Change has come to barbecue.
The once-sleepy Southern comfort food is now an American culinary juggernaut. Scads of new restaurants have opened, the competition circuit continues to grow and sales of backyard grills show no sign of slowing down.
Gas ovens are ubiquitous. Chain restaurants dot the landscape. Expensive grills that can do everything but pilot you to the moon are all the rage.
Looking ahead, Smoke Signals believes there are more changes to come. One is the continued internationalization of barbecue, whether on menus, such as the experimentation at Fatty ’Cue in New York, or the opening of barbecue restaurants overseas, such as White Smoke, which opened last year in Japan.
Smoke Signals asked some of the leading barbecue writers for their predicted trends for 2012. Their thoughts follow after the jump.
Daniel Vaughn, Full Custom Gospel BBQ blogger. “Given that the drought in Texas will most likely linger through 2012, I see the price of beef and therefore brisket skyrocketing. Look for pitmasters to ramp up their promotion of other cuts. A possible front runner could be sausage. Educated barbecue consumers give high praise to joints that spend the time to make their own, and up-and-coming pitmasters around the state of Texas, like Greg Gatlin of Gatlin’s Barbecue in Houston and Justin Fourton of Pecan Lodge in Dallas, are seeing the benefit of the effort. Smoked sausage might just have its heyday in 2012.”
Ardie A. Davis, founder of the American Royal International BBQ Sauce, Rub and Baste Contest in Kansas City and author of five books on grilling and smoking. “There will be more small-batch, gluten-free, fruit-based sauces, more Asian fusion flavors and a greater discovery of the South Carolina-style mustard sauces. More gas cooks will convert to charcoal and wood; rotisserie will be the hottest new/old thing. In restaurants, gas/wood combo pits will dominate at new restaurants. Robotic-assisted barbecue will be the biggest innovation. The number and size of competitions will continue to increase. The demand for organic heritage breeds of meat will increase. Sale of big high-dollar rigs will increase, but the best barbecue will still come from low-tech, old-fashioned inexpensive pits. Kansas City’s eclectic mix of barbecue styles will keep it at the epicenter of American barbecue. The only barbecue meats lacking are mutton, duck and pig snoots. Not likely to see them anytime soon.”
Steven Raichlen, author of numerous barbecue cookbooks, including “The Barbecue! Bible” and, most recently, “Planet Barbecue”; he also oversees a line of products and teaches classes. “My predictions for 2012: More charcoal grilling, more wood grilling, more multiple grill ownership (gas and charcoal). More smoking — of pork shoulders and briskets, to be sure, but also of things people don’t normally smoke, like sweetbreads, tomatoes, corn, cheese and mussels. Grilled oysters.
“Americans will discover Filipino and Peruvian grilling — some of the world’s most vibrant. Filipino marinades go from the sublime — calamansi — to the ridiculous — Sprite — and always include garlic, soy sauce and vinegar. Peru’s iconic barbecue is anticuchos (grilled beef hearts), spiced up with aji amarillo and aji panca (respectively, fiery fruity yellow and red chili paste). In America, we’ll see more socially acceptable anticuchos, like salmon, sweetbread and filet mignon. But many restaurants will serve the traditional beef heart version, too.”
John Shelton Reed and Dale Volberg Reed, co-authors of “Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue.” “So much to denounce, so little space…One, would-be barbecue places turning to what Hank Hill calls “energy-efficient clean-burning propane” to produce what we call roast pork. Two, the spread of the insidious Kansas City heresy that barbecue is about doctored-ketchup sauce. Three, the metastasizing International House of Barbecue style, with a mix-and-match menu of meats and sauces that’s fine for traditionless places like Washington but should be outlawed in Raleigh and Memphis. Four, the rise of ‘concept’ barbecue establishments with $12 pulled-pork sandwiches and valet parking. Real barbecue is an endangered cuisine. Eat it while you can.”