A new year already? It seems like just last week I was writing my 2018 trends blog. Many of my predictions came true—Fusion ‘Que, Philanthro Que, Hasselback potatoes. And to judge from sales of my plancha, a lot of you discovered the joys of smoke-grilling on a plancha. Other trends—like thin steaks and salt slab desserts are still a work in progress.
Well, there’s a lot on my radar this year, so I’m actually writing this blog in two parts. Here are my first five predictions. Five more appear in Part 2.
In the meanwhile, all of us at Barbecuebible.com wish you the happiest of holidays and a healthy, barbecue-filled new Year.
#1: Brisket where you least expect it: Remember when great brisket could only be found in Texas or Kansas City? Well, as brisket’s fame has spread, we’ve become a nation of brisket addicts, and world class brisket turns up not only in Austin or Lexington (Texas, that is), but in Brooklyn (at Hometown Bar-B-Que, for example), Chicago (at Green St. Smoked Meats), and even Los Angeles (at the new Trudy’s Underground). Word has it Billy Durney of Hometown Bar-B-Que is opening a second outlet in Miami—yay! Brisket has truly become an American barbecue specialty, no longer determined by geography or tradition.
#2: Grills go green: Somewhere between the celery root “schwarma” served at Yotam Ottolenghi’s new ROVI restaurant in London, and the wood-roasted carrots and charred Chioggia beets at Vedge in Philadelphia (the same people who brought us an absolutely amazing vegan Philly “cheesesteak” at their fast food joint Wiz Kid), meatless grilling got street cred. And not just at vegetarian and vegan restaurants. Bad Hunter in Chicago serves a vegan banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich) made with charred trumpet mushrooms and pecan pate. Barrel and Ashes in Los Angeles serves a smoked beet salad alongside their Santa Maria tri-tip and BBQ chicken. And let’s not forget the Impossible Burger—a meatless burger that went mainstream big time in 2018. Look for a lot more meatless grilling in the coming year.
#3: Wood grilling comes home: When it comes to smoke flavor, you can’t beat a steak, seafood, or vegetables seared over a true crackling smoky wood fire. For many years, most wood grilling took place at restaurants (like Gwen in Los Angeles, Amara in Miami, and the new Tito and Pep in Tucson). Well, wood grilling has come home, thanks to home model wood-burning grills, like the new South African inspired Kudu grill, Grillworks, the American Muscle Grill, and the high end Hybrid Grill from Kalamazoo. Want to grill on wood without investing in a wood burner? Here’s a great simple technique from my book Project Fire: fill a chimney starter with hardwood chunks instead of charcoal. Light it as you would charcoal. When the embers glow red dump them in your kettle grill. Your steaks and chops will thank you—and so will your guests.
#4: New rubs from around Planet Barbecue: Forget classic American barbecue rub or herbes de Provence from the south of France. This year, we’ll be grilling with exotic rubs from across Africa and the Far East. Chef Michael Lewis of Kyu in Miami seasons his brisket with a Japanese spice blend called togarashi. (The primary flavorings are peppercorns, dried chiles, citrus zest, hemp and sesame seeds, and crumbled nori seaweed.) Togarashi also turns up in Aaron Frankin’s brisket kettle corn. Another exotic rub making waves in the barbecue world is ras al hanout from Morocco. The name means “best of the shop” and the formula varies from spice vendor to spice vendor, but you can always count on that Moroccan flavor quintet of cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, and paprika.
#5: Brisket in a hurry: Conventional wisdom calls for cooking brisket low and slow—for an interval measured in half days, not hours or minutes. Conventional wisdom hasn’t met chef Mike Sim at Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong restaurant in New York’s Koreatown. Sim freezes a whole packer brisket, then slices it paper thin on an electric meat slicer. The slices go on a screaming hot table grill and are cooked for scarcely a minute per side. The result? The incredibly rich beefy flavor of brisket with the instant gratification of a minute steak. And speaking of brisket in a hurry, how about a brisket burger, made with our favorite slab of beef, ground. For extra points—and flavor, stir in some chopped burned ends. Now that’s brisket in a hurry. Note: look for this and 50 other amazing brisket recipes in my forthcoming book The Brisket Chronicles.