The following is an interview with Allen Frecker, a social studies teacher at Cincinnati’s Hughes STEM High School. (The acronym stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.) Twice a year, the school suspends regular classes and gives students the opportunity to spend a week immersed in special interest programs organized by the faculty to teach students real-life lessons and even inspire career choices.
Three years ago, Allen recruited our help in motivating his students with educational materials—videos of Primal Grill with Steven Raichlen—as well as grilling equipment and products from the Companion Group. Students not only learn barbecue basics, but document their live-fire experience via iMovie and a website. We are proud to support this program, and salute Allen and passionate teachers everywhere.
How is it your students get to take a class on barbecue?
Hughes STEM High School here in Cincinnati, Ohio, sponsors a weeklong intersession in which regular studies stop and the real learning begins. Students can choose from a variety of courses ranging from engineering to medicine to barbecue. Barbecue is the hook I use to get students to learn a whole lot of technology, ranging from the website they design to the instructional videos they film and the edit.
Tell us about your set up. Grills? Smokers?
The entire class cooks on a 3-foot by 5-foot tow-behind smoker that our friend Jason Dement was kind enough to loan to us for the competition.
What barbecue techniques do you teach the kids?
In meetings prior to our week together, students watch a variety of segments from Primal Grill with Steven Raichlen covering the barbecue classics like brisket, pork shoulder, ribs, and chicken. Students then get to choose what type of meat they would like to cook for the competition.
What’s the right age to get kids started with barbecue?
It is never too early to start with your kids at home (just ask my three wonderful girls!). My course teaches students as young as seventh grade.
What lessons do you hope barbecue will teach the kids about life?
The greatest life lesson I hope students learn is the community and sharing that accompany barbecue are essential parts of a happy and fulfilled life. Students benefit from the community of parents, family, staff, and volunteers who attend the competition and the incredible community of people who have thrown their support behind the entire endeavor.
What was the biggest challenge?
Do you know how difficult it can be to pull off the perfect brisket, ribs, pork shoulder or chicken? Try doing it for 18 cooks with 5 different meats on one smoker and having it all ready on time.
What was the favorite dish?
The judges awarded first prize to the baby back ribs, but overall, I was most impressed with the quality of the brisket this year.
Do you make your own rubs and barbecue sauces?
The day before the competition the class travels to the Midwest Culinary Institute at Cincinnati State University to spend a day in one of their kitchens where the students make all of the rubs and sauces according to the recipes they develop themselves.
Any budding pit masters in your class?
Yes! One of the wonderful things about the class is many students leave with a love for barbecue and end up learning a whole lot of technology at the same time.
Brag about any young barbecuers you know on the Barbecue Board. We’d love to hear about the next generation of barbecue fanatics.
See past years of the Big Red Barbeque class: