BBQ Trends

Barbecue is smoking!

To many purists who love pork, beef and chicken smoked low and slow over wood, the phrase “barbecue trends” is an oxymoron. To them, there there’s nothing remotely modern or food fashionable about this typically southern U.S. delicacy.

But barbecue as a menu segment is trending, even though its rise to national awareness has happened about as slowly as the smoke ascending lazily from the all-important hickory and fruit wood fires required to make it.

Once the domain of roadside stops located below the Mason-Dixon Line, barbecue “joints” like Butcher Bar and Rudolphs Bar-B-Que are popping up in such northern U.S. cities as New York and Minneapolis, respectively.

Chains such as Smokey Bones, Famous Dave’s, Dickey’s BBQ Pit and Sonny’s BBQ are expanding steadily as a growing number of diners now appreciate how the formula of wood smoke + time + temperature can turn otherwise fatty and tough cuts of meat into heaven on a plate.

Even mainstream restaurants are adding barbecue to the menu mix, often relying on a wide range of high-quality, premade sauces and rubs to help them compete in the growing marketplace.

Proof that Tennessee whiskey’s tastes great in barbecue sauce is T.G.I. Friday’s nine item Jack Daniel’s Grill section of its menu. In addition to pork ribs, the lineup includes sauce-slathered steaks and shrimp. Customers choosing Chili’s Grill & Bar baby back ribs get two new sauce choices this year: one sweetened with Dr. Pepper and a more savory Craft Beer sauce. At Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar, fans of ribs can choose from three sauce options: sweet Asian chile, smoky chipotle and honey BBQ.

But as is common during such growth spurts, operators find themselves working to differentiate their products from those of their competitors.

Some say the drive to satisfy a highly mobile customer base that’s exposed to incredible variety via food-centered TV shows is leading them to broaden their offerings. Others are attempting to stick to what they do well while allowing some variations on themes.

John Rivers, founder of Four Rivers Smokehouse, a nine-unit chain based in Orlando, Fla., is one such pit master. In his global travels he finds barbecue done in countless ways and says those influences are spurring his creativity.

“I’d never substitute the real bread-and-butter styles of what we barbecue, but there are so many opportunities to bring other flavors in,” Rivers says. “I change one thing on the regular menu, my life will be threatened! But when I cook for James Beard dinners or a Food Network show, I get to cook with an open palate and try new things.”

Such twists include a chimichurri-like sauce made of smoked and chargrilled tomatillos, tomatoes and onions that are pureed with jalapeño and cilantro. He serves the sauce on smoked tri-tip and smoked beef tacos.

“Those incredible Latin flavors are so fresh on smoked meat; they really pop out,” he says. “I also like what I’m seeing in other markets with different ethnicities that are grabbing on to barbecue. There’s a new place in Orlando that’s serving pulled pork with plantains and black beans.”

In New York, Butcher Bar offers spicy tacos with a choice of smoked pork or barbecued chicken served on a soft corn tortilla with pico de gallo, jalapeños and habanero sauce.

Tony Roma’s A Place for Ribs will introduce a white barbecue sauce this month to accompany bone-in chicken that’s beer braised and finished over a fiery grill. According to Bob Gallagher, senior vice president of culinary and purchasing at the Tampa, Fla.-based chain says vinegar-and-mayonnaise-based white sauce is popular in nearby Alabama, but it’s catching on quickly throughout the South.

“The mainstream tomato-based barbecue sauce is here to stay, and that makes the white sauce really unique,” Gallagher says. The sauce is basted onto the chicken as it grills, giving the bird’s skin an extra crunch, he adds. “We’re going to use the white sauce on smoked sausage as well.”

For Chad Cooley, owner of two-unit Momma’s Mustard, Pickles & BBQ in Louisville, Ky., the uniqueness of his barbecue is in the preparation. One example is his chicken wings, which are smoked for two-and-a-half hours and, when ordered, deep-fried and dusted with barbecue spice rub.

“Just the dry rub, no sauce at all on them, so they’re really crisp, but still tender and smoky,” he says. “I don’t like just smoking the wings; they’re just gummy that way. They’re a huge hit this way.”

Patrick Martin says the trend is to blend — not sauces or rubs or meats, but unique barbecue styles cross-regionally on the same menus. The founder and pit master at Nashville, Tenn.-based Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint, says Americans are increasingly peripatetic and want a taste of home when they’re away, especially if they move to an area where they’ll put down roots. That’s forcing many pit masters outside their regional ‘cue comfort zones.

“The traditional lines are getting blurred quickly,” says Martin, who travels widely and, not surprisingly, tastes a lot of barbecue while on the road. “You’re seeing a lot of pork ribs, whole hogs, shoulders and Boston butts showing up at places in Texas that only did beef before. … I find it’s because people want the same things they had growing up.”

That means beef brisket is on the menu at all three of his Tennessee restaurants, though he volunteers that his isn’t as good as versions he finds in the Lone Star State.

“I don’t cook brisket as well as Aaron Franklin does,” Martin says, praising the owner of Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas. Before he opened Martin’s in 2006, he assumed correctly that the highly transient population working in Nashville’s music industry would want smoked beef.

Rivers says he’s seen the same trend, but he credits a different reason for its emergence.

“National TV exposure has really raised people’s interest in barbecue over the last five or six years,” Rivers says. “And it’s especially what’s made brisket so popular and growing now where we are.”

But wandering hog lovers aren’t the only reason pit masters in beef bastions like Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska are pulling pork onto the menu. Martin says the soaring price of beef is forcing them to smoke hogs and get a better margin.

“Brisket and clod used to be inexpensive to smoke, but not anymore,” he says. “Charging $29 a pound for great brisket is out of the budget for the normal customer who used to eat it twice a week. Now it’s once every other week.”

It’s also become a special occasion item, says Rivers.

“Brisket took off in my catering division several years ago, so of about 300 hundred weddings we’re doing a year, it’s barbecue,” he says. “People don’t want the old steak and potato servings anymore. They want a high-quality taste, and that’s our barbecue.”

Dickie's BBQ PIT Meats and Sides

3 Meat Plate beef brisket, pulled pork, pork ribs, served with barbecue beans

Dickie's BBQ PIT Meats and Sides

Texas Style Chopped Beef Brisket
Sliced Beef Brisket
Southern Pulled Pork
Pork Ribs
Spicy Cheddar Sausage
Polish Sausage
Tender Turkey
Virginia Style Ham
Italian Marinated Chicken

BBQ Beans
Potato Salad
Baked Potato Casserole
Ceasar Salad
Mac and Cheese
Jalapeno Beans
Green Beans with Bacon
Fried Okra
Fried Onion Tanglers
Waffle Iron Fries

Stampede Stew


Dickey's Barbecue Pit is giving guests a taste of TNT's 'On the Menu' with new limited edition menu item, Stampede Stew.  The fast-casual restaurant chain known for slow smoked Texas barbecue is unveiling the signature dish created by Atlanta resident Sarah Broadus.  Broadus brought the heat in the broadcast cooking competition starring Emeril Lagasse and Ty Pennington, by winning the prize of being featured on the menu at participating Dickey's Barbecue locations.

The limited time menu item, features a deliciously Southern combination of fresh turnip greens mixed with a hearty vegetable broth, great northern beans and piled high with Dickey's signature Polish sausage. Stampede Stew is served steaming hot along with a buttery roll.  The new menu item can be served as either a tasty entree or a home style side item.

New Menu Items at Tony Roma's

Tony Roma's New Items:

  • Cajun Onion Loaf: Spanish onions breaded, deep fried and service with Sriracha ranch sauce
  • Honey Lime Shrimp Salad (pictured): Shrimp skewers, Asian salad mix, honey lime dressing, mango, avocado, tortilla strips, bacon, feta cheese, grape tomatoes and cilantro
  • Beer Braised Chicken: White barbecue sauce, Cajun sidewinder fries and coleslaw
  • Summertime BBQ Trio: Baby back ribs with sweet black pepper barbecue sauce, a quarter of a chicken with white barbecue sauce, jalapeño sausage with beer mustard sauce, Cajun sidewinder fries and coleslaw

Availability: Until Sept. 15, 2015

Tony Roma’s kick starts the new year by cranking up the heat, offering craveable, classic menu items with a twist of flavorful spice. For a limited time, the menu will feature five new ‘Crave the Kick’ items infused with the flavors of chipotle, poblano, apple and pomegranate.

Spice up your dining adventure Black Bean & Poblano Queso Dip served with fajita potato chips, the Chipotle Caesar Salad, and the Salmon & Chipotle Garlic Shrimp entrées. Enjoy a new twist on Tony Roma’s World Famous Baby Back ribs with the Filet Medallions & Smoky Apple Rib Combo, served with Tony Roma’s new sweet and savory Smoky Apple BBQ sauce. Add a sweet and tart twist to your experience with one of our signature Romarita drinks, including the new Pomegranate Romarita. And finish it all off with a sweet new treat and indulge in our warm chocolate donut dessert paired with a silky espresso mousse.

New Items at Dickey's Barbecue Pit

Dickey's Barbecue Pit New Item: 

  • Stampede Stew, winning dish on TNT’s On the Menu, made of turnip greens, Great Northern beans and vegetable broth topped with Polish sausage, $7.99.

Availability: Through Jan. 6, 2015

New Menu Items at Lucille's

Lucille’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que restaurants will dish up new Southern-inspired dishes as part of its special Fall Classics menu.

Lucille’s new Fall Classics menu items feature a Southern twist on the season’s favorite flavors. The new items include:

  • Lucille’s Hot Turkey Sandwich. Thinly sliced hickory smoked turkey breast on white bread, layered with Southern stuffing and ladled with Lucille’s famous giblet gravy. Served with creamy roasted garlic mashed potatoes and homemade cranberry sauce for $14.99.
  • Turkey Shepherd’s Pie. Hickory smoked turkey breast, celery, carrots, onions, sweet corn, peas and mushrooms in a warm herb cream sauce, topped with savory mashed potato gratin for $16.99.
  • Smokehouse Turkey Burger. An organic turkey burger with smoked gouda cheese, fresh arugula, smoked sweet peppers, and roasted garlic mayo on a honey wheat bun. Served with a choice of side for $13.99.
  • Grilled Citrus Turkey Breast. A citrus marinated breast of turkey, char grilled and glazed with Lucille’s house made citrus herb reduction. Served with roasted garlic mashed potatoes, apple cranberry relish and spiced butternut squash for $17.99.

Beef Brisket

Fat Boy's BBQ Recipe

1 whole beef brisket
charcoal seasoning

Trim brisket to choice of fat consistency. Rub garlic salt and charcoal seasoning on both sides generously. Cook with indirect heat over charcoal fire and hickory or mesquite chips for smoke flavor. Slow cook at 350 degrees for about 3 hours. Beef is done at 170 degrees. Slice across grain of meat in thin slices. Serve on sandwiches or plates with your favorite sauce.

Peach Cobbler

Fat Boy's BBQ Recipe

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1/4 cup margarine
No. 2 can sliced peaches in syrup

Melt margarine in 13 x 9 inch casserole dish in 325 degree oven. While the margarine is melting, mix sugar and flour in a mixing bowl until well blended. Add in milk and continue to blend. Add peaches to butter in dish. Stir. Pour cobbler over peaches. Do not stir. Bake until cobbler is golden brown, approximately 1 hour.

Roasted Whole Onions

Weber Grill Restaurant Recipe

Makes 4 Servings

6 (8-10 oz.) Yellow onions, skin on, about tennis ball size
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon minced fresh Italian parsley

Build a layer of hot coals at medium heat. Keep all vents open. With the onions still in their skins, place them on the charcoal grate against the charcoal. Close the lid and cook the onions until very tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Occasionally swap the positions of the onions for even cooking and turn the blackened skins away from the charcoal. When very tender, the onions will be blackened in spots all over and a knife blade will slide in and out of each onion like it is a ripe peach. Some onions may take longer than others.

At this point, to finish cooking the onions, you will need to add more charcoal to the fire for medium heat. Remove the onions from the grill and let cool completely. Carefully remove the skin from each onion, being careful to leave the root ends intact so they hold the layers of the onions together. Cut each onion lengthwise through the stem and root ends

When the fire is ready, put the cooking grate in place. In a large disposable foil pan over direct medium heat (350 to 450 degrees), melt the butter. Carefully add the onions in a single layer and season with the salt and pepper. Using tongs, turn the onions in the butter to coat them.

Slide the pan over indirect medium heat and cook, with the lid closed as much as possible, until the onions are very tender and just beginning to brown, 10 to 15 minutes, carefully turning the onions once or twice. If desired, to keep the onions warm, cover the pan with foil and let the onions continue to cook over indirect heat for as long as 30 minutes. Wearing insulated barbecue mitts, remove the pan from the grill. Splash the vinegar and sprinkle the parsley over the onions. Serve warm.

Grilled Carrots

Weber Grill Restaurant Recipe

Makes 4 Servings

8 medium carrots 6-8 inches long
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, divided
1 teaspoon minced fresh Italian parsley

Set the grill for direct cooking over high heat. Peel the carrots and cook in boiling water until partially cooked but still crisp, 4 to 6 minutes. Drain the carrots and rinse under cold water for at least 10 seconds to stop the cooking.

Lay the carrots flat on a work surface. Use a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter with the vinegar and nutmeg. Brush the carrots with about half the butter mixture and season with half the salt and pepper.

Brush the cooking grates clean. Grill carrots over direct high heat, with the lid open, until lightly charred with spots and stripes, 3 to 5 minutes, turning occasionally. Transfer the carrots to a platter, brush with the remaining butter mixture, and season with the remaining salt and pepper. Sprinkle the parsley over the top, if using. Serve warm.

Lemon Broccoli

Weber Grill Restaurant Recipe

Makes 4 Servings

2 1/2 teaspoonsosher salt, divided
1 lb (about 6 cups) broccoli florets
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Fill a large saucepan with water to within a few inches of the top. Add 2 teaspoons of the salt to the water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the broccoli to the boiling water and cook until bright green and crisp-tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the saucepan and plunge into an ice bath to rapidly cool them. Then remove the broccoli from the ice bath and drain.

Prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat. Brush the cooking grates clean. Preheat a grill pan over direct medium heat for about 10 minutes. In a large bowl mix the broccoli, oil, lemon zest, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Spread the broccoli on the grill pan in a single layer. Grill over direct medium heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, until the broccoli is warm and just begins to brown, 4 to 6 minutes, turning occasionally. Remove from the grill and garnish with the cheese. Serve warm.

Asparagus with Sherry Bacon Vinaigrette

Weber Grill Restaurant Recipe

Makes 4 Servings

6 slices bacon
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound fresh asparagus
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced crosswise.

Set the grill for direct cooking over medium heat. In a medium skillet over medium heat, lay the bacon in a single layer and cook until crisp, 8 to 10 minutes, turning occasionally. Drain the bacon on paper towels, reserving the bacon fat in the skillet.

Pour off all but 3 tablespoons of the bacon fat and return the skillet over medium heat. Add the thyme and garlic to the skillet and let them sizzle for about 10 seconds. Add the vinegar, salt, and pepper, and then remove the skillet from the heat.

Remove and discard the tough bottom of each asparagus spear by grasping each end and bending it gently until it snaps at its natural point of tenderness, usually two thirds of the way down the spear. Using a vegetable peeler, peel off the outer skin from the bottom half of each remaining spear. Put the asparagus on a plate or platter. Pour the vinaigrette over the asparagus. Turn the asparagus to coat them evenly. Finely chop the drained bacon.

Grill the asparagus over direct medium heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, until browned in spots but not charred, 6 to 8 minutes, turning occasionally. Arrange the asparagus on a serving platter. Sprinkle the bacon over the asparagus. Arrange the onions on top. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Classic Patty Melt on Rye

Weber Grill Restaurant Recipe

Makes 6 Servings

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large yellow onions thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
kosher salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
12 slices crusty rye bread 1/2 inch thick
2 pounds ground chuck (80% lean)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 1/2 cup grated Havarti or Swiss cheese
Dijon or spicy brown mustard

In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onions, sprinkle with the sugar, cover, and cook until the onions are tender and golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt. Remove from the heat. Butter the bread on each side and set aside.
Prepare the grill for direct cooking over high heat.

In a large bowl gently mix the ground chuck with the Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon of salt, and the pepper, incorporating the spices evenly. Gently shape into 6 patties of equal size and thickness, about 3/4 inch thick. With your thumb or the back of a spoon, make a shallow indentation about 1 inch wide in the center of each patty.

Brush the cooking grates clean. Grill the patties over direct high heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, until cooked to medium, 8 to 10 minutes, turning once. Transfer the patties to a work surface. Lower the temperature of the grill to medium heat. Grill the bread slices over direct medium heat until toasted on one side only, about 1 minute. Transfer the bread, toasted sides up, to a work surface.

Evenly divide the caramelized onions on 6 of the toasted bread slices and top each with a patty. Scatter the cheese over the patties. Place the remaining bread slices, toasted sides down, on top of the patties. Using a wide spatula, carefully place the patty melts back onto the cooking grate and grill over direct medium heat until the bread on the bottom is toasted, about 1 minute, and then carefully turn the sandwiches and toast the other side. Serve the patty melts warm with mustard, if desired.

Steaks with Bacon Parmesan Butter

Weber Grill Restaurant Recipe

Makes 4 Servings

3 thick slices apple wood smoked bacon
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1 1/2 pounds small fingerling potatoes
kosher salt
8 ounces slender green beans, cut into thirds
3 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
1 1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
fresh ground black pepper
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
4 (1 lb.) T-bone steaks 1 inch thick

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until it is crisp, 8 to 10 minutes, turning occasionally. Transfer to paper towels to drain and let cool. Finely crumble or chop the bacon. In a small bowl using a fork, combine all of the butter ingredients until well blended.

Put the potatoes in a large saucepan of cold, generously salted water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, 12 to 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the potatoes from the water and place on a baking sheet. Add the green beans to the boiling water and cook just until crisp-tender, 3 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water to stop them from cooking.

In a large serving bowl whisk the shallot, vinegar, tarragon, and mustard. Add the oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly to emulsify. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cut the warm potatoes in half lengthwise, add them to the bowl with the dressing, and toss gently to coat. Add the green beans and tomatoes and toss gently again. Season with additional salt and pepper, if desired. Let stand at room temperature while preparing the steaks. (The salad can be prepared up to 4 hours ahead, kept covered in the refrigerator. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour before serving.)

Prepare the grill for direct cooking over high heat. Let the steaks stand at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes before grilling. Lightly coat the steaks on both sides with the oil and season evenly with the salt and pepper. Brush the cooking grates clean. Grill the steaks over direct high heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, until cooked to your desired doneness, 6 to 8 minutes for medium rare, turning once or twice (if flare-ups occur, move the steaks temporarily over indirect heat). Remove from the grill and let rest for 3 to 5 minutes.

Top each steak with an equal amount of the bacon-cheese butter and serve with the potato salad.

Beer Braised Mesquite Smoked Short Ribs

Weber Grill Restaurant Recipe

Makes 4 servings

Braising Liquid
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion coarsely chopped
6 cloves garlic coarsely chopped
1 Jalapeno chile pepper roughly chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons cumin seed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
3 (12 oz.) bottles lager or stout beer
1 bay leaf
5 pounds beef short ribs

1 cup ketchup
2 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
hot pepper sauce
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

In a large stockpot over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the onion, garlic, and jalapeño and cook until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the oregano, cumin seed, salt, and pepper and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Pour in the lager and add the bay leaf. Place the ribs in the braising liquid, meaty side down, and add just enough water to cover them. Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer until the ribs are barely tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 1½ hours. Transfer the ribs to a sheet pan to cool. Remove and discard any bones that may have fallen off the ribs in the liquid; reserve the liquid. Cover and refrigerate the cooled ribs until chilled, about 2 hours.

Soak the wood chips in water for at least 30 minutes.

Strain the braising liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl and let stand for 10 minutes. Skim the fat from the surface of the liquid. Rinse the stockpot, pour the liquid back into the stockpot, and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and simmer the liquid until reduced to 3/4 cup, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Transfer to a medium saucepan. Stir in the ketchup, molasses, balsamic vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the sauce is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Remove from the heat and season with hot pepper sauce, if desired. Set aside at room temperature.

Prepare a two zone fire for medium heat.

Brush the ribs with the oil and season evenly with the salt and pepper. Brush the cooking grate clean. Drain and add one handful of the wood chips to the charcoal and put the lid on the grill. When the wood begins to smoke, cook the ribs over indirect medium heat, with the lid closed, until the meat begins to crisp around the edges and the ribs are heated through, about 25 minutes.

Brush the ribs generously with the sauce. Drain and add the remaining wood chips to the charcoal. Move the ribs over direct medium heat, close the lid, and continue to cook until the meat is glazed, about 5 minutes, turning occasionally. Remove from the grill and serve warm with the remaining sauce.