by Samantha Townsend
The stakes have never been higher for producers vying for the one of nation’s top meat gongs.
For two days, a panel of judges will taste their way through 70 of the nation’s finest beef and lamb products to determined who will take out the Royal Queensland Food and Wine Show’s Branded Beef and Lamb competition.
The competition, presented by Super Butcher, will see all products entered go through a rigorous judging process, with food scientists and chefs perfectly cooking each piece of meat, before being tasted by the experts.
Under the carving knife today was lamb.
With no information about how the lamb was grown, judges were looking for flavour, tenderness and juiciness, which played an important part in determining a good lamb cutlet from the next.
“It’s hard to get a tough piece of lamb in today’s environment because there is more care from the farmer to the processor,” says judge David Jones, a meat quality consultant and former retail butcher.
Mr Jones, who has been on the judging panel for five years, said judging lamb was similar to wine tasting with 20 different traits to look for from nuttiness to creaminess and whether the cut was well-rounded.
“You can’t be a vegetarian in this job,” he said.
“After 40 cutlets today I’ve told (my) wife I don’t want lamb for tea.”
The lamb was cooked to 62 degrees Celsius and rested before being cut into cutlets for the judges to taste. There was no seasoning and every cutlet was cooked the same way with a steward overseeing the process.
To taste judges sliced the middle of the cutlet, chewed it and either spat it out or digested it.
“The flavour comes in about 15 to 30 seconds afterwards when it settles on the mouth,’ Mr Jones said.
His number one tip for consumers is to buy lamb from the butcher or supermarket and keep it refrigerated for another two days before cooking it as this helps with tenderness and flavour.
Six of the lamb products entered in the competition are in the new ‘Restaurant Trade Branded Lamb Class more than 24kg’, which caters for the restaurant trade and features MSA and non-MSA graded products with an average body output of 20 to 79 per week.
Chef William Wallace echoed Mr Jones sentiments saying long lasting flavours played a key role in points scoring.
Having been in the industry for 15 years, Mr Wallace said it was great to see the different varieties of lamb that was being grown.
“In each division, there is a clear winner with the grand champion extremely close between top two,” Mr Wallace said.
Chief Judge Elaine Millar will lead 12 of Queensland’s top judges and food experts, including Jake Nicolson from Black Bird Bar and Grill and Glen Barratt from Wild Canary.
Beef will be judged tomorrow with Ms Millar saying this year’s entrants produced some of the highest quality beef in Australia and they were looking forward to tasting and scoring their entries over the next few days.
“We tend to see incredibly close scoring in this competition as Australian beef is the leader in excellence in the global beef market,” she said.
The winners will be announced this Friday at the Stockmen’s Bar and Grill at Brisbane Showgrounds with the award-winning products featured on the menu at the fine dining steakhouse restaurant at the Royal Queensland Show (Ekka), which is just 101 days away.