Winter is coming.
Okay, technically winter has officially arrived but I just needed to throw a Game of Thrones reference in here. I couldn’t help myself.
With Sydney’s weather the way it has been lately, there’s very little doubt that we’re heading into one of the coldest winters we’ve experienced. And with the severe weather warnings and unexpected storms hitting Australia’s east coast a month or two back, it’s a little scary to think what kind of winter we might face. Hopefully nothing of the White Walker variety (and for those of you who don’t follow the ever popular TV show Game of Thrones, just imagine an onslaught of frozen zombies killing everyone. Not pleasant).
Thankfully, with winter also comes a collection of great things. I’m thinking knitwear, electric blankets, warm soups and the perfect weather to treat yourself to a mountainous pile of smoked meats.
There’s nothing better than a hearty BBQ to warm up your winter, but with such an array of different meats available at your local butcher, it can get a little overwhelming for the average carnivore trying to select what to shove into the smoker.
Thankfully, the hard work has been done for us and the team at the refurbished and re-imagined Oxford Tavern in Petersham have put together the tastiest meats for smoking – and have been smoking them to their hearts’ (and our stomachs’) content.
If you’re like me and would prefer to sit back while the already-smoked meat is packed onto your plate, then the Black Betty BBQ at the Oxford Tavern (available on weekends from 12pm until the meat runs out) is the perfect place to satisfy your carnivorous cravings. Or alternatively, if you’re looking to expand your barbeque range then these are the meats you absolutely have to try.
If one meat were to encapsulate what smoking meats is about, it would be beef brisket. Brisket is cut from beef breast and typically has minimal fat. Luke Smith, who currently runs the Black Betty BBQ at the Oxford Tavern sets the temperature to around 100 degrees Celsius and allows the brisket to sit in the smoker for 9-13 hours. The result is a massive chunk of meat that appears almost black, which is sliced thinly to reveal vibrant shades of brown and red.
The brisket bursts with a smoky flavour and is paired magically with the Black Betty BBQ sauce, which has a mighty flavour of its own that seems to bring out the best in the meat. It has a smooth texture (not too runny) and the tangy hit of a typical BBQ sauce, but has its own distinct spicy taste that is somehow a little cheeky. In the words of my companion, “This isn’t the kind of BBQ sauce you take home to meet your parents.”
Appropriately named to reflect the sheer size of these cuts, dino ribs are beef ribs which prove amazingly tender when cooked for a few hours in the smoker. Although beef back ribs are also acceptable as “dino ribs” the Oxford Tavern uses beef short ribs, which are laced with ribbons of fat that guarantee every bite satisfies. The tenderness of the meat and the softness of the fat ensure that each chunk just melts away in your mouth after a few chews.
The lamb ribs were my favourite at the Black Betty BBQ, which doesn’t really surprise me because lamb tends to be my go-to meat whenever I dine out. After serving its time in the smoker for a few hours, the meat (delightfully still pink and tender) falls easily off the bone – something that always excites me when I’m eating ribs. The addition of herbs complements the distinct flavour of lamb, with a thin lining of fat contributing to a slightly indulgent taste that is perfect for winter.
The pork ribs at the Black Betty BBQ are much more chunky and meaty than the lamb ribs, but are nevertheless very tasty with a slight tinge of sweetness that pairs well with the savoury meat. Pork ribs tend to be a crowd pleaser and therefore are great if you’re smoking meats for a group of people.
For people cooking at home, chicken is always a good choice because it’s readily available in every butcher and supermarket and is enjoyed by almost all meat lovers for its clean flavour and versatility. Smoking chicken brings out its natural flavour even more and is a great choice if you want a little departure from the other meats. The chicken at The Oxford Tavern was cooked well, with a pleasant amount of juices locked into the meat despite being in the smoker for a while.
Smoked Mega Snag
I don’t think I’ve ever come across another dish that has literally burst with this much flavour. When Luke cut into the vibrantly orange-red snag, juices burst out of the sausage, illustrating just how well the meat retained moisture throughout the smoking process. The snag itself tastes very smoky and is very soft, making it a delicious addition to my meaty platter and a definite must-try if you’re smoking at home!
The Black Betty BBQ also serves pulled pork, which you’d be silly not to try. The meat easily strips apart and has a tasty flavour that pairs well with the complementary buns served with any orders of meat. The bread is slightly sweet, making it a great partner for not only the pulled pork, but the rest of the meats as well. For those cooking at home, pulled pork burgers are always a great idea and just the mere mention of it will incite some oohs and ahhs from your guests (or from yourself if you don’t want to share all that pulled pork goodness).
Aside from the mountains of meat served at the Black Betty BBQ, diners are also offered a delicious pile of coleslaw. The slaw is light and has a refreshing flavour that is not at all overpowering – as some coleslaws may be. It’s the perfect side to all these smoked meats, and is perfect if you feel like you might be overdoing it on the meat front.
The Black Betty BBQ is a fantastic showcase of what smoking meats is about, and with Black Betty herself a standout feature smoking along the side of the dining area, the team at The Oxford Tavern have managed to create an atmosphere that tips its hat off to an authentic Southern American smokehouse.
The affectionately named smoker, “Black Betty”.
With the temperatures in Sydney only getting colder, it’s about time you sit yourself down to a deliciously smoked pile of meat. Eat until your heart’s content and then take a nice nap under a pile of blankets while all that smoked goodness digests. That’s exactly what I did.
The Oxford Tavern
1 New Canterbury Road, Petersham NSW
Phone: (02) 8019 9351
Website: The Oxford Tavern