Vegetarians might be tempted to fall off the wagon if they were to sample Roy Spooner's barbecued ribs.
As pit master in charge of the Yellowhead Rotary Club's high-tech smoker/barbecue, he's become a master of his craft, and he's willing to divulge the ingredients of his sauces and rubs.
The only catch is, you have to join the club.
"I'll share the secret recipes with any members of the barbecue crew, it's really all a membership plot," laughed Spooner.
The smoker and all that's involved in operating it has proved popular with Rotary members who can apply cooking techniques they've learned at fundraising events to their own backyard barbecues. Spooner has rounded up four real-life engineers who manage the airflow of the smoker.
"Men and women from the club are involved - everyone has fun doing it, and they make money [for the charity]," said Spooner. "We get all kinds of guys who come up and drool over the barbecue. This sucker is a big thing and there is a science to how it works. We'll teach a lot of people how to really barbecue."
As a requirement to work with the smoker,14 Rotary Club members took a Foodsafe course to learn how to handle food. Made in Georgia out of rolled steel three-eighths of an inch thick, the birchwood-fired smoker weighs about a tonne and is mounted permanently on a trailer. Despite its name, almost no smoke is emitted from the barbecue.
Spooner's rubs and marinating sauces are key in the whole process of winning over the public. At the Canada Day events at Fort George Park, lineups were long for the Rotary barbecue concession that sold ribs, beans and chilli. Rotary sold 600 racks of ribs that day and raised about $1,000. To keep up with demand at busy events, ribs have to be precooked on the site and boiled in a hot marinade before they go into the smoker.
To get ready for the crush of hungry customers, Rotarians get out early in the morning, boiling and precooking the ribs and applying spices to the meat, which is cooked slowly at low temperatures. They also use the smoker to cook large roasts.
"When you're doing barbecuing this way it's anywhere from a six- to 12-hour thing, " said Spooner. "You can fiddle around with different kinds of wood to get different smoke flavours and the secret is to start off with really good meat.
"One of the reasons people do barbecuing is you can take a piece of meat that would otherwise turn out tough, and if you cook it low enough and long enough it will turn out tender. That's why things like brisket and flank steak turn out so well on a barbecue."
This summer, Rotary plans to use it to feed people and raise money for Rotary at the 100th annual PGX, the Baseball Canada Senior Championship and the Prince George Symphony Orchestra's Pops in the Park. The club hopes to raise as much as $10,000 from its smoker sales alone this summer.
Spooner has seen barbecue competitions in Texas that pay off in prizes as lucrative as $50,000. He's hoping to get a crew together next year for a two-week road trip to enter some of those U.S. events.
"Our Rotary club isn't struggling to attract membership, as are many service clubs, but we're conscious of the need to attract more members and that's another reason for doing this," Spooner. "It's interesting, fun, and you can learn."