? I like the membrane.

  5. @LtCaH - Chris took his ribs to within an hour of being ready to serve. Once we got home we were to cook them in the foil at the temperature he was cooking them at (225 I think) for the remaining hour. Everything ended up working out perfectly; still had crispy bark and still moist. You could easily cook your 20 slabs using this method with your current grill. Do you have a rake that you can stand them on end?

    @Diane - The membrane completely seals off the bottom of the ribs. Any rub or smoke that is applied gets caught in the membrane and never enters the meat from the underside. With that being said, it's barbecue - if that's the way you like it and you've got a way off cooking them that works for you, who's to say what's wrong and what's right? I personally don't like the membrane but the beauty of barbecue is you can suit it to your own tastes.