The Pitmaster

Dr. Jeff Savell '75 has a knack for barbecuing, especially when it comes to Texas brisket.

by Tyler Allen '18

Describe your typical day.

“No two days are alike, because meat science sits at the crossroads of many industries. We work with cattle producers on meat production, restaurateurs on cooking and taste, dietitians on meat safety and large corporations like Tyson Foods on product development.”

How do meat scientists ensure that consumers receive the best products?

“We focus on sensory palatability to determine how various cuts of meat taste. This means we use trained sensory panels and consumer panels to evaluate favorite products. In laboratories, we determine the nutrient composition of various cuts of meat and work with microbiology colleagues to better understand how to prevent bacteria like Salmonella and E. Coli from being present. Meat must be produced, processed, inspected and packaged to comply with all USDA regulations before it arrives at the store. Our work involves every step.”

Dr. Jeff Savell ’75 has taught animal and meat science at Texas A&M since 1982. He also co-founded the university’s Texas Barbecue program, which annually hosts two workshops: Barbecue Summer Camp and Camp Brisket.
Repeat Customers

During his teaching career at Texas A&M, Savell has taught 14,000 students across multiple generations. He can often tell his students where their parents sat—or met—in class. In his fall 2016 Texas Barbecue seminar, one-third of his students had one or both parents who had taken one of his classes.

Barbecue Craze

Texas A&M’s Barbecue Summer Camp has grown so popular that Foodways Texas switched to a lottery admission system. The last time the camp had an online registration, it sold out in ten seconds. For more information, visit or

Happy Camper

Savell was a namesake for T-Camp in 1997 and for Fish Camp in 2015. He has a passion for developing young leaders, and between both camps, he’s spoken to over 200 incoming students.

A Hot Seat

Savell has held the E.M. “Manny” Rosenthal Chair in Animal Science for nearly 25 years. Funded through the Texas A&M Foundation by Roz and Manny Rosenthal ’42, it was the first endowed meat science chair in the nation. Rosenthal was a longtime president and board chairman of Standard Meat Co.

Penning for Pitmasters

Savell wrote the foreword for Robb Walsh’s updated “Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook” in 2016. Within its pages, you’ll find classic methods and new techniques for barbecuing, along with cutting-edge smokers, pits, tools and accessories. There are also innovative new recipes like trimmed brisket, cook-off ribs and luscious double-decker BBQ sandwiches.

Meet Dr. Jeff Savell '75

University Distinguished Professor

E.M. “Manny” Rosenthal Chair in Animal Science
Co-Founder, Texas Barbecue at Texas A&M
Research interests: Quality, taste, health and safety of meat, with an emphasis on Texas beef.

Let’s talk about your foray into Texas Barbecue.

“The Texas Barbecue program at Texas A&M began in 2009 when faculty were asked to develop smaller, freshman-level seminar classes that could aid students’ transition to college. We started a first-year seminar called Texas Barbecue, which has become wildly popular. I brought Robb Walsh, author of the “Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook,” to speak our first year, and he had the idea to develop a much broader program now known as Foodways Texas. Housed at The University of Texas at Austin, Foodways Texas promotes the diverse food culture of Texas through seminars, documentaries, recipe collections, research and workshops. As part of Foodways Texas, we host two barbecue workshops annually at Texas A&M: Barbecue Summer Camp and Camp Brisket."

Barbecue camps? Tell us more.

“Making barbecue is both art and science, and these camps meld the two. Barbecue Summer Camp is a three-day event that educates participants about Texas barbecue through hands-on experience from pitmasters across the state. The camp offers insights about pit design, maintenance and types of woods for smoking. There are also activities for applying rubs, marinades and seasonings to meat, as well as instruction in cooking and cutting beef, pork and poultry. Camp Brisket, held two days each January, focuses specifically on brisket.”

What makes Texas barbecue unique?

“Brisket. Brisket is one of the toughest cuts of meat, but through a relationship between low temperature cooking, the right kind of wood, and the right amount of smoke and seasoning, it can turn into something people stand in line for and tweet about!”