Some things never change and some things are always changing; such is life.
Men have found familiar comfort from standing around meat cooking over fire, beer in hand, talking banter since time began. While cooking in the kitchen is somewhat polarising (and often controversial) from a gender perspective the BBQ seems to be a predominantly male domain, no matter how skilled he may or may not be. There are ancient cave paintings in southern France that clearly support this.
This primitive pleasure is undergoing a radical transformation. A mere generation ago the standard setting was fast and hot sausages and steaks rolling off gas burners to go with the salads and corn prepared indoors by mums.
But the millennials are today’s agents of change.
It is out with dad’s fast and hot gas barbecue and in with low and slow. The barbecue du jour is a more industrial beast in scale and designed to nurture special cuts of meat to glorious heights of tenderness and deliciousness.
Here is what a group of five of this emerging species of male millennial barbecuers had to say:
What is different about barbecuing these days?
It is a low and slow style that comes from the USA, especially Texas. There is also a similar braai style that has reached our shores from South Africa.
How has it become a such a phenomenon?
It has become a common subject of conversation that ticks a lot of the boxes that many men love: fire, equipment, skills, and competitiveness. It is something that justifies standing around for a long time drinking and being able to wow people with meat.
This has been amplified by a steady diet of barbecue education via YouTube videos, American barbecue TV, social media and even support groups like the New Zealand Barbecue Alliance.
What do you actually cook?
There are still the old favourites like sausages and steak. But the new benchmarks are being set with ribs (of all kinds) and the ultimate challenge is brisket where we are looking at 10-12 hours of loving care and no guarantee of success.
What does it take to be great at barbecuing?
It is simply a matter of technique, dedication and patience. And equipment.
What do you talk about when you’re barbecuing?
Barbecuing is a sacred environment for male discourse, and modern barbecuing extends this opportunity over a long period. On one hand there is a heavy dose of banter, but the important stuff is to get to the bottom of barbecue expertise. Ultimate menus are considered, rubs and sauces are debated, the best sources and cuts of meat are weighed up. Equipment is a wonderful blend of one-upmanship, ridicule and coveted passion all rolled into one. And of course technique carries an endless pursuit of tips and tricks. The ultimate fantasy road-trip would be within the golden triangle of the Carolinas, St Louis and Texas.
What sort of equipment are you running?
Most had multiple barbecues they used with clear roles allocated for each. In general, gas is out and charcoal, pellet burners and smokers are in. Most had invested into the thousands and the brands commanding respect were Pit Boss, Traeger, Weber, Octopit, Big Green Egg, and Broil King.
How well are the supermarkets delivering on the new age of barbecuing?
But the message was clear that supermarkets pale in comparison to good butcher shops when it comes to quality meat. The Aussie Butcher, the Village Butcher, and Pinehill Butchery were all mentioned in despatches as understanding the needs of contemporary barbecue standards and sharing a passion for quality.
If your childhood memories were of burnt sausages and bad steak there is definitely hope for the future with today’s barbecues becoming a thing of beauty. It might just take bit longer to prepare.