BrisketU brings a higher education to barbecue with new Chattanooga classes

Company already has trained 40,000 cooks

Smoked beef ribs / Getty Images/golubovy
Smoked beef ribs / Getty Images/golubovy

CORRECTION: This story was updated at 1:32 p.m. on Oct. 7 to correct the name of Texas-based barbecue company Backyard Pitmasters in the third paragraph. It had incorrectly stated Brickyard Pitmasters.

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A new university will open Saturday in Chattanooga to help local cooks learn the art of smoking meat.

The new school doesn't offer any degrees and accreditation and may not prepare you for the job market. But the $119 classes at a local brewery are likely to add more flavor, food and fun to their students' diet, and the three-hour course does provide students with a rich experience, some food and drink, and a certificate as a BrisketU Certified Pitmaster.

Backyard Pitmasters, a Texas-based barbecue company that teaches both novice and experienced cooks how to smoke different meats for the perfect traditional barbecue, is partnering with Tailgate Brewery next to the Chattanooga Choo Choo to begin offering classes. The pit smoking classes, billed as BrisketU, have already enrolled more than 40,000 students during the past six years in Texas and are being expanded this year to Tennessee with schools in both Nashville and Chattanooga.

"Backyard Pitmasters was created to be fun BBQ 'university' classes for everyday people because we saw there was nowhere in the country where you could simply learn the best way to smoke your favorite meat that was in a non-competitive, relaxed and fun backyard environment," co-founder Mike Albrecht said in an announcement of the company's expansion to Chattanooga. "We combine craft beer with craft BBQ without any intimidation."

The classes usually have no more than a couple dozen students and provide expert help and coaching from accomplished pitmasters who can help others learn the art of smoking brisket or cooking other meats from start to finish. Students are taught about starting and managing a firebox, timing the cook, selecting the right meats and slicing the end product.

Albrecht and his partner, Jon Kane, started the classes in 2016 in Houston. In a telephone interview, Kane said the idea has proved popular across Texas so the founders decided to enter other barbecue-famous states, including Tennessee as home of Memphis-style barbecue and North Carolina where Carolina grilling is popular.

Backyard Pitmasters began the first Tennessee class earlier this year in Nashville at East Nashville Beer Works and will likely enter the Carolinas with at least one location by the end of the year.

"Chattanooga just seemed like a natural market, and we're looking forward to doing lots of classes there," Kane said. "It seemed like a natural market given the interest in barbecue in these areas. Texas, Tennessee and the Carolinas are really the defining regions for barbecue, and we want to be in each of those areas."

While students will walk away with more expertise than most about smoking meats, the classes are not competitive or designed for those trying to compete in barbecue contests or wanting to open their own restaurant, Kane said.

"This is for your everyday griller who wants to tackle some of the more challenging cuts of meats and wants to have some fun while learning to be a better cook," he said.

Kane said people can read cookbooks or watch YouTube videos about grilling, "but you can't smell it, taste it or feel it like you can in our classes, and you certainly can't have the experience of working a fire or charcoal like what we give people in our classes," he said. "People often come to our classes as strangers, but they almost always leave as friends."

Kane said he expects to offer the classes at a variety of local breweries. Students may register for Saturday's class, which starts at 10 a.m. at Tailgate, at bit.ly/brisketU.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6340. Follow him on Twitter @dflessner1.


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