Outdoor cooking taken to new heights

Duncan Anderson demonstrates the eye-catching Argentinian style.

Mouth-watering beef brisket prepared in a smoker from a kill at Duncan’s farm.

Duncan’s smoker – a pellet grill, which creates smoke from hardwood or fruitwood pellets.

Les Miller gets perfect results with his Kamado grill.

Once you have your garden beautifully landscaped, it might be just the right time to throw an outdoor party.

And if you want to take things up a notch, throw away the wussy gas barbecue and try the American “low and slow” method, where meat is cooked at low temperatures over many hours in barbecues fuelled by charcoal or wood chips.

One example is an offset smoker where a separate firebox provides heat and smoke to a cooking chamber via a connecting pipe.   

Be warned though, once the barbecue bug hits you, it’s easy to become fanatical about it.

At a recent Jack Daniel’s National BBQ Championship event, Duncan Anderson, of Matakana, was part of a team that spent 16 hours cooking on a smoker in the wind and rain in order to deliver perfectly prepared pork shoulder, pork ribs, chicken and beef brisket.

Duncan maintains the effort is well worth it, producing juicy, beautifully flavoured and tender meat, and he keeps being asked to cater for weddings and other big events.

But he says the end result is just one part of the hobby’s appeal. Another is the cooking process itself.
“Standing around the smoker with a beer in your hand, monitoring the fire – it’s boy’s own stuff,” he says.

Then there is the appeal of experimenting with different ingredients to come up with the perfect rub to flavour the meat – often a closely-guarded secret.   

As well as using a smoker, Duncan also enjoys cooking Argentinian-style where, say, a whole lamb carcase will be splayed on a rack at a 45 degree angle above an open fire on the ground.

It will be cooked over an afternoon and evening, periodically being basted with rosemary, olive oil and garlic to keep it moist and crisp.

Duncan says the great thing about this style at a party is that it’s very dramatic to look at and the meat remains visible, whereas in a smoker it stays hidden.

“Everyone comes by and says, ‘Wow, that looks amazing’, and you have a talk about where the meat came from and how long it takes to cook and so on.” Duncan says.

While all this sounds like a lot of fun, another barbecue enthusiast, Warkworth lawyer Les Miller, says it’s not always practical.

“You can’t sit around all day on a Saturday drinking beer and throwing wood into a barbecue when you have  two young children and a wife to think about,” he says.

While Les admits he would love a smoker, he’s got fantastic results with an Acorn Kamado grill, which he fires with charcoal.

Les says big, chunky lumps of hardwood charcoal are best since they burn more slowly and give you better control of temperature.

And if it starts raining outside, Les has a wireless thermometer, that allows him to monitor his grill temperature from the comfort of his living room.   

Cooking a fatty piece of meat like brisket might still take something like 12 hours, but Les has acquired a thermostat that controls vents in the grill that allow it to maintain the right temperature automatically.

“It will keep your barbecue going while you go to the zoo, or go to Motat, or you go to your parents for lunch,” he says.

More info and recipes contact les@webstermalcolm.co.nz  


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