Not everyone is willing to get up at 3am to slow cook a hunk of meat on the barbecue, but that’s the kind of dedication we’ve come to expect from Andrew McConnell.
He’s the man behind Cutler & Co., Cumulus Inc., Builders Arms Hotel and Supernormal. More recently he opened Meatsmith in Collingwood with Troy Wheeler (formerly the head butcher at Peter Bouchier).
We popped in to pick the boys’ brains on how to up the barbecue ante this summer. Here are their top five tips.
1. QUALITY CUTS
“It’s about the quality of the meat, not the marinades,” says McConnell. Using marinades can mask the flavour of the produce, which would be a shame if you’ve gone to the effort of sourcing something special.
2. TRY SOMETHING NEW
Wheeler advises cooking something you haven’t cooked before, whether that’s a certain variety of meat or using something you’re familiar with for a different purpose. “For example, something that’s traditionally used for braising you can use it for grilling. It has heaps of flavour and a nice texture,” he says.
3. SMOKE IT
Experimenting with various woods is another simple way to inject flavour into your meat. “I like to get a bit of apple wood and soak it in water. Towards the end of the cooking process I just throw it on the fire, put the lid down and let it smoke a little bit,” says McConnell. Tip: You can purchase different woods from Barbeques Galore.
4. ADD CONDIMENTS
Instead of marinating for flavour, try making your own chutneys, relishes and pickles to impress guests. Alternatively play it safe and buy the ones made by the Builders Arms kitchen, also sold at Meatsmith.
5. STRATEGIC SALADS
Both McConnell and Wheeler recommend pairing salads to protein. Try a shredded cabbage and apple slaw lifted with mint to cut through the richness of pork and something bolder to stand up to a steak, such as grilled and marinated peppers.
If all else fails, Meatsmith has take-home meals including Cumulus’ unbeatable lamb shoulder, butterflied chicken and whole-roasted suckling pig. “That’s the great thing about a barbecue,” says McConnell, “You can make it as complicated or as simple as you want.”