From the Belly to the Ribs

In the last few years in Melbourne, most of another or us at one time have queued up for some of that deliciously moist, slow-cooked, smoked beef brisket, pulled pork and/or pork/beef ribs. Slathered in barbecue sauce and often served up with an American style slaw, this type of fare has almost become a staple in our small town.

If you find this statement a little outrageous, visit the Queen Victoria Night Market anytime during winter or summer, if only to watch the throngs of gentle folk lining up patiently for a taste of that smoky goodness.

So what if you want to replicate some of that barbecuing at home?

Belly to Ribs 1

Prepping pork ribs for a low and slow cook.

The first thing to say is you don’t need a massive off-set barrel smoker that’s carted around behind vehicles, like you see at every market, every large event around town and always lurking somewhere close to the ever popular food truck rallies that are popping up all over the place. Not that the food isn’t great when cooked in one of those gigantic pieces of equipment, they’re just impractical for your average suburban backyard.

What you do need is a solid-fuelled barbecue that will keep a steady low to medium heat over a few hours such as a basic Weber Kettle or my all-time favourite, the Pit Barrel Cooker. Hailing from the USA, the PBC does an absolutely remarkable job of slow cooking everything, from pineapples to pork belly.

They’re widely available in Australia nowadays and very reasonably priced for the high build quality. Beware though, due to its growing popularity, inferior rip-offs are now starting to flood the market.

The great thing about slow cooking in a barbecue is once it’s up and firing, the temperature has settled and the food of choice has been lovingly placed in it, you can get on with your life without having to check it every 5 minutes.

For this month’s blog, I’ve chosen two cuts of meat that are easily obtainable from the Meat Hall at the Queen Vic Market and react beautifully to slow cooking. Firstly, I’ve got plenty of time on this sunny Melbourne Sunday so I’ve purchased a magnificent 3.5 kg female bone-in pork belly from Sydney Meats P/L, which is situated at the Queen Street end of the hall.

I’ve rubbed the meat down with a blend of raw can sugar, salt flakes, pepper, paprika, garlic and onion powder plus some ground star anise for that touch of liquorice and aniseed that compliments pork so well. I’ve sat that over a half-filled foil tray of water in the PBC and I’ll let it slowly cook away for 7 -8 hours.

And the end result after all that effort of me sitting in my backyard having a quiet beer and writing this article while the pork belly does its thing? Well the result is mouth meltingly tender meat that falls off the bone…

Keep in mind though; I don’t give two hoots about crispy crackling at this point. All I’m after is the fat to slowly render through the meat, adding to its tenderness and smoky flavour.

Belly to Ribs 2

Second in line for some low and slow cooking on this glorious winter afternoon is some Asado-style beef ribs from Max Thompson Meats, situated at the opposite end of the Meat Hall, as you head towards the Elizabeth St entrance.

Seasoned very simply with extra virgin olive oil, salt flakes and ground black pepper, I love this secondary cut of meat for the fact it’s very cheap to buy and tastes pretty amazing with a squeeze of lemon to really bring out that beefy flavour. Make sure to also lightly sprinkle salt flakes before serving to complete the process.

Belly to Ribs 3

The trick with choosing ribs from your favourite Queen Vic Market butcher? Look for a decent covering of fat as this will enable the meat to remain tender throughout the cooking process and protects it from drying out.

When the meat has very visibly shrunken away from the bone, that’s the time to consider eating them.

Till next time folks!