Buffalo Trace Australian Barbecue Wars: competitors prepare for Port Macquarie showdown

Meaty goodness: Garry Waddell, butcher and barbecue competitor, with a whole beef brisket and beef ribs. Photo: Matt Attard
Meaty goodness: Garry Waddell, butcher and barbecue competitor, with a whole beef brisket and beef ribs. Photo: Matt Attard

THERE is nothing quite like a slow smoked piece of top quality meat when you are talking barbecue.

Just five years ago, the classic Aussie summer feast was sure to feature snags, steak and prawns on the gas burner. Fast forward to 2018, and low and slow smoked barbecue is beginning to dominate. 

While the originals will always be loved, the influx of competitors for the 2018 Barbecue Wars in Port Macquarie prove times are changing.

More than 100 teams, competitors and food vendors from around Australia will converge on Port Macquarie on Saturday, September 15 for the Blues and BBQ Festival.

Held annually, the event plays host to the largest barbecue competition in Australia - the Buffalo Trace Australian Barbecue Wars. 

Patrons can wander through and soak up the amazing smell from 11am to 9pm at the Town Green and Breakwall Holiday Park.

This year, the competition will also feature a steak cook-off sanctioned competition featuring steak, burgers, wings and tacos.

Together with the competitions, the Town Green will host an authentic line-up of low and slow style barbecue vendors, live music and craft beer.

Port Macquarie local Garry Waddell has been a butcher for decades and now tests his skills on the grill in competition barbecue.

The holy grail: Beef brisket, slow smoked, being sliced at last year's barbecue competition in Port Macquarie. Photo: supplied.

The holy grail: Beef brisket, slow smoked, being sliced at last year's barbecue competition in Port Macquarie. Photo: supplied.

"Up until the last three or four years, the typical Aussie barbecue cuts have been standard," he said. 

"But as time has gone by more and more people are getting involved and understanding the idea behind what low and slow barbecue is. 

"It shows with the number of teams we have competing in Port Macquarie now. I started learning about those cuts four to five years ago." 

This style of barbecue is massive in America, and is set to boom Down Under, according to Mr Waddell.

"I competed in the first comp here in Port Macquarie and have done every year since then. That was the start of it all, learning about those American cuts," he said. 

"Thankfully with computers these days, it's easy to track stuff down and realise how big it is in America. It's picking up here and I think it's only going to get bigger and bigger."

A low and slow cut is, traditionally, the cuts that were not used for anything much, such as beef brisket and beef short ribs. 

"Years ago a brisket was boned and rolled and corned, or minced up for sausages. Now it's like the holy grail of barbecue," he said.

"I can remember 20 to 30 years ago beef ribs were basically non-existent. Now everyone wants them."

While he spends more time with the smoker these days, he explained competition barbecue is totally different than cooking at home. 

"It's all about presentation, texture and taste. With all the rubs and marinades that come into it people get so creative. That is what will win the competition," he said.

"The atmosphere of these events is fabulous for the community as well.  I think all of this low and slow stuff is great for the meat industry, and also for the butchers.

"Butchers must educate themselves and get involved with (low and slow cuts). The more they do that, the more they will see the benefits."

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