Though some people grill and barbecue all year long, summer is the season when things really heat up. And after the winter some of us have suffered through, the summer barbecue season can’t come soon enough.
While we can’t wait to get the grill season going, how early is too early to expose someone to the grilling ways? For this I don’t mean how early in the spring, I mean at what age is it best to start molding the next generation of grill masters.
The family grill can become a great gathering spot, preempting the dinner table where we can talk about our day and what’s going on in our lives. It’s also a great time to open the eyes of all those around you to the wonderful world of grilling and barbecuing.
Who knows, pretty soon the barbecuing and grilling skills learned in the backyard will be good enough to take on the road, as barbecue competitions have really, pardon the pun, heated up fairly recently, to what Jim Compart calls a sport.
Compart should know. As president of Compart Family Farms Premium Duroc, the family’s pork product has been finding its way onto spits and grates of some of the top barbecue teams across the country. On May 10, the Comparts hope to spread the love of barbecuing to a young crowd at the Compart Kids Challenge at the Isanti, Minn., County Fairgrounds. Compart says the youth usually compete by barbecuing burgers, but the Compart family of Nicollet, Minn., decided to up the game a little bit this year by donating boneless pork loins.
The youth are provided a kettle grill and the pork loin, and it is up to them to wow the judges with a creation of their own. Each cook needs to bring their own utensils, sauces and seasonings. Youth, each provided a one-third pork loin package, will be divided into two separate age groups: 7-10 and 11-15. An adult will be available to help with fires, cutting the pork loin and temperatures, but the youth must handle the preparation, cooking and presentation on their own.
Compart says the only constraint to the youth’s creativity is time. “They can stuff it or do whatever they want, but it has to be done in time,” he says, “Mom and Dad can’t be doing it. They are supervising, but the kids are the ones that have to do it.”
The youth competition kicks off the weekend event called Minnesota In May, put on by the Minnesota BBQ Society. In addition to the youth divisions, about 100 barbecue teams will compete in backyard and Kansas City Barbeque Society competitions. Teams in the KCBS competition will vie for $11,500 in prizes.
Getting a youth movement in the barbecue scene is the next step as Compart sees it. “You watch Barbecue Pit Masters, and you’ve got people buying pork or buying meat and getting more active in their backyard, and us as protein suppliers they’re buying your product, but this is something that has grown,” he says. “It’s a sport that affects your demand and gets a buzz going of people looking for pork and pork ribs, and the barbecue people are trying to develop that next generation, you know spending time with their kids, and having fun with them, rather than spending time on their iPad. … this is nice they can go out and do this as a family.”
Not only does barbecuing create a bond in families and neighbors, it can be a great promotion for animal proteins and, of course, especially pork. Compart says exposing more consumers to pork anyway possible is good news for the swine industry. “If we try to sell just 1% more pork per year, it’s a huge game changer,” he says.
The next time you fire up the grill, call your family, friends and neighbors over, and share with them your barbecuing knowledge. Who knows, you may be training the next Pit Master. And, when you’re also sharing great-tasting barbecue pork, it’s a double win.