The Great Aussie BBQ
In America, we have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. “In Australia, where gas barbecues can be found in just about every backyard and balcony in the country, barbecuing is considered an inalienable right,” says CNN Travel.
Other cultures (the French, the Mongolians), may have incorporated grilling into their culinary repertoire, but in Australia, firing up the barbie is practically a way of life. So, too, is the idea of laid-back outdoor eating enjoyment that grilling implies. Case in point: it’s no coincidence that “One Continuous Picnic” is the title of a famous book on the history of Australian eating!
Early Days of the “Chop Picnic”
BBQ really came to be recognized as an important part of the Aussie lifestyle in the 1960s, when the “chop picnic”—the act of resting a mesh grill over a fire with a few bricks to cook a few chops—became part of the Aussie vernacular. In his book Meat, Metal and Fire–the Legendary Aussie BBQ, author Mark Thomson says “we love the great outdoors so much that something like that great Australian tradition, the barbie, was inevitable.”
A Common Misconception
Outside of Australia, any mention of Australian “barbecue” may bring up the oft-quoted “throw another shrimp on the barbie!” spoken by Crocodile Dundee star Paul Hogan in a series of 1984 Australian Tourism Commission television commercials. While Hogan’s quip (which was actually “I'll slip an extra shrimp on the barbie for you”) became popular with American tourists, saying it to an Aussie will likely get you a (friendly) groan. Among the reasons why: Down Under, shrimp are called “prawns.” And, while you’ll see them at BBQs, meaty lamb chops and sausages are much more common. They’re usually accompanied by corn on the cob, potatoes and fresh salads.
Throwing Your Own Australian Lamb BBQ
As with an American BBQ, selecting the right kind of meat is the first step in the process. You can grill nearly any cut of Australian Lamb, from tender cuts like loin chops to a classic butterflied leg of lamb, or denuded top sirloin for lamb kebabs. Whichever you choose, it’s best to sear your meat quickly on both sides to start, to create a flavorful crust and to seal in the juices. After this, resist the urge to flip too often to avoid drying out the meat. Flip only once and avoid pricking the meat to keep juices in.
As any Aussie can testify, the key to a successful grill is to have fun and keep it simple. While fresh meats like Australian Lamb are easy to customize to your heart’s content, there’s nothing wrong with a super-simple marinade of red wine or beer with olives and garlic. And, what about the sauce? As told to CNN Travel by Miccal Cummins of Sydney catering company Gastronomy, “We go all out with the sauces: two kinds of chili, homemade mustard and chunky tomato relish so you get all these really different flavors in the one meal.”