Last year, Bega Show President Norm Pearce found himself at Ruby Tuesday’s Restaurant in New York tucking into a plate of their famous ‘fall off the bone tender baby-back ribs’ marvelling at the choice of flavours – classic barbecue, hickory bourbon, sweet tea glazed, Nashville hot or Texas dusted dry rub.
Back home in the Bega Valley, Norm was invited to the Brogo Fire Shed Christmas party by avid ‘smoker’ James Perceval, and it was there while feasting on slow barbecued ribs and some experimental smoked turkey, that the seed for Bega’s own ‘Low & Slow BBQ’ competition took root.
This year the Bega Show turns 146 years old and will mark the occasion with Norm’s baby, the Great Fire & Charcoal BBQ Competition!
In recent years the American style ‘low and slow’ BBQ tradition has been taking the world by storm, indeed the Australian Low & Slow BBQ Facebook page has over 41,000 followers.
For the Fire & Charcoal BBQ competition at this year’s Bega Show, keen smokers can enter four proteins – pork, chicken, lamb and beef. They must present a minimum of two to the judges.
In keeping with the rules of the Australasian Barbecue Association no cooking can be done before arrival at the showground, and strict presentation guidelines are adhered to (number of slices, garnishes and sides etc).
Norm would love all the region’s butchers to enter and expects to see his favourite barbecued ribs, but also other cuts and flavours from around the region.
He and the committee hope the event will get people mixing, talking, salivating and tasting, and that it will grow to be a major drawcard on the show program.
The event comes with its own ribbons for place getters and a spectacular ‘golden-rib’ trophy.
The judges are Matt the Butcher and Kelly Eastwood from River Cottage Australia, and yours truly, About Regional foodie – Lisa Herbert.
If you’re thinking of displaying your Low & Slow BBQ skills at the show, here are some of the positives and negatives the judges will be looking out for:
- Skin should have a bite and not be rubbery;
- Meat should fall away cleanly from the bone;
- A smoke ring (colour) is visually pleasing;
- Multiple cuts, well presented that show your team’s versatility and skill. Adversely messy presentation and poor slicing will lose points, as will overcrowding in the presentation box;
- Also unappealing is a poor colour or bark, and un-rendered, chewy fat.
If you consider yourself a king or queen of the coals, gather your team, put up your $45 and enter either 4, 3, or 2 protein categories. Call Norm Pearce on 0407 260 355 or go to the Bega Show website.
Some more Low & Slow BBQ secrets; you don’t need a decade of practice to get the hang of smoking, but it’s more demanding than a round of sausages.
First, there’s the heat, you’ll want the temperature low over a long period of time. And then there’s the smoke, you need to keep these babies smoking for hours.
Keeping the heat steady and low takes work. Hardwood charcoal burns with an intense, clean heat, but doesn’t last long. Briquettes, on the other hand, burn at a medium heat for a longer time. A combination of the two is optimal.
Once your mountain of charcoal is covered in grey ash and no longer flames, push it all to one side of the grill. You want to use indirect heat, where you put the meat on the part of the grill that is beside, rather than on top of, the pile of coals.
As for the smoke, smoked foods demand hardwood, like oak, apple, mesquite, pecan or hickory. But whatever type of wood you select, it’s important that you soak it in a bowl of water for at least an hour before it’s added to the flames.
Wet wood smoulders and smokes for hours, while fresh wood can burn away in twenty minutes.
If you’re using chips, wrap the sopping wood in tin foil that you’ve punctured with holes. This keeps the little chips smoking for longer.
While you can smoke meats using gas grills, charcoal works best.
In addition to hardwood and charcoal, you’ll also want a culinary brush used to swab meat with sauce, or a spritzer bottle, and a rib rack (if you plan on smoking ribs), a metal device that holds your rib racks up on their sides, rather than flat on the grill.
Good luck, I can’t wait to taste the results of your passion and skill!
Other gourmet highlights of the Bega Show include, wine and beer ginger beer, 8 classes of cheese, butter, fermented foods including kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, as well as Sydney Rock Oysters, junior cooking events, decorated cakes, jams and pickles, scones, fruit cake – all contestants make from the same recipe, and many more.