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Barbecue Trends 2020

At the risk of stating the obvious, 2020 has been the annus horribilus of our lifetimes, a truly awful year for the whole world, with a virulent Corona virus, global lockdown, corrosive politics, income inequality, and angry protests against social injustice.

Normally, when I write this annual trends blog, I’ve spent 3 to 4 months traveling Planet Barbecue, and this allows me to report on grilling trends observed at home and abroad.

This year, like most of us, I’ve been confined to my home—except for a brief trip to Baltimore to tape Project Fire Season 3 (launching in April). And even during that taping, we had a locked set, venturing no further than the confines of the lovely Pearlstone retreat center.

So for part one of this year’s trends blog, I’m largely relying on you! I asked my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram followers what trends they’ve observed. The results have been both predictable (sadly) and encouraging.

2020 BBQ and Grilling Trends

1. More Grilling:

A nation confined at home grills at home, and we’ve been grilling a lot more than ever before. That means firing it up 4, 6, or 7 times a week—even during the winter. (Hum, sounds like my house.) Charcoal and wood sales have skyrocketed and grill companies can’t keep their best-selling models in stock. And that’s true whether they sell inexpensive charcoal-burners or five figure stainless steel super-grills.

2. More Smoking:

Thanks to Covid, we’ve also been smoking at home a lot more. Brisket, bacon, and pastrami are just a few of the slow-smoked foods you’ve regaled me with on your social media feeds. Smoking takes time, and time is something most of us have had a lot of. Thanks to this newfound smoke mania, my 4-year-old book, Project Smoke, recently hit the Amazon 100 Top Bestsellers list. (Thanks everyone!)

Project Smoke by Steven Raichlen

3. More Mail Order Meats:

To keep at a safe social distance, we’ve been ordering record amounts of meat and other foods by mail. Mail order meat companies, like Crowdcow.com, Allenbrothers.com, and Dartagnan.com have seen business explode. Mail order has enabled us to grill cuts not normally found at the supermarkets, like beef cheeks, veal tomahawk steaks, and A5 (the top grade) wagyu from Japan.

Crowd Cow Japanese A5 Wagyu Prime Rib

4. Greener Grilling:

To offset some of the global warming caused by fossil fuel dependent air freight, many mail order companies have switched from Styrofoam to eco-friendly coolers made from cellulose and cornstarch. Crowd Cow ships in Green Cell Foam from KTM Industries—you can recycle the coolers in your garden or dissolve them in water.

5. Smaller Cuts of Meat for Smaller Gatherings:

With social distancing and smaller gatherings, a lot of us have been grilling and smoking smaller meat cuts this year: turkey breasts instead of whole turkeys; pork chops instead of Boston butts; hanger steaks instead of whole beef tenderloins. That’s not to say I haven’t seen some amazing brisket and bacon photos on social media. Happily, the latter freeze well.

Grilled or Smoked Turkey Breast

6. Lots of Carryout to Support Our Local Restaurants:

We’ve been grilling at home, but we’ve also been eating at home, and for this we’ve been ordering carryout from our local barbecue restaurants. And we tip well with each order. Restaurants have suffered terribly this year, and every carryout order helps them hang on until the world re-opens

7. More Pellet Grills:

2020 was the year of the pellet grill, with new models proliferating like mushrooms after a rainstorm. Even the iconic charcoal kettle grill manufacturer, Weber, got into the act with its pellet-fueled SmokeFire grill. Pellet grills also got smarter: I now use my iPhone to operate my Green Mountain Daniel Boone pellet grill.

Steven Raichlen with Green Mountain Grill Pellet Grill

8. Comfort Food and Wacky Food:

In these stress-filled times, we’ve been cooking comfort food like never before. Brisket. Pork shoulder. Chili. And, of course, mac and cheese. (Yes, the latter is good in the oven or Instapot. But it’s even better in the smoker or on the grill.) We’ve also been doing some wacky grilling, like bacon-wrapped Oreo cookies. I repeat: bacon-wrapped Oreo cookies. Yes, it’s a thing, and the contrast of smoky salty bacon and sweet cream-filled cookie works better than you might think!

Grilled Mac and Cheese

 

In our next blog, I’ll share my barbecue predictions for 2021. Until then, wishing you a safe, happy, healthy—and Covid free—New Year!


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