Rockford’s ACE high royal flush BBQ boot camp


“Grillin’ Guy” Bob Nurmikko displays a perfect Grist Mill brisket supplied by Canonsburg’s Don Kurylowicz. Let the grillin’ class begin! Photo by STACY NEIDZWIECKI,

“It was awesome”, said Rockford master plumber Blaine Kellermeier after the second of two summer grilling seminars, complete with sit-down dinners, which were hosted by Pete Kruer of Rockford’s ACE Hardware. “I consider myself a fairly accomplished backyard griller,” continued Kellermeier, “but I’ve managed to learn something new while attending each of these classes.”

Last week’s second “ BBQ boot camp”, held in the beautiful ACE gardens adjacent to the hardware store, focused on pork butts and briskets. As with the first class, real BBQ experts were on hand to bring everyone in attendance to the next level.

BBQ expert Rob Russell discusses grilling and smoking techniques and necessary “tools of the trade” that will result in a brisket that will drip deliciousness. Photo by STACY NEIDZWIECKI,

Presiding over the class were radio show hosts “Barbecue” Bob Nurmikko and Randy “Jop” Joppie, aka “The Grillin ’Guys”. Also instructing was Rob Russell of Kansas City’s Ace of Hearts Barbecue Specialties. Russell has a reputation of being the top expert on BBQ grilling in the nation.

Highlighted during the evening, was pork butt and brisket preparation – especially trimming techniques to remove excess fat. Although one may, there is no reason to leave all of the fat on a brisket. Smoke and rubs will not penetrate it and it will take more time to fuel and cook the brisket with all of the fat intact. In the end, you are not going to eat the fat – you are going to cut it away and discard it.

Classmates learned, especially when it comes to smoking, the necessity of placing meats that are as cold as possible on the grill. Meat will only take up smoke between 40 degrees F. and 140 degrees F. If you start with meat at room temperature, you will not end up with a desired perfect smoke ring.

‘OUCH’ – what a pain in the butt, the pork butt that is. Rob Russell is about to reveal award-winning injection techniques. Photo by STACY NEIDZWIECKI,

Much time was spent stressing the importance of using premium natural hardwood lump charcoal and maintaining proper temperatures during the entire process – before, during, and after.

Tenderizing techniques and methods, which included marinades and a hand-tenderizing tool called a ‘Jaccard’ were discussed and demonstrated. Injection methods and ingredients were also touched on.

As with any large roast, we were reminded it is important to let a brisket rest for at least 30 minutes before slicing so the juices inside have a chance to redistribute.

We could go on and on with additional tricks of the grilling art that were covered that evening. One really should have been taking notes to absorb it all but no one was. No problem, everyone in attendance that evening was presented with a 22-page printout, including pictures and diagrams, of everything covered.

We found two hints very interesting. First, never soak hardwoods in water before using in smoking. By the time the soaked wood releases the water and begins to smoke the meat temperature has risen to a point where it cannot take up enough smoke to achieve a perfect smoke ring. Second, never discard the burnt ends and dry edges of a finished brisket. These morsels are highly prized by professionals for their intense smoky flavor. Slice these pieces into bits and mix with BBQ sauce for an over-the-top taste sensation.

Let’s eat! This brisket has a smoke ring so beautiful it only needs a diamond! Photo by STACY NEIDZWIECKI,

“Watch your hometown newspaper for news of upcoming Rockford ACE cooking classes to add your name to a list of professionally trained backyard grillers and smokers,” said Pete Kruer. “I’m proud to offer and sponsor these classes along with offering a huge selection of grills and smokers of all major brands and types. Stop in at the hardware and check out what may be Michigan’s largest selection of “small batch” sauces, seasonings, and rubs along with a complete line of grilling accessories.”

Rockford’s ACE Hardware is proud to carry The Good One line of smoker grills. In big nationwide grilling competitions, 80% of the winners use a Good One smoker grill. And oh, don’t forget ACE also carries The Good One brand of premium lump charcoal!

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The Squire has been Rockford’s free weekly newspaper since 1871. Our loyal readership includes over fifteen thousand homes in the Rockford area, including the affluent Lakes area of Lake Bella Vista, Bostwick Lake and Silver Lake; Belmont, Blythefield, as well as Algoma, Courtland, Cannon and Plainfield Townships. The Squire is distributed through the U.S. Post Office every Thursday. We also deliver to in-town businesses and homes with paper carriers and news stands in our grocery stores and over thirty local shops.