002 Billy Gibney – Competition Cuts

In this, the second episode of the Smoking Hot Confessions Podcast, I interview Billy Gibney, owner and operator of Meat at Billy’s, a
premier butcher in Brisbane, specialising in competition cuts.

In this interview Billy gives us insights into competition cuts of meat – how to find them, how to select them, and shares some hints on what to do with them!

Want more? Be sure to pick up your free ebook: 27 Lessons Learned from Competition BBQ

Thanks and appreciation go to Coastline Barbeques and Heating for sponsoring the first series of the Smoking Hot Confessions podcast. Check out their website for more!

Show Notes
  • Start with a Weber kettle, get the hang of it and then get an offset
  • Billy always recommends Cape Grim Beef Short Ribs to people who are new to smoking
  • Billy had to develop a new boning spec with his suppliers at the abattoir level to ensure that he was able to get the right type of pork rib for low’n’slow cooking
  • Different countries have different boning specs resulting in the regional differences in cuts of meat
  • Rump caps are typically difficult to get due to high export demands
  • When brisket is done right it has the texture of eye fillet
  • ‘Niche cut’ is a term given to cuts that are popular at that time. Right now that includes brisket and lamb shanks
  • 8 to 9 score wagyu briskets are popular with the more successful BBQ teams
  • All Billy’s pigs are fed on pecan nuts which creates pork with fat that renders at lower temperatures meaning more succulent meat
  • Always look for pork that comes from females, not males. Male meat has ‘boar taint’ which gives off an offensive odour when cooking
  • To get good quality pork ribs from your local butcher, ask for a rind-off, bone-in pork belly. Ask them to take off the top layer of fat and follow the seam to create a square belly rib
  • When picking a brisket, look at where the point meets the flat. You don’t want a shallow divot. You want a high-yielding flat for a more consistent cook and therefore a better brisket. Ask the butcher to remove all the deckle fat and make sure it’s neatly trimmed at the point. Look for a 5-7 kilo brisket to make sure you get a good amount out of it
  • Many briskets are vacuum sealed
    • Beef is currently at the highest cost it’s ever been
    • Therefore, butchers are not breaking down the animals themselves as labour costs are too high
    • So it gets done at an abattoir according to a boning spec
    • A 5-7 kg brisket comes from a cow weighing 350 – 400kgs
    • That’s a lot of breaking down and physical weight to carry in order to get just two briskets from one cow
  • As for Cryo-vaccing
    • It’s a good thing
    • Brisket needs to meat and age
    • There’s dry ageing and wet ageing
    • Wet ageing is in cryo-vaccing
    • Brisket needs to wet age for at least four weeks
    • Muscle enzymes and fibres break down and release fluids
    • Four weeks from when the beast is broken down
    • Billy insists on 2 – 3 weeks from his supplier and then he holds them for another week so they’re all ready to go
  • A cryo-vacced piece of meat in the coldest part of the day should last 90 days
    • Beef is best – it has the longest time
    • Lamb – 2 -3 weeks
    • Pork Same
    • Chicken 5-7 days
  • Billy’s favourite steak is a grass fed sirloin – best flavoured cut of meat. Then beef ribs. Then pulled pork.
  • He loves to reverse sear his steak. Especially bone-in sirloin. It’s his go-to
  • The Reverse Sear:
    • Traditionally, if a steak was thicker than an inch, seal first, then put in an oven for 15-20 minutes at a lower heat
  • To do a Reverse Sear:
    • Salt or rub meat
    • Set up BBQ for indirect cooking (heat source on one side and not the other)
    • Put meat on other side. Put on lid.
    • 700 grams get 20 minutes offset. Then 4 minutes each side direct. Rest on a plate under foil for a few minutes
    • Meat will be more tender and be more flavourful.
    • The heat at the end creates the crust
    • Salt helps create a crust. Salt is beef’s best friend.
    • Salt your steak and leave it for an hour before cooking
    • Billy recommends Murray River Pink Salt, Kosher Salt, Pink Himalayan Rock Salt or Sea Salt Flakes
  • How Billy trains and motivates his staff to ensure high quality product and low turnover
    • Billy treats them the same as he treats his customers: they’re all like family to Billy. This ensures they in turn treat their customers well
    • Re Quality Control
      • His staff are trained the correct way and to evaluate every single cut they make to ensure it’s high quality
      • Plenty of one-on-one training
      • Staff meetings
      • Good and bad feedback from staff
      • Treating staff with respect is the pinnacle and you’ll get back what you put in to your staff.
  • Billy’s Tips on starting your own business
    • Don’t take it all on your own shoulders. If you work 18 – 20 hours a day, you’ll burn out like he did
  • Regarding freezing meat
    • Chicken breast and pork can be frozen
    • Don’t freeze a good steak as you lose a lot of moisture when it defrosts
    • If you buy a whole steak (like a whole piece and have the butcher cut it), have the butcher cryo-vac the individual slices and then keep them ‘fresh’ in the fridge to wet age
  • Sealing the meat so you don’t lose moisture
    • Billy prefers reverse sear for big steaks, 700grams to a kilo
    • The salt crust is the key to getting the crust
      • It dries out the top most layer of the meat but creates like a webbing to keep the moisture inside
      • You lose a little bit of moisture on the outside but keeps it in the middle
    • For low’n’slow cuts, use a rub to create a bark
    • Look for good marbling (intramuscular fat)
    • Finding a good product first is the best place to start
  • Billy prefers hot’n’fast to traditional low’n’slow. Cooks at 300F as it barks better. Then lets it drop when he wraps
  • Supermarkets initially took business away from local butchers, but are now helping the butchers by driving customers back to them:
    • Lost their quality
    • Media has exposed the way they treat animals and customers are having issues with the supermarket ethics
    • Cannot guarantee the MSA label in supermarkets – they’ve basically bought the label
    • One of Billy’s suppliers has seen more independent butcher accounts opened in the last year than for the last 20 years, in which he’s seen declines
  • Billy’s top tips
    • Build a relationship with a good butcher, to source good meat
    • Drink beer. Make friends. Competitive BBQ is so friendly. Everybody loves to have a beer and a chat while at a competition. Put yourself out there and be social.