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BBQ Boot Camp

I had come looking for a few new tricks, and Raichlen was already impressing me. The first thing we tackled after moving back inside was grilled gazpacho. "I love experimenting with foods you normally wouldn't associate with the grill," Raichlen told the class. "And there's nothing better than telling people that you're going to grill some soup."

Raichlen called a class member to the front of the room, where he and Riki Senn, the Greenbrier cooking school director, presided over a couple of Ponderosa Steakhouse—sized charcoal grills. Mirrors were mounted overhead so we could watch the action. A very un-meaty assortment of bell peppers, cucumbers, scallions, onions, and tomatoes were quickly skewered. While the veggies cooked, another volunteer went up to help make the Perfect Burgers.

Before the class started, I'd had visions of spending three mornings over a grill, personally juggling five or six dishes while my face slowly melted from the heat. The one-volunteer-per-dish method was more to my liking. And Raichlen kept things moving: one classmate cooked, another prepped, Senn lent a hand, and Raichlen cracked jokes and gave helpful tips. Did you know that water pistols come in handy for flare-up control?

The grilled vegetables were chopped, tossed in a Cuisinart, and turned into gazpacho. The smoky flavor made it seem as if Raichlen had indeed figured out a way to flame-broil soup. The perfect hamburgers (each patty had a slice of garlic-herb butter hidden inside) filled the room with a mouthwatering aroma. All was going smoothly until Raichlen violated a chicken with a beer can.

"If you look cool, you have accomplished the ultimate goal of grilling. And with this recipe, eyes will pop, jaws will drop!" he roared before divulging the mysteries of the beer-can chicken. Prep work is simple: Pop open a Budweiser, take a few sips, and pour a couple of spoonfuls of barbecue dry-rub (equal parts salt, pepper, paprika, and brown sugar) into the can. After cleaning the bird, take the aforementioned Bud and, to put it delicately, shove it where the sun don't shine.

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