By Anthony Demarco
I was very excited to finally get to Melbourne Meatstock after 2 years of delays and anticipation, and it was definitely worth the wait. It was fantastic to be able to check out all the stalls and exhibitions, try some amazing food, chat with the vendors, and spend time catching up with people for a drink throughout the weekend.
The most exciting part of the weekend was competing in the Melbourne Barbecue Wars for the first time, which comprised five categories – Chicken, Pork Ribs, Pork, Lamb and Beef Brisket, all to be cooked, presented and handed in to the judges for tasting and scoring throughout the course of the day.
All of these meats were cooked on the trusty 22 inch Fornetto Razzo and its newly acquired offsider, the 18 inch Catalyst Pro. I love using these smokers for competitions as they are reliable, easy to transport and can cook a lot of meat at once.
The day kicked off at 4am to start preparing for an intense day of cooking. Thankfully once I lit my binchotan charcoal and dialled in the vents I could be confident the Razzo would hold steady at around 300°F all day, so I could focus my attention on juggling all the different meats I had to cook. Once the brisket, pork and lamb shoulders were prepped, rubbed and into the Razzo it was time for a well-earned coffee while I reviewed the timetable for the rest of the day.
Now that I was re-energised it was time to light the Catalyst Pro and get everything else going – the pork ribs were hung under the top grill with a tray of chicken on top as well. From here it was a constant whirlwind of wrapping meats, preparing sauces, slicing, pulling, glazing, presenting hand-in boxes, and what proved to be the most difficult part of the day – pushing through the crowds to get the hand-ins to the judging table. Thankfully by this stage me wife had arrived to do the dreaded parsley trimming, where she made a new little friend, as well as supporting me and taking photos along the way.
We tasted all of the meats after hand-in to gauge how it would taste to the judges. The chicken was perfectly tender and had a great flavour, and the glaze was set perfectly. The pork ribs had a fantastic flavour and bite through, although were slightly let down by the glaze being a little uneven. We tried one of the pork medallions and absolutely loved it (the judges, not so much). The lamb was okay, but we felt it didn’t pack enough flavour. And finally the brisket – really enjoyed the taste, especially the burnt ends which were like eating little beefy marshmallows.
With the last hand-in came a feeling of accomplishment. This was the biggest competition I’ve done so far and also the happiest I’ve been with my cook. All that was left now was to find the bar, grab a drink, and await the results.