Updated on Tuesday, 15ᵗʰ February, 2022
The low-and-slow style of American barbeque cuisine has taken Australia and New Zealand by storm, with the return of home cooking and the ready availability of smokers giving the movement a shot in the arm.
Chef Chris Terlikar’s career may have started out at the Michelin-starred PUBLIC restaurant in New York, but it was a visit to a Hill Country-style barbecue in Brooklyn that led to a three-month trip through Texas—including 18-hour stints making the perfect brisket—that revolutionised his cooking.
While Terlikar, of Melbourne’s Bluebonnet, may have hand-built his first smoker out of a toolbox, dishwasher pipe and bucketloads of heat-proof black paint, his current 100% wood-fired Ole Hickory Pit smoker, imported from the USA, can cook half-a-tonne of meat per day. Bluebonnet’s meats are all free-range, and supplied by Flinders + Co, Australia’s first fully carbon neutral meat supplier.
From its original iteration as a food truck through to occupying a variety of homes across the city’s inner north, Bluebonnet has stayed true to its roots, with a single-minded commitment to sharing the authentic flavours of the Texas barbeque style with the people of Melbourne.
Not only does Jay Beaumont run the Australasian Barbecue Alliance, but he also organises the Meatstock festival events in Sydney, Melbourne, Toowoomba and Auckland, along with several other championship competitions throughout regional Australia.
Make no mistake; this is serious stuff. ABA events are governed by tightly drafted rules, with competitors able to cook-off in categories including brisket, pork ribs and the famous dirty bird (chicken). The ABA’s Facebook group now numbers more than 100,000 avid BBQ-ers.
For Beaumont, the Bovine & Swine pop-up restaurant in Sydney and Bluebonnet in Melbourne are his go-to experiences in Australia. ‘Bluebonnet is very highly regarded and Bovine & Swine have the most authentic experience you can get outside of Texas,’ he says. ‘Wes (Griffiths from Bovine & Swine) has the Midas touch when it comes to brisket. He takes it to the next level.’
Papi Chulo, Coogee Beach: American low and slow barbeque joint with a Mexican twist.
Vic’s Meat Market, Pyrmont: Classic barbeque courtesy of a huge custom-built Yoder smoker made in Kansas. Southern styles are highlighted by the brown sugar paprika rubs of Memphis and the simple salt and pepper rubs of central Texas.
LP’s Quality Meats, Chippendale: Luke Powell is another chef with premium-grade skills (ex Tetsuya’s), who is now applying it to a 1.5 tonne smoker at this back-alley diner.
Bovine & Swine, Sydney pop-up restaurant: Run by former Vic’s chef Wes Griffiths, ‘the hillbilly of barbecue’, who has a letter tattooed on each finger that spells out BARBECUE. Brisket to die for.
Bluebonnet Barbecue, Brunswick East: This is the place to be in Melbourne to get proper Texas-style BBQ from a chef trained at Michelin-starred restaurants.
Big Boy BBQ, Caulfield South: A suburban diner and catering business offering slow-cooked American-style ribs, burgers and pies. As with many BBQ venues, share plates are a speciality.
Pit Boss American BBQ & Eats, Enoggera: The headline act is the tasting platter of twice cooked Atlanta-style pork ribs, 14-hour low ‘n’ slow pulled pork, buffalo wings and smoky barbeque wings.
The Smoke BBQ, New Farm: With imported hickory wood burning day and night in a huge smoker from Kentucky, diners can relish authentic barbeque from two Americans, one from New Orleans and the other from Pittsburgh.
Old Faithful, Perth and Fremantle: Perth's first traditional American barbeque smokehouse, with most meats brined for up to 12 hours then rubbed with spices to complement the different cuts before being smothered in house-made sauces.
Porkies Bar-b-que, Northbridge: Employing a world-class Ole Hickory smoker made on the banks of the Mississippi River, Porkies serves up locally sourced meats smoked over Australian hardwood, with three signature sauces created in-house to complement Porkies’ dry rubs.
Side Door BBQ, Highgate: From the pork belly lollipops and southern fried chicken to the bourbon salmon and smoked brisket with espresso BBQ sauce, Side Door offers diners a veritable road trip through the southern states of America.
Low & Slow American BBQ, Port Adelaide: American-style barbeque pork and beef dishes smoked over a blend of oak and hickory hardwoods for up to 18 hours and sold for $9 per 100g.
Morepork BBQ, Kumeū: Chef Clint Davies combines homemade rubs and sauces with hand-picked premium cuts of meat and smokes them low and slow in New Zealand’s first custom-built smoker, which he co-designed and co-built.
Miss Moonshine’s, Silverdale: Who could ask for more than slow-cooked, wood-smoked, quality Kiwi meat, be it 8-hour beef short rib and brisket, tamarind BBQ prawns with a black garlic aioli or lovingly prepared smoky plant-based options including a vegetarian burger and cauliflower with cheese sauce and Romesco?