State Tech takes barbecue to the next level by smoking entire steer

BY Edward Gehlert, Staff Writer
Posted 9/9/21

State Tech took the art of barbecuing to the next level with its creation and utilization of a nine-foot grill to smoke a whole steer over the course of 38 hours last week with an open meal served to …

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State Tech takes barbecue to the next level by smoking entire steer

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State Tech took the art of barbecuing to the next level with its creation and utilization of a nine-foot grill to smoke a whole steer over the course of 38 hours last week with an open meal served to everyone who showed up last Wednesday.

Students and faculty members from various departments worked together on the design and construction of the grill, which easily held up to the more than 700 pounds of weight put on it by the steer.

The college’s welding students used plans designed by the drafting department to fabricate the grill. Precision machining students became involved by adding handles and gauges. Heavy equipment operation students played a part in the project as well, using an excavator to lift the steer into, and out of, the grill. 

Even the meat had a local connection to the college. The steer, Toro, was purchased by State Tech at the Osage County Fair from Lily Baker. 

The Baker family sent a large, homemade card to the college thanking them for buying her steer and stated they were excited that Toro was the first-ever steer purchased by State Tech.

The meat was prepared by injecting five gallons of liquid seasoning into it and half was coated with a dry rub. It was then cooked at temperatures between 225 and 250 degrees for 38 hours. Volunteers kept an eye on the temperature and added fresh charcoal roughly every half hour.

Ben Berhorst, a dean in the Division of Technology, said that when the college bought a steer at the county fair it was decided that this would be a good project to get different departments, faculty, and students working together. 

“We started looking on the internet and it didn’t look like anybody had ever really cooked a big beef before and we thought if anybody could try it, it would be us,” Berhorst said. “We set up a meeting initially with the drafting program and the welding program. We visited with ideas about how to make this work. Design/Drafting drew it all up and then welding fabricated it within a couple of weeks. Precision machining also made some components on it.”

Berhorst said that he believed approximately 50 students and 10 faculty were involved in the project in one capacity or another.

“It was awesome,” said Berhorst. “It was going to be awesome regardless because we all worked together to accomplish this. The fact that (the meat) turned out great is just a bonus. You can look around and see everybody smiling. This is what it’s all about.”

Overkill Barbecue is what faculty and staff decided to call the event. One student said the name was fitting while another remarked he hoped the college would do a bunch of turkeys for Thanksgiving.

“I would not rule anything out,” laughed Berhorst when asked about turkeys. “This won’t be the last time you see Overkill the grill. I suspect our next adventure will be to see how many hogs we can fit on it, but we’ll see.”

Heavy Equipment Operations Instructor Bobby Kinder said  13 students helped with the project. Kinder praised the students for their work and said he couldn’t have done it without them. 

“One student said that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be able to do it,” said Kinder. “Not everybody cooks sides of beef every day.”

State Tech President Dr. Shawn Strong said he was impressed with how fast the project came together. Strong stressed it was a team effort between faculty and students, along with the departments involved.

“When we talked about buying a steer at the Osage County Fair, the question becomes what are you going to do with it once you buy it?” Dr. Strong said. “We quickly determined we were going to build a grill and cook the whole beef because, why not?”

Dr. Strong said that originally they thought they’d have maybe a few hundred students come out to eat. The length of the line easily passed that conservative estimate.

“I’m guessing half of our student body has come through the line so far,” said Dr. Strong. “This exceeded our expectations. We really didn’t know when we pulled it off the grill if the meat would be edible. We knew it would be safe to eat but we didn’t know how it would taste. It turned out to be some really good food.”

There is excitement from staff, faculty, and students about the possibility of using the grill for future events.

“We’ve had some discussions about how many pigs we can fit in that, how many chickens, and how many turkeys,” said Dr. Strong. “We’ll see. That thing is a little bit of work. So we’re going to try to automate it, maybe turn it into a true pellet grill type of thing. This time around it was kind of fun to babysit it. I, and a few of the deans, spent the last couple of nights here. I could do a few all-nighters when I was younger, but it wears me out now. Now that we know how to operate it we can turn it over to somebody else.”

Dr. Strong said that the college’s intent was to make a memory for students. 

“We call them high-impact experiences, something that a student will remember about their time at school,” said Dr. Strong. “I think we succeeded.”

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