Posted: June 15, 2018 in BBQ, Cooking, Food porn, Traeger

I had an interesting opportunity this week. I had BBQ class with a true expert. And now I want to BBQ the world.

A little backstory.

I’ve always been a fan of good BBQ. I love me some pulled pork and brisket. Love the taste and smell of something done on a wood fire. Supportive Partner Woman’s cousin and her husband have had a Traeger wood fired grill for years and were always raving about it. Never really considered getting one until last June. SPW (lover of 80’s music!) and I were attending a Tears for Fears concert at Verizon Center and the usherette in our section started saying how she was hungry for smoked macaroni and cheese. I looked at SPW and said, “I’m going to talk smokers with John when next we see him.”

The following week we were at a family function and we chatted a bit. Went home that night and ordered a Traeger Junior Elite. It was a small unit, but I figured what the heck, it’s a start.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and our local Costco was having a Traeger roadshow. They had a far larger unit that was on great sale (about $300 off). I said, “Want,” snagged it and returned the smaller one.

This has provided some tasty cooks over the year that I’ve had it… my biggest fear was to spend money on good meat and then screw up the cook. All that aside, this beautiful Traeger has saved my bacon at Christmas, providing enough space to cook a ham and a turkey, both of which tasted amazing. I recently did some Copper River salmon with alder wood pellets and some salt, pepper, and olive oil. SPW (consumer of tasty salmon!) stopped licking the plate long enough to express a desire for more.

Still, that touch of PA Dutch conservatism came to mind. Did I want to spend big bucks on a nice brisket that I could easily eff up?


So when I saw that the Traeger shop class would be in the area for two sessions, I signed right up. I had read reviews of these classes… taught by real champion pitmasters, lots of knowledge and a great way to meet other pelletheads in the area. Let me sum up by saying that the reviews were spot on.


Diva-Q talks the fine points of reverse searing with class participants.

The instructor for both sessions was Danielle “Diva-Q” Bennett. She’s brash, direct, passionate, and an accomplished pitmaster and teacher. She’s quick to point out that she teaches the fine art of BBQ to over 2,000 students a year. That’s a lot of knowledge imparted to some eager BBQ enthusiasts. I can’t say enough good about Diva-Q, even if she disagrees on my like of alder pellets (yes, it’s mild, but if I’m making fish, that’s what I want). I had taken a brisket class before… yet one hour in this class, I feel ready to tackle an expensive Wagyu brisket. That I’m willing to cast aside my usual fear of failure after such a short time speaks volumes about Diva-Q’s teaching ability.


Not the official taste tester, although I’m sure she wouldn’t have minded

Both nights opened with a tasting of Traeger’s smoked lemonade. Available in regular and high-test (with Tito’s vodka), this is refreshingly tart, yet not overpowering. Diva-Q is quick to give credit to Natalie, one of the shop support folks, who has a more mainstream taste when it comes to tart things. On the first night, this was followed by Margherita pizza, which was excellent. It’s amazing you can use your grill/smoker to make a perfectly acceptable pizza. The lessons are marked with added tips… for example, if using a pizza stone, make sure you heat it WITH the grill rather than putting it on the grill when hot.

First night also included reverse seared steak and St. Louis-style ribs. I should state up front that I was not a rib fan. After trying these, I’m all in on good ribs. One of the biggest tips you get is how to pick quality meats, what to look for in terms of marbling, and also how best to trim the meat.

The last item on the first day was peach cobbler. We can sum that up with “YUM!”

Second night was called “Meat Master” and there was a lot of meat. Not quite meat sweats level, but very meat-centric (not a bad thing). First item on the list was spatchcock chicken. Learned the art of trimming chicken and how best to set it on the grill. This was followed by reverse seared ribeye. Basically, that means smoke the steaks BEFORE you sear them.


Pulled pork (photo credit: @divaqbbq)

This was followed by the best pulled pork I’ve ever had. The photo is hijacked from Diva-Q’s Instagram since I couldn’t get close enough to get my own shot, but it’s a thing of beauty. No sauce needed… just tender meat with a good, solid rub.

The last item taught was brisket. Included how best to trim the brisket, what to do with the trimmings, how to properly wrap it, and the importance of letting it rest. Also, how it’s best not to skimp on your brisket quality.

These classes are fantastic… if you get the chance and want to up your BBQ game, do it. Next time they are in my area, I plan on taking SPW (Who can then make her own BBQ!). In the meantime, even if you don’t own a Traeger, I can recommend visiting their site and downloading the app. There are many fantastic recipes available, and it’s worth the time. Even if you don’t like the recipe, you can always make it your own by using different spices or different flavors of wood pellets

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