2013 was a sensational year for barbecue. Wildly innovative dishes. Sizzling new grills. Fantastic new restaurants—often in locations where you’d least expect them.
No one can foresee the future, of course (especially not through clouds of hickory smoke), but this Barbecue! Bible pundit will hazard some predictions. The coming year will bring us even better ’que—at home, at restaurants, and on the barbecue trail. Herewith, my barbecue predictions for 2014.
Tempted by tentacles: In the last month, I’ve eaten grilled octopus no fewer than five times at restaurants as diverse at Gjelina in Venice, California, and the new Bulla Gastrobar in Coral Gables, Florida. And of course, at Asian restaurants from coast to coast too numerous to count. Octopus has it all—rich pure meaty protein you can sink your teeth into that readily absorbs smoke and fire flavors while retaining its own delicate taste (think shrimp channeled by scallops and calamari).
Smoking goes cold: By this point, most of us have a working knowledge of hot smoking. (You know, the process where you smoke brisket, ribs, pork shoulder, etc. “low and slow” at around 250 degrees F for the better part of a day to transform them into barbecue.) Cold smoking removes the heat: You smoke the fish or meat at less than 110 degrees F so it doesn’t actually cook. Without cold smoking, there would be no Nova-style salmon (named for Nova Scotia) or beef jerky. Thanks to devices like the new A-maze-n Pellet Smoker, it just got easier to turn your kettle grill into a cold smoker.
Really big steaks: If the costata (Tuscan steak) at the new Chi Spacca restaurant in Los Angeles is any indication, in the coming year we’re in for some really big steaks. How big? Chi Spacca’s costata measures more than 4 inches wide and tips the scale at 42 ounces. It takes 30 minutes to grill and costs $175!
Dark, oily fish go chic: Portuguese and Moroccans have known for centuries what North Americans are just discovering: When it comes to grilled fish, sardines, mackerel, bluefish, and other dark, oily fish knock it out of the park. The oils keep them from drying out (and are great for your coronary health). Better still, dark, oily fish cost a lot less than striped bass or swordfish. Best of all, these fish remain plentiful—you can grill them with a clean conscience knowing you’re not depleting an endangered species. Try the Cedar Planked Bluefish recipe.
Secreto is a secret no longer: In recent months, this “secret” cut of pork has been turning up hot off the grill at trendy restaurants like Imperial in Portland, Oregon, and Bottega in the Napa Valley. Depending on who you talk to, butchers describe it variously as the outside skirt steak, the pork chop “culotte,” or a triangular cut from under the shoulder blade. Whatever it is, I hope we’ll see a lot more secreto in 2014. Think hanger steak from a hog and grill it over a hot fire. This is one cut of pork that tastes great served medium-rare.
Wood grilling comes home: 2013 was the year that the high-design, wood-burning grill (epitomized by the Grillworks Dual 48 Architectural grill) became must-have gear at high-end restaurants (Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York State and Coqueta in San Francisco, to name a few). In the coming year, I predict we’ll be doing more and more wood grilling at home. Tip: The next time you grill steaks or chops, try lighting wood chunks in your chimney starter instead of charcoal and direct grill over the wood embers. The flavor will amaze you.
Quality trumps quantity: “Eat less meat but better meat,” advise food experts, from superstar chef José Andrés to writer-activist Michael Pollan. Which is to say, the coming year will see us eat less overall meat, but spend more per pound to enjoy grass-fed, organic, and aged beef, heritage pork, organic chicken, pastured lamb, etc. They’re better tasting and better for you and the planet. A win-win for all.
Veggies get their due: Brussels sprouts roasted on a wood fire at Hi Lo BBQ in San Francisco. Artichokes grilled right on the embers at Ox in Portland, Oregon. Wood oven peas with Maldon sea salt at Tar & Roses in Santa Monica. Mom was right—eat your vegetables. Especially if they come charred and smoky hot off the grill.
Great barbecue where you least expect it: Naturally, you’d expect to find great barbecue in Texas, Tennessee, Missouri, and the Carolinas, and you won’t be disappointed. But in Brooklyn, New York? Scottsdale, Arizona? Portland, Oregon? Yet all three figure on my list of the best new barbecue joints in 2013. In the coming year, expect to find even more great ’que in cities with no historic tradition of barbecue.
Cocktails get smoked: It started with master mixologist, Dale DeGroff’s, Smoky Mary. Then came Greg Denton’s Smoked Pisco Sour. And the Dragon’s Breath served from a smoking snifter at Renegade restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona. Thanks to the widening popularity of the Smoking Gun and Aladin Smoker, some of America’s coolest cocktails now come smoked.
Want to get started on these predicted trends? Change up your ordinary menu with these recipes:
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