Elevate Your Tailgate With BBQ Bootcamp

The football season draws nigh, Bison Nation. This year, elevate your tailgating game with these helpful recipes and tips from NDSU’s BBQ Bootcamp.

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Photos By Hillary Ehlen

On a warm sunny day in Fargo, we met up with Dr. Eric Berg and Spencer Wirt of the NDSU Meat Science department to talk tailgating. Why tailgating, you ask? Both Wirt and Berg spearhead North Dakota State’s BBQ Bootcamp. The primary goal of BBQ Bootcamp is to help cookers learn about new cooking methods, meat cut selection, food safety and nutrition and different means of cooking meat (smoking, gas and charcoal). They can be found at every Bison home game in the tailgate lot passing out their delicious recipes.


Today, we had them reveal a few of their secrets to give you some new recipes to try this football season. All of which will impress your friends, family and neighboring tailgaters.

Spencer Wirt (Left) and Dr. Eric Berg (right) with their tool of choice.

The Basics

Each of the following foods is first rubbed in BBQ Bootcamp’s “Carnivore Rub”. It is vital to the flavor of each dish and is as crucial as the meat itself. While the importance of this rub can intimidate some tailgaters, the recipe is actually not as complex as many believe.

Carnivore Rub

1/4 cup Salt

1 Teaspoon Granulated Garlic

1 Tablespoon Coarse Ground Pepper

It’s as easy as combining those three ingredients and you have your own carnivore rub. Now, we can get down to making some delicious food.


Pork And Pineapple Kababs

The pork and pineapple kababs are a simple, yet delicious starter for those inhabiting your tailgate tent. Start by slicing up your chosen cut of pork (shoulder or belly recommended) into cubes. Follow that up by slicing up fresh pineapple into equal size cubes. After soaking your kabab sticks in water, place the pork and pineapple cubes onto the stick and head to the grill. Cook on high temperature while consistently turning your kababs. Since these are small slices of meat, they will not take as long to cook.

INSIDER INFO: Why pineapple, you might be asking? Dr. Berg explains how the enzyme bromelain acts as a quick meat tenderizer. The enzyme breaks down protein chains, softening up your chosen cut of meat. Do not marinate too long though, meat can literally fall apart if exposed to bromelain for too long. However, for this kabab, it acts as a simple marinade that will make cooking much easier. Papaya is also capable of that trait but on a much larger scale. It may be worth trying, but papayas are risky with meat.

Steak On A Stick

It’s simple in nature, but oh so delicious when it comes off the grill. You begin with smaller beef cuts. Stick the cuts so that they will not fall off the stick while cooking (remember to have your sticks in water beforehand). Like the kababs, these will cook quickly on high temperature. Roughly 3-4 minutes on each side should give you the perfect handheld snack.

TIP: Make sure to soak your sticks in water. If you do not, your appetizers will come out tasting like a stick!



The porchetta is a pork roast stuffed with Italian sausage. The sausage is a personal BBQ Bootcamp touch as many traditional porchettas fill the roast with liver, fennel or pork fat. Its preparation is simple enough beginning with the slicing of a pork roast into two halves. Add to that your Italian sausage, spreading it over the top of one of the pork roast halves.

Next place the halves together, creating a sort of sandwich. Perhaps the trickiest part is sewing the porchetta together. Wirt uses a homemade method of a broken piece of paper clip and string to make a makeshift needle. He will then sew the porchetta up around the edges entirely and ready it for the grill. BBQ Bootcamp will throw this on a 375-400 degree grill for about 90 minutes or until completely cooked.

Stuffed Pork Loin

For the more adventurous tailgater, this stuffed pork loin puts an Italian take on the classic loin. Begin with your pork loin and cut it in half. Next, slice one of the halves thinly into thirds without breaking the loin apart. The result should be a long, thin slice of pork loin. After applying the carnivore rub to both sides, you’ll now make it Italian.

Apply pesto (BBQ Bootcamp uses the Kirkland brand) to the loin. Next, add spinach and feta cheese), there is no real limit to the amount of spinach and feta you add, just make sure you can roll the loin up. Finally, roll the loin up and tie it up at each end to keep it together while cooking. Like the porchetta, this will cook at 375-400 for 90 minutes or so.

TIP: If there is one thing BBQ Bootcamp wants you to take away from this article, it is to make sure you are cooking your meat properly and to temperature. There is a multitude of ways to do this. The first is to have a classic meat thermometer (left) where it can accurately gauge the current temperature or your meat in relation to its ideal heat. A more convenient method is using your smartphone. There are plenty of different apps and Bluetooth meat thermometers that can hook up to your phone. That way you can enjoy tailgating rather than standing by your grill, constantly testing your meat.


Pineapple Steaks

Slice your pineapple into “steak” sized slices. Place on high-temperature grill and cook until soft and there are visible grill marks.

Grilled Peaches

Half your peaches and place skin-side up on a high-temperature grill. Cook until you have good grill marks before flipping. BBQ Bootcamp places their homemade “caramel” sauce where the pit used to be. That mixture will melt into the rest of the peach. The skin should fall off with little effort before you remove them from your grill and serve.

For more information on BBQ Bootcamp and rub recipes, visit: or

Elevate Your Tailgate With BBQ Bootcamp
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