A LOW and slow barbeque competition at Wingham showground last weekend proved both enjoyable and educational, with 33 teams vying for first place in the heated cook-off.
The brainchild of Wingham abattoir general manager Grant Coleman, the inaugural competition – attracting smokers from interstate as well as locally – pitted grass fed brisket against its grain fed counterpart, during an all night affair that began Saturday afternoon and ended up in the laps of judges before lunchtime Sunday.
Part of the blossoming Australian Barbeque Alliance championships, the weekend competition, twinned with Wingham’s Akoostik festival, saw teams ‘smokin’ hot bros’ and ‘double barrel barbeque’ tied in first place for the season so far.
Champions of the grain fed brisket were first time competitors from Pappinbarra via Wauchope, Harvey Smith and team ‘Oaky Smokies’, who struggled against the cool night air about four in the morning when the temperature in their smoker plummeted. But they stoically battled on.
Mr Coleman organised the cook-off as one way to settle a long standing debate between grass and grain fed, with Wingham Beef Exports supplying the brisket used in competition.
This was the first event where competitors did not bring their own meat and all teams started their fires on a level playing field.
Mr Coleman personally chose the brisket from two days worth of production and set them aside in cold storage for five weeks before the event. It was a generous statement but one which helped promote the abattoir’s grass fed brand Manning Valley Naturally, and its grain fed equivalent, Wingham Reserve.
While the meat was provided, fuel for the fires was not and there was plenty of burnin’ all night long with the champions from Pappinbarra using a quarter tonne of old hardwood fenceposts with a dash of pecan.
Most meats were cooked simply with just salt and pepper but the low and slow technique delivered a delicious result.
The temperature of the smoke in the ‘barrel’ was only 100-120C but the meat inside bathed at that temperature for 12 hours and crews went on watch to keep their fires alight.
Of the 42 judges 26 preferred the grass fed brisket which pleased Mr Coleman and surprised him, considering pasture beef is leaner than feedlot fed and can leave a texture which some consider too dry.
“The real winners,” said Mr Coleman, “were the cooks.”
Wingham abattoir gains top gong for branded beef
BRANDED beef is the key to sustainability in a volatile market, says Wingham Beef Exports general manager Grant Coleman, who is proud of the fact his company’s brand Manning Valley Natural is right now on centre stage.
At the recent Sydney Royal Fine Food Show it was awarded gold in the grass fed category, with a grilled striploin impressing judges with its flavour and level of marbling.
The abattoir’s grain fed brand, Wingham Reserve, placed silver in Sydney.
Part of the Nipponham Group, Wingham’s win follows on from accolades at the Royal Queensland Food and Wine Show in May where Manning Valley Naturally was awarded champion MSA graded branded beef.
For Mr Coleman the locally branded product is excellent insurance against the near future when the inevitable price fall arrives.
Branded beef supported by an MSA grading will continue to find a market, particularly if it has been awarded a gong by the country’s top foodies.
“All our cattle are sourced locally, from the Hunter Valley north to Dorrigo and west to Walcha,” said Mr Coleman, who himself was also sourced locally – having grown up in Wingham.
Suppliers work with the abattoir to maintain product, supplying a 200 – 340kg caracase around 18 – 24 months old off pure pasture.
All cattle used in the Manning Valley Naturally brand are British bred with no added growth hormones and by their nature supply a soft product with good marbling and flavour.
To date the brand, now in its fifth year, is available in 14 Woolworths stores as well as local markets. NH Foods exports the brand to Chipotle restaurants in the US and interest is expanding all the time.