How it started
In 2013 after 3 years of trading as a café, we were finally able to open in the evenings. What to do? Which cuisine? What type of restaurant should we become? We didn’t want to be another mediocre Italian, French or some other cuisine with hundreds of restaurants as competition. After some deliberation, we remembered that we loved to watch American Food TV shows like Man v Food where they showed American barbecue restaurants. In those shows, every time someone ate American BBQ in a barbecue joint somewhere in the deep south of USA, they were so happy that their eyes literally rolled back in their head. Having never tried American BBQ, we decided there is something to this but where do we try it in Australia? At that time there was only one restaurant in Melbourne that served supposedly American BBQ – Big Boy BBQ. We tried it out and left utterly disappointed. We could not believe that those people eating American BBQ on TV, could have those crazy-happy reactions from food similar to that served in Big Boy BBQ. So, the decision was made – we must work it out ourselves. Unfortunately, at that time there were NO chefs with experience in smoking meat in the American BBQ tradition anywhere near Port Melbourne or Melbourne for that matter.
What followed was a huge education in how to cook American BBQ style smoked meats including reading dozens of books, blogs, google searches, watching youtube videos and experimentation. A lot of experimentation. We probably used between 100 and 200 kilograms of meat while trying different smoking techniques like Texas style, Cansas Style, Alabama Style and many more. We also tested many recipes for rubs and marinades. All this had to be done overnight because the smoking process takes between 12 and 16 hours and we simply did not have time during the day. Moreover, during the smoking process, we couldn’t just leave the meat be, it has to be turned, rotated, wrapped etc… Many sleepless nights later and thousands of dollars in meat expenditure we knew that we were onto something. The meats started coming out fork-tender and so full of flavour, we could not believe it. Finally, we understood why those people on TV loved American BBQ meats so much.
Done properly, during the slow cooking process, the dry rub flavours impregnate the meat fully. Imparting stacks of flavour throughout the meat. The smoke amplifies this. Resulting in meat that is so soft, juicy and tasty that it is extremely hard to stop eating it. Smoked correctly, this is one of the best ways to cook most types of meat.
Our smoking processes
After working out the smoking techniques and all the recipes, we had to implement the smoking process in commercial quantities inside our tiny restaurant kitchen. To that end, we built a custom-made smoker and called it Bruce (don’t know why Bruce, it sounded manly 😊). The pellet burning engine came from the USA but everything else was made in Melbourne. It could smoke up to 150kg of meat at one time – up to 18 Beef Briskets or 45 pork ribs at once. It was a beast. Chefs hated it, because it took up pretty much all the space in the kitchen. It also regularly smoked out the entire kitchen if the wood pellets got stuck or burned too quickly. In time we tamed the smoker and the chefs learned to dance around it.
Meats are processed differently for smoking. Beef Brisket, Salmon are marinated in a liquid brine for at least 24 hours. Pork Ribs, Chicken Wings, Chicken, Beef Ribs and Lamb shoulder are dry-rubbed and marinated for 8 to 24 hours. Beef Brisket is dry-rubbed before smoking and after marinating.
Dry Rubs differ from meat to meat and contain anywhere from 10 to 14 ingredients. A little sweet, a little spicy, full of flavour.
Of course, we had to create our special recipe barbecue sauces. We cheated a little here. Even though we made around 20 different recipes of sauces, a couple of them were variations on prize winning BBQ Competition recipes. One of them is still being used today. The other, Apple bourbon BBQ sauce recipe, came from our research of authentic American BBQ sauces.
Type of wood is extremely important in the smoking process. Our choice settled on Maple Wood for Pork and Chicken because of its slightly milder flavour. Hickory with its robust flavour notes is great for darker meats like Beef and Lamb. Applewood imparts just a hint of smoke to Salmon.
Types of Meats
Today we mostly smoke Pork Ribs, Beef Ribs, Beef Brisket, Lamb Shoulder, Pork Shoulder, Pork Belly, Bacon, Chicken, Chicken Wings and Salmon. From time to time we experiment with sausages and various preparations like Pastrami from beef brisket and Bacon from Pork Belly.
Pulled Pork is made from Pork Shoulder and Neck.
Our plans are to experiment with smoking more different type of meat and also vegetables.
We now smoke up to 1000kg of meat every week. Every few days we make 100-litre batches of our BBQ Sauce.
All our meats come from Australian producers. You know this because we buy the meats on the bone. Australia does not allow any meat imports with the bone. So next time if you buy any meat with the bone still in it, you can be certain that it was produced in Australia. On the other hand, a lot of meats like bacon is imported.
Our pork ribs are St Louis style cut. These are processed that way in only 1 place in Australia. They are also the most expensive type of pork ribs you can buy in Melbourne or anywhere in Australia. This is because they are so meaty. The butchers have to leave a bit of the belly on them and therefore ruin their Pork Belly cut.
The dish we call Dinosaur Ribs are uncut Beef Ribs. They range from 30cm to 45cm in length… Each rib weights around 1 kg each.
Sometimes we pile up Beef Ribs on a bench for processing. The Beef Ribs mountain can be as high as 1 meter.