May is National BBQ month. May is also the month we are highlighting Classics Bring Comfort within our 2021 Top 10 Trends series. BBQ certainly finds itself on our list of comfort foods, especially for team members like Chef David Russell who is a competitive BBQ pitmaster. The low and slow cooking method infuses crave-worthy, smoky flavors that are hard to resist. While classic American BBQ hits the spot, whichever region it may hail from, we’re getting creative this month with twists on the familiar. As guests return to dining rooms, it’s time to make their visits exciting and memorable, especially for younger adults, as 29% of consumers aged 25-44 agree new flavors provide excitement in a pandemic (Mintel). So, let’s look at taking BBQ a step further.
The ever-present flavors found within American BBQ likely conjure up familiar memories of summer or digging in at your favorite BBQ joint. Honey, bourbon, mustard, and hickory are mainstay terms mentioned within BBQ menu items, but what is next? In terms of sweetness, fruit sauce, maple, and molasses are hitting the scene. Capitalizing on consumer desire for lower sugar and natural sweeteners, trend-forward restaurants and specialty grocers are creating and stocking BBQ items with these ingredients. Be on the lookout for unique sweeteners in the BBQ space, such as monk fruit and dates. Switching the focus from sweet to heat, expect to see specific chili pepper details included in menu descriptions and product names, often including lesser-known or “dare devil” peppers. Carolina reaper, Nashville hot, gochujang, Korean, and habanero reside in the inception and adoption life stages within the BBQ Flavors MAC by Datassential versus the pervasive chipotle, jalapeno, and just plain “spicy.”
While these flavors get our tastebuds going, we may be more intrigued by what’s next in terms of global technique and preparation. When we look at the menu data, one thing is clear: global methods of BBQ are creeping their way onto the American table. With it being an Olympic Games year, Mintel predicts even further excitement around global flavors, specifically Japanese as it is the host country. Japanese flavors can be incorporated into BBQ seasonings and marinades. Katsu sauce, often an accompaniment to meat, easily transfers from east to west made with ingredients like Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, and sugar. From Cantonese cuisine, char siu is barbecued strips of pork, skewered and cooked over a fire or in a covered oven. The cut of pork can vary and is often seasoned with ingredients like honey, five-spice powder, red fermented bean curd, dark soy sauce, Chinese cooking wine (Shaoxing), and hoisin sauce. This type of meat is perfect to include in noodle bowls. Southeast Asia gives us satay, smaller cuts of meat than char siu, skewered, grilled, and most often served with a peanut sauce. The Greek variation is souvlaki, in which the marinade is typically a simple combination of olive oil and lemon juice.
These skewered options are great inspiration for a prepped take home grill meal kit. In fact, 44% of US consumers find grilling to be a convenient cooking method and 36% find grilling relaxing (Mintel), and a prepared meal kit only adds to the simplicity of a grilled meal. Marinate and/or season the meat, assemble the skewers, package with accompanying sauces and sides, and have consumers grill at home. Latin cuisines, of course, bring us a great variety of barbecued meats. Take cues from asado, barbacoa, and churrasco seasonings and cooking styles, consider how you could bring these meats to life in your kitchen and incorporate them into tacos, burritos, bowls, and entrees.
Of course we’d be remiss to not mention experimenting with plant-based items with BBQ influence. As you likely know, jackfruit makes for an excellent alterative to pulled pork; just shred and flavor as you would normally. Experiment with the grill or smoker with other vegetables like mushrooms, squash, and sweet potatoes, or feature a seasonal LTO with your already existing plant-based burger patty, a BBQ sauce, crispy onion strings, and cheddar cheese.
Whether you’re sticking to classics or transforming traditional items, we’re here to help provide tips, products, and ideas for you. Our fan-favorite Custom Culinary® Pork Barbeque Spice instantly gives pork and other meats, vegetables, and baked beans perfectly-seasoned flavor. If you’re looking for more inspiration, listen to Chef David Russell share in his excitement for the return of live fire cooking with an insightful discussion on tried and true wood-burning ovens, cast iron techniques, and the use of fruitwoods in this podcast episode. And although not exclusive to BBQ techniques, Fired Up Flavor was a top trend covered in 2020; find insights, recipes, and a demo video here focused on smoky and fiery flavors. No matter if it’s grilling, searing, smoking, or roasting, get cooking, friends!
Brand Marketing Director
Custom Culinary, Inc.