It's the 'Straya Day long weekend, which for many means a time to fling some animal flesh over a heat source. Once you reach a certain point in life, though, the old tripod Weber is best left in the shed in favour of something a little more salubrious.
People are spending more money on outdoor kitchens with extra equipment, such as fridges, pizza ovens, granite bench tops, that sort of thing.Jess Pryles
Like the luxury car market, high-end barbecues are becoming increasingly elaborate, pimped out with extras including water smokers, pizza ovens, rotating spits - you name it.
We spoke to barbecue master and grilled meat enthusiast Ben Farley from Sydney's BBQ Cooking School about the ultimate in outdoor cooking.
"The best barbecue in the entire world is the DCS (Dynamic Cooking System) by Fisher & Paykel," says Farley. "They retail at around $10,000 … and they have a 15-year warranty, which is unheard of. The reason is, it's made from marine-grade steel."
Low and slow
It's not just the classic gas-powered barbecue that's worth considering when investing in some new outdoor hardware.
In case you haven't noticed, we're in the midst of a 'southern' barbecue boom, with Australians adopting American-style barbecue techniques with tasty abandon. Twelve-hour smoked Angus beef brisket, anyone?
"In America when you say barbecue, that means any indirect heat cooking," says Jess Pryles, Melbourne's queen of barbecue and the founder of the Carnivore's Ball. "The all-encompassing term is 'low and slow'."
Pryles says buying the right barbecue is like buying the right car - with myriad bells and whistles to choose from, it pays to do your research.
"If you walk into Barbecues Galore today, you would be shocked at the change from walking in two years ago," she says. "There are so many different types of non-gas barbecues available now, be it for smoking, grilling or roasting. For example, the Pro Q has a hook in the lid so you can literally lower an entire suckling pig into it if you want to."
Does size matter? Farley says it depends how often you're using your barbecue, and how many mouths you're catering for.
"Most people have gas barbecues for convenience these days, but there is definitely a heightened flavour outcome if you do use charcoal," he says. "But if you're doing any charcoal cooking, it might take you half an hour to get your fuel ready."
Barbecue nerds argue it's not necessarily about convenience. "People are getting offset smokers custom-built here by boilermakers - massive steel hand-fabricated units that cost thousands of dollars," says Pryles. "And people are looking for accessories around [their barbecues], like gorgeous native hardwood chopping boards and fancy knives - it's a whole new world."
Forget installing a mere cooktop - the demand for complete outdoor kitchens is on the rise. "Outdoor kitchens are culturally the way people like to entertain and hang out in Australia," Farley asserts.
"It's easy to make a big mess in your kitchen and then make another mess at your barbecue station and then you've got two hours of cleaning up. … so people are spending more money on outdoor kitchens with extra bits of equipment, such as fridges, pizza ovens, granite bench tops, that sort of thing."
Business is booming for landscapers doing outdoor builds and integrating barbecue spaces with an array of swag.
"You could argue that people only need one pair of shoes," laughs Pryles. "But we all know why we want more than one pair of shoes. The same thing is happening with barbecues. More is more."