About 20,000 carnivores followed the waft of barbequed meat to Forest Place last April. The smell was strangely familiar but exactly what was that extra smoky aroma that brought them in droves to the inaugural Smokin’ in the City BBQ Challenge?
Hang on to your tongs, it wasn’t a simple backyard grilling affair. Grilling? What about that great Aussie tradition? However lovingly you marinate and tenderly place your high-grade meat onto a direct source of fire until its cooked; it’s known as grilling. To barbeque is to cook over an indirect low heat for an extended period of time which causes a chemical reaction to occur between the smoke and the meat creating a blackened skin – known as bark – under which the meat turns pink. As the smoke deeply infiltrates the meat, the flavour is so rich and robust that this style of low ‘n’ slow barbequing is ideal for any type, grade or cut. Both methods have their place as slow cooking a beef brisket for 18 hours in a Yoder isn’t always feasible; and with Australia’s top grade beef, lamb and pork, sometimes less is more.
While the low ‘n’ slow technique is still in its infancy in Australia, it’s not just an institution in the US, it’s a lifestyle. I was witness to this as RV’s of palatial proportions steamed into the pretty town of Lexington in North Carolina in 2012 while attending the Annual Capital BBQ Cook-off. My husband Stephan Jenner, CEO of Perth IT company Future Logic, joined a motley crew of barbequing enthusiasts which included a butcher, a brick layer, a beer connoisseur and a business analyst to form the Australian Tongmaster team. No candle-stick makers but we did have Kevin, the blow-up kangaroo.
The annual event, one of many in the US, is the barbequing version of Woodstock as the town heaved with enthusiasts passively smoking beef brisket, ribs and chicken over the course of two days. Lexington is deemed as the barbeque pork capital of America, and with 24 barbeque restaurants (that’s one per thousandth person), the Tongmasters competed in the beef brisket category, using a grain-fed Wagyu with an eight-grade marbling, compliments of Meat and Livestock Australia. This fine piece of brisket was taken from the breast section and rubbed in its special Australian spice blend in preparation for its sacrificial burning in a mammoth 84-inch smoker. For the next 14 hours, the team tended to the fire at a constant 107 degrees while babysitting the tender flesh throughout the night. The result produced an ideal 6mm smoke ring beneath the crust and judging by the groupies requesting risqué autographs and the feeding frenzy forming around out tent hungry for the spoils, the Tongmasters won the unofficial public vote. For more, read BBQ-ing US Style.
Lexington may be on the other side of the world, but Perth has whole-heartily embraced this low ‘n slow style of barbequing. Vince Garreffa, aka the Prince of Flesh, of Mondo Meats has noticed a trend, “I’m so excited by US-style barbequing. People are going wild for it and not just commercially, but the general public too. I’m getting more and more orders for cuts for brisket, ribs and pulled pork.”
Judging by the number of Perth restaurants already serving up hearty fare from America’s Deep South the trend isn’t going anywhere. Pleased to Meet You, The Old Crow, and the Merrywell, not to mention their food truck, Dude Food on Wheels, and most recently the American-style food truck at the Beaufort Street Monday night markets have been inducing meat comas for some time. New York chef Rob Ryan and wife Misty reigning from Las Vegas, aka “Team Ryan,” are opening Side Door BBQ in April 2015. In keeping with the US tradition of naming businesses organically, the entrance into the 100-year-old warehouse is on Mary Street, even though the address is Beaufort Street. An ode to barbeque, Rob warns, “Perth’s about to get a meat onslaught,” but promises plenty of side dishes to cut through the meat. Also watch for the moonshine on the menu compliments of East Perth distillery Whipper Snapper.
Last year’s Smokin’ in the City contestants were already well onto the trend, like Aaron Smith from the Smoke Shack who sells a variety of smokers or caterer and BBQ enthusiast Steven Sumegi from Smokin’ Steve’s and his prize winning pork butt. Sam and Blake formed the Solid Gold team, and were armed with their disco moves and painted the town in various shades of rich mahogany rubs compliments of their ceramic Kamado grill and a Hark Tri-Fire Off-set Smoker. Representing FSO (Five Sax Orchestra), baritone sax, wine and cigar connoisseur Alex Boyd, barbequed for gold with his juicy ribs. Pamela Norrie, aka Poison Ivy, put all the boys to shame and won gold for her 18 hour brisket and the overall prize. Doned in the verdant tones of her alter-ego, Pamela was one of the many volunteers from Perth’s Allied Costumers (PAC), a collaborative costume group which participates in various charity and community events, who came along to support Lifeline in more ways than one by donating her $2,000 prize to the cause.
As part of the celebration for Eat Drink Perth and in association with the Lifeline Young Butchers Picnic, this year’s Smokin in the City follows the US-style competition format, and will be a first for Perth, with an overnight cook-off starting at 6.00pm on 25th April smoking well into the following Sunday. Also held in Forest Place, punters will not only be tantalised by that distinctive BBQ aroma but also food stalls and live entertainment.
Consider yourself a connoisseur? Smokin’ in the City organiser Stephan Jenner welcomes new judges and there’s still limited spots open to contestants. Apart from the cash prizes, who knows where it could lead? Last year the My Kitchen Rules (MKR) production team were floating around scouting for talent, and if the Texan drawl of current MKR contestant Robert smoking up a storm was any indication, US-style barbequing in Perth is on the cusp of going up in glorious flames.
Originally published in Primo Life March 2015