28 Mar 2024

Mike Jeffries: NZ's award-winning barbecue king

From Afternoons, 1:35 pm on 28 March 2024

When former truck driver Mike Jeffries started a mobile barbecue business 14 years ago, he was one of the "originals".

Now, as well as running branches of The Big Smoke Barbecue Co in Tauranga and Auckland, he's scooping up awards on the international circuit.

With Jesse Mulligan, Mike enthuses about his favourite cut of meat – pork shoulder.

"That moment when you go to pull it and all the different muscles separate…"

With Mount Maunganui barbecue chef Shane Southby, Mike will teach an American-style barbecue class at the upcoming Flavours of Plenty festival in Tauranga.

Years ago, Mike was living in London "driving trucks and bulldozers" when he first discovered the joys of American-style barbecue via a spit roast event and the reality show BBQ Pitmasters.

"I came back from the UK and my dad died at the time. My other half wanted to buy a house. I fed her up on white wine and eventually she felt sorry for me. Next thing you know, I'd talked her into buying a barbecue.

"Basically [we] came back to New Zealand and spent our house deposit on a barbecue. Went from there."

14 years ago, when he started The Big Smoke Barbecue Co, Mike says he was one of the "originals" cooking meat over charcoal.

"There was nothing back then. Even trying to find brisket, they would feed it to the dog and stuff. Back in those days, ribs had no meat."

Hamilton's annual MeatStock festival, which last month attracted 10,000 people, has significantly changed the game locally, Mike says.

Internationally, the Memphis in May world champs are something really special for those passionate about barbecued meat.

Last year, Mike's team (led by American barbecue icon Moe Cason) took out third prize in the Pork Shoulder category.

"All the big names of barbecue and America that are there. Even [Foo Fighters frontman] Dave Grohl is a barbecue judge.

"It's pretty cool. I love going over, meeting some great people and having a good time."

If you're a big fan of American-style meats, a charcoal barbecue can be just as economical to buy as a gas number, Mike says.

His pro tip? Let your meat reach room temperature before throwing it on the heat.

"Otherwise you can shock the meats if you put them in when they're too cold."


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