Barbecue Boot Camps: Taste Instead of Torture

Boot camp tends to be something people sign up for because they think they should. Participating may be helpful for getting back in shape or training for an athletic event, but it usually just feels good when it’s over.

Imagine if boot camp were a joy to the taste buds instead. These five culinary-minded camps teach barbecue techniques, from fire making to the whole hog, and they feel good from beginning to end.

Alisal Guest Ranch BBQ Boot Camp

Held every March, the BBQ Boot Camp takes place on this 10,000-acre working ranch in California’s Santa Ynez Valley. Santa Maria barbecue originated from 19th-century Spanish-style ranch cookouts in this region, and is considered one of the significant barbecue types in the United States. Executive Chef Pascal Godé and Hitching Post II owner Frank Ostini help guests hone their grilling skills, with sessions covering barbecue elements and techniques – from spice rubs to starting a fire.

The Broadmoor BBQ University

It may sound smarty-pants, but BBQ University at this five-star Colorado Resort appeals even to the common man. The grilling course is named after instructor Steven Raichlen’s PBS TV show, and has been called the “best barbecue experience in America” by the Food Network. To learn the six methods of live-fire cooking, students can choose from more than 30 smokers and grills during the session, as well as prepare at least eight recipes per day. Put on your big boy apron. They don’t call it BBQ Kindergarten, do they?Jack’s Old South Cooking School

Learn to grill like a champion at this school for barbecue in Georgia. The Jack’s Old South Competion Bar-B-Que Team has won more than 200 grand championships, 40 state championships and 11 national championships in barbecue. Chief Cook Myron Mixon holds the Jack’s Old South Cooking School at his home, with courses in whole hog, ribs, chicken, brisket and pork. Those who dream of being pit masters will feel at home with the contest format style of the school.

North Carolina Barbecue Society BBQ Boot Camp

“Society” and “barbecue” go together at the NCBS BBQ Boot Camp, where campers learn to master North Carolina-style barbecue and judging. The state’s best pit masters and chefs teach barbecue techniques for everything from wild salmon to whole beef tenderloins, and ambitious students can sit up all night with pit masters preparing whole hogs for the grill. The diploma students earn here may find a special place on the kitchen wall at home.

The Culinary Institute of America Grilling and BBQ Boot Camp

The Grilling and BBQ Boot Camp promises students will “BBQ your way across the United States,” without having to spend tons of money on gas. The intensive class covers hot smoke and barbecue for dishes ranging from seafood, poultry and meat to veggies and side dishes. Students mystified by rubs, sauces, brines and marinades will see the light, and become a celebrated grill master at home. Boot campers here walk away with a classy chef’s uniform.