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Low & Slow

Posted: 10 June 2020

In summer, there is nothing like authentic 'low and slow' barbecue, where meat is marinated and slow cooked at a low temperature with smoke from a wood fire resulting in deliciously tender and tasty meat. This style of cooking is typical of the South and Midwest America, where barbecue is less a style of cooking and more of a subculture. To bring a taste of authentic American barbecue to Skibo, a few years ago our chefs travelled to the States where they learned the techniques and recipes that continue to delight diners at the club each summer.BBQ meat

The hallmark of classic barbecue is the dark caramelised crust.

“British people’s idea of a barbecue is searing hot cooking over charcoal on a sunny day,” says Skibo’s Executive Chef Craig Rowland. “The meat is cooked on direct heat and often ends up black on the outside and raw on the inside, but for people in America barbecue is about slow cooking, where meat is cooked for 12 or 14 hours in a special smokery. Usually the fire is outside and inside you’ll have an oven that’s all tarred and shiny inside, that’s been going for 50 or 60 years. It’s taken extremely seriously.” 

Eager to research how best to barbecue, Skibo’s chefs travelled out to the States to see how ‘low and slow’ is done by those in the know. On the first trip, Craig and a member of his team set out to investigate, devotedly sampling the offerings of numerous barbecue restaurants in Texas, and acquiring new equipment to bring home to Skibo. On a second trip, two Skibo chefs joined forces with a team from the Midwest BBQ Institute at The Culinary Center of Kansas City (a cooking school) and, as part of the cooking school’s barbecue course, attended The American Royal World Series of Barbecue, a massive barbecuing competition held in Kansas. 

Spread over 54 acres in Kansas City’s historic Stockyards District, and with 560 teams competing in four meat categories, The Royal is the largest barbecue contest in the world and attracts serious competitors. The chefs spent a weekend on site at the competition grounds, smoking meat and perfecting the hardest dish to get right: beef brisket. Indeed, if you go to any barbecue restaurant in the States, they are judged on their beef brisket above all else.

BBQ meat

Authentic American barbecue meat is cooked low and slow.

For the brisket-uninitiated, perfection is when there’s a delicious, dark, caramelised surface crust on the outside, called a ‘bark’, then a ‘smoke ring’ which is the pink layer just below the crust and then beneath that, tender, moist meat. But it’s not an easy task. Forget the spatula and ten-minute burger burn; this is big-league barbecuing. 

“The Skibo chefs stayed awake the entire night smoking the meat, making sure it was perfect for the moment it had to be judged,” says Craig. “It’s vital to keep the smoker at a constant temperature and for the meat to be cooked for exactly the right length of time.” 

It’s marvellous to think that the chefs cooking at Skibo are passionate about serving up the highest quality food they can create. But was the sleepless night worth the effort? Indeed it was. Out of 560 teams - many of whom compete almost every weekend - the team were awarded eighth place for their pulled pork and ninth place for their smoked beans.

Back home, the chefs utilised their experience to bring a taste of America to the Highlands. With their own smoker, sourced from Oklahoma, the chefs use different woods to smoke meat, including hickory, oak, apple and cherry wood. They also blend their own marinades and spice rubs, and brines (such as cherry juice) are injected into the meat for outstanding tasty and succulent meat.

Skibo Clubhouse in the evening

Whether enjoyed indoors or al fresco, barbecue dishes at the Clubhouse are incredible.

At the Clubhouse the menus change weekly to incorporate the finest seasonal produce, but through the summer months guests might tuck into dishes like bourbon and maple smoked beef rump with cranberry and green pepper butter, a signature Skibo burger – homemade from three cuts of prime Angus beef (chuck, brisket and short rib) - topped with pulled pork, or smoked brisket served with the classic combination of coleslaw, fries and barbecue sauce. 

Whether enjoyed amidst the relaxed luxury of the Clubhouse or al fresco on the terrace, diners at Skibo are assured of delicious, authentic American barbeque crafted with care by the club’s talented chefs. 


 A version of this post appeared in the 2015 issue of Skibo magazine.

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