Skip the Christmas roast for a barbecue

Traditional roasts are more suited to the white Christmases in the northern hemisphere, while an Aussie summer means getting outdoors and preparing our Christmas lunches on the barbecue.

Butcher Mark Lavender. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER

Butcher Mark Lavender. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER

People still go for the traditional ham, pork, turkey and chicken, but when it comes to meat cuts for the barbie, the big four are T-bone, rump, scotch fillet and boneless sirloin (otherwise known as the New York or porterhouse).

Lakeline Butchery's Mark Lavender, who's been slicing it up for more than 30 years, says barbecues are always the preferred Christmas get-together in the Illawarra, as the weather pushes people outside.

"It goes with the Christmas trend where everyone wants to relax."

And the favourite cut for Christmas, says the Kanahooka butcher, is the boneless sirloin, preferably about two inches thick.

"People are going for the New York even though it might be dearer, but it's the other side of the T-bone [minus the bone]," he says.

There's plenty of other choices to spread across the table, including kangaroo rump steak, lamb burgers, flavoured sausages, peppered steaks, pork cutlets, kebabs and spit roasts.

"Kangaroo rump is quite popular and people like to marinate it. They like it because it's low in cholesterol," he says.

Butchers can help with steak selection, cutting it to the required thickness, and knowing what the cattle have been fed on - which determines the meat's colour.

For example, Lavender's meat is from milk-fed cattle, so it has a lighter colour.

Lavender says the important things to consider for achieving a good barbecued steak is its thickness and cooking it just right. Even a perfect steak can be ruined by over-cooking.

"I don't have my barbecue too hot to start with," he explains.

"I seal the meat on the outside, seal the juices and then turn the barbecue down. If you cook it grey all the way, then it's still got all the juices."

Roast spits are also enshrined in Aussie outdoor cooking culture.

"People like to sacrifice whole animals at Christmas ... goats, suckling pigs, whole lambs," Lavender says.

But he points out that the downside to spits is they generally take between three to seven hours to cook, and within that time many people at the get-together have had too many drinks to successfully carve the meat properly.

This is why the boneless spits are becoming more popular. For successful spit roasts, an internal thermometer should be inserted into the thickest part of the meat to ensure it's properly cooked.


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