BBQ Boot Camp Basic Training: 1 Beer Can, Up 1 Chicken’s . . .


Q: Hey John, my expert barbecue buddy, it’s great to hear you’re back teaching barbecuing classes for the Redding Parks and Rec spring sessions. What are the classes, and where will they take place?

A: Classes take place in my backyard in Sunset Terrace. I find it easier as I can set up the day before and don’t have to move a lot of equipment. March 28 I’ll teach the backyard chili class. It will feature Al Vitzthum’s award-winning chili recipe, and other recipes, depending on enrollment. The chili class will concentrate on comfort-food-style cooking, and Al’s recipe will be the only contest-style recipe demonstrated.
April 18 I will do my classic BBQ Boot Camp. I’ll add a few things and delete others. I also want to teach homemade ground beef and I’d like to teach knife-sharpening, too. Oh, and the classic beer-can chicken, and the ribs and tri-tip will remain.

Q: Very cool. You mentioned Al Vitzthum. He’s a great guy, award-winning chili champion, and a cast-iron cooking expert. He’s who taught me how to remove cast-iron rust by using a mixture of vinegar and alfalfa pellets. Unfortunately Al’s not feeling well enough these days to do any heavy cooking, so it’s extra special to see his recipes up and running around, even when he’s not. Maybe he can read this story and add his comments. He’ll be bossing us around in no time.

A: Al actually cleaned a very rusty cast iron skillet for me one time. He has a great collection of cast iron and ancillary equipment. At one time he was giving Dutch oven classes at That Kitchen Place on Hilltop.

Q: John, tell me if this is too personal, but did a serious health situation cause you to alter your recipes?

A: My heart attack was caused by stress. My blood pressure was under control and my cholesterol was not bad. Now I am taking cholesterol pills and aspirin and blood pressure pills. I watch what I eat but I still eat it all. My wife limits me to four eggs a week and for steak I get a lean cut like top sirloin; no more rib eyes for me. As part of my bbq class I am working on making ground beef at home to control the fat level and flavor, and it’s probably safer, also. I am president of a new group forming at Mercy Medical Center. We have organized a Redding Chapter of Mended Hearts, which is a national organization of heart-event people supporting heart-event people, but that is another story for another time.

Q: OK then, back to your current classes. Although I’m a proud graduate of your BBQ Boot Camp (as are my husband and son), I could use a refresher course. Actually, I probably use your beer-can chicken technique most of all, although I’ve run into a few people who wince at the thought of cooking a chicken with an aluminum can stuck inside it.

A: I haven’t run into problems with beer-can chicken. There is a wire rack that you can buy the does the same thing as the beer can, only it look a little more traditional. Last two Thanksgivings I have put the large can of Fosters Lager in the turkey cavity horizontally. Make sure the can is only half full and that the can opening is up when you stick it in. I believe it helps keep the turkey moist.

Q: This has been fun, John. I hope you’ll come back often and share recipes and cooking ideas with us. You may have noticed that A News Cafe is packed with thousands of dedicated foodies. Anything else we should cover before you go?

A: I am working on doing a pickling/canning class in the fall, and I will let you know as it gets closer.


Backyard Chili Class: Sat. March 28, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Course No. BQ03101

Cost: $10 registration; $20 for materials fee, paid to instructor for food, supplies and handouts.

BBQ Boot Camp: Sat. April 18, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Course No. BQ04101

Cost: $10 registration; $29 for materials fee paid to instructor for food, supplies and handouts.

Sign up: Via VISA or Mastercard call the Redding Parks and Recreation Department at 225-4095. Or via online click here to reach the Redding Parks and Recreation Department’s website.

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate. Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.