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How to Barbecue Like a Kansas-Approved Barbecue Boss

It's time to go to the butcher and get serious.
By Hannah Valmadre
January 28, 2016
By Hannah Valmadre
January 28, 2016

It’s time to fire up your barbecues and perfect your spice rub recipe, because Melbourne is about to host their second Barbecue Festival. The one-day event — which made its debut at the Queen Vic Market last year — will feature free classes and demonstrations, more barbecued meat than you can poke a skewer at, live entertainment and, of course, the great barbecue cook-off.

The cook-off is sanctioned by the too-legit-to-quit Kansas City Barbeque Society, and the winner will go on to compete at the world championships in the U.S., as well receive as a sweet cash prize and — most importantly — unrivalled barbecue glory. We spoke to festival director Matt Vitale about the festival, the different styles of American barbecue, and got all the pro tips on how to barbecue like a boss.



Matt had always been an avid backyard barbecue cook, and a few years ago he decided to try his luck at the big time by entering a barbecue competition for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. Matt teamed up with his wife and they won — sending them to the World Championships of barbecuing, held at the Jack Daniel’s distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee.

"It was an amazing experience, and unexpected," he says. "I met a bunch of great people from the Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS), which is the largest organisation of barbecue enthusiasts in the world, and the organising body for this sport — it is a sport in the States.”

The KCBS wanted to sanction a contest to Australia, and with Matt's assistance the first Yaks Barbecue Festival was brought to Melbourne. Now, it's back for a second year, with the festival also being held in Sydney for the first time.



According to Matt, there are four different regional styles of barbecue in the U.S. Texas barbecue is mostly beef-focussed; the rubs are a lot simpler, mostly salt and pepper, with not much sauce that is usually served on the side. In Memphis, they generally favour a dry rub on their ribs, and again sauce is usually on the side. North and South Carolina have more of a focus on pork where the sauce is more vinegary with a bit of chili thrown in for good measure.

But it's Kansas City, Matt says, that takes the best elements from all of the regions. "They're really well known for their beef brisket and burnt ends, which are these cubes of meat taken from the point end of the brisket. They’re also known for their ribs with rich, tomato, sticky sauce, which I think a lot of people really associate American barbecue with. That’s what Kansas City barbecue is really famous for.”


Dollar Photo Club


Kansas-style barbecue may be well known for their trademark tomato-based sauce, but sometimes it's worth knowing how to perfect the basics before you go slathering on a sticky sauce left, right and centre. One never-fail barbecue recipe that Matt is happy to divulge is his cherrywood-smoked chicken. "Smoked chicken is an achievable dish to do," he says. "A lot of these things you need to cook for a long period of time, but chicken you can get done in a couple of hours."

So how do we recreate this magic for ourselves? First, grab a split chicken from a good butcher or poultry and game supplier, as getting it split makes it easier to cook. You're going to need a smoker for this recipe — a very worthy investment if you're serious about your meat. Fire it up to a bit over 100 degrees celsius, and put some wood chunks in there. Matt recommends cherrywood because it's easily available in Australia. Cook the chook for about an hour and a half breast-side down, then turn it over, baste it with olive oil, and leave it for another 30 minutes. Unlike beef brisket, which can take 10-12 hours, this takes a little over two hours and you're ready to eat.

Matt recommends pairing this with fresh vegetables cooked over charcoal, such as charred corn, sliced eggplant and asparagus, as they get nice and caramelised. Drink of choice? Beer, of course — either a Fat Yak or a Lazy Yak goes perfectly with any barbecue.



While a lot of Australians love to consume barbecued goods, not all of us are as talented at making it as we are eating it. Matt recommends starting with a solid fuel BBQ to get the most out of your meat. "Gas BBQs are great, but there's so much more that you can do on a solid fuel BBQ. Cooking with wood and charcoal, you'll always get a better result.”

Another piece of advice Matt leaves us with is to not be afraid to just give it a go: “sometimes you’ll get it right, other times you’ll get it wrong, but the more you practice, the more you'll get it right."

The Yaks Melbourne Barbecue Festival is happening on Saturday, February 6 at Flemington Racecourse. For more information, check out the event. 

Top image: Dollar Photo Club

Published on January 28, 2016 by Hannah Valmadre
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