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4H–Delivering Skills for the Future

Kid’s Tailgate Grilling Camp & Contest is Smokin’!

By Jeff Finger
Barbecue Extraordinaire

Tallahassee, FL – Kids playing with fire? No. Kids learning how to respect and control the fire so they can prepare flavorful, moist and

Sonny's BBQ

Sonny’s BBQ’s Alec Doll demonstrates how to smoke and sauce ribs on a Southern Pride Smoker. Photo by Marcus Boston

tender cuts of pork, poultry, beef, and seafood? Absolutely! Welcome to your local 4H Tailgate Grilling Camp.

For three days, local Leon County Florida 4H Extension Agents Marcus Boston and Brian Estevez taught kids, from 11 to 15 years old (up to 18 is allowed), about a wide variety of aspects of meat selection and preparation. A food safety specialist from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Heidi Copeland, discussed safe storage practices, minimum internal cooking temperatures, food borne illness and cross contamination prevention.

Longtime Memphis in May and KCBS certified BBQ judge, Jeff Finger, Pitmaster of Sho’ My Butt BBQ Team, demonstrated the intricacies of

Publix Meat Market

Publix Meat Department Manager Scott Bussey gives the kids tips on good meat selection. Photo by Marcus Boston.

charcoal grill use, safety, and cooking strategy. Local businesses helped as well. A spectacular field trip to Sonny’s BBQ provided the kids with a first- hand view of what they were learning being applied in a commercial setting. Likewise, the kids were able to see and discuss the characteristics of various meat cuts thanks to Publix grocery. A tour of the grill section in Academy Sports let the kids learn about the many different types of grills, from propane gas to charcoal and pellet offerings to combination units, both direct and indirect heat varieties, as well as accessories.

Valuable lessons on food presentation were communicated: the meat being able to stand on its own, not over-seasoning, over-cooking, and over-covering it with sauce. Important life lessons like “your brain is your greatest accessory” were also relayed. Emphasis was placed on thinking through potential problems – from picking the right

Academy Sports

Academy Sports Sally Cole Pumphrey demonstrates the operation of a grill. Photo by Marcus Boston.

meat for the requested cook temp to handling fire flame-ups – and working to solve them.


4H Camper

4H camper Jason Liang grilling Ribeye steaks. Photo by Marcus Boston.

On day three of the camp, all those lessons and observations came together. The kids put into practice what they had learned; some even went the extra mile and brought in special rubs and marinades – secret family recipes. They prepped their meat, fired-up their Weber Smokey Joe grills, controlled their fire and cooked their meat to the proper temperature. Afterward, a good meal – pork tenderloins, chicken thighs, shrimp kabobs, ribeye steaks, ground chuck burger – and camaraderie were enjoyed by all. 

Attendees who completed the course qualified to compete in one of the four regional 4H grilling competitions. They can pick from items in four meat protein categories – pork, beef, poultry, and seafood – to grill. Winners in each category will receive a cash

prize – $400 1st place, $250 2nd place, $100 3rd place, $50 Fourth Place – with the top two individuals per protein qualifying for the State Championship. First and second place winners there qualify for $1500 and $1000 college scholarships, respectively. Not only were the kids learning skills for the future, whether for cooking at home, working the various jobs in the food industry, or continuing their education, but they were also having a doggone smokin’ good time! *For more information on this or other life skill camps, please contact your local 4H Extension Agent or visit


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