Raichlen Predicts – Barbecue Trends for 2023
2023 already?! It’s hard to believe a year has passed since I wrote my last barbecue trends blog. In that blog, I predicted the rise of social media grill masters, the newfound ubiquity of wagyu beef, the deification of A5 beef from Japan, and the emergence of St. Louis as a major new barbecue destination. Damn if my predictions didn’t come true!
So what do I see in my barbecue crystal ball? Here are nine trends that will shape how we grill and what we grill in in 2023.
Barbecue Trends for 2023
You don’t need a degree in economics to know that inflation is hurting us all. I recently paid $7.50–$7.50!!—for a 20-ounce jar of mayonnaise. (Who ever thought that potato salad would become a luxury? Eggs are now over $5 per dozen) And don’t even talk about meat prices: with rib-eyes running $15 per pound and packer briskets topping $10 per pound, barbecue is becoming a rich man’s sport. So in 2023, we’ll see a return to traditional barbecue’s roots—that is, transforming inexpensive cuts of meat into gustatory wonders through the careful application of spice, wood smoke, and patience. Look for St. Louis-style spare ribs (in place of costlier baby backs); pork loins and tenderloins in place of pricier beef; pot roast (yes, you can barbecue it like brisket); and lamb, veal, and beef shanks. In the poultry department, load up on chicken thighs and leg quarters—hell, as the rest of the world knows, dark meat is juicier and more flavorful than white meat anyway. Among fish, those dark oily sea creatures, like kingfish, mackerel, and sardines, cost less and taste richer than their pricier white-fleshed cousins. Bottom line: Barbecue doesn’t have to be expensive to be good.
2. Rotisserie grilling goes prime time:
Over the past year, we at barbecuebible.com have noticed a curious phenomenon. Of our social media posts that went viral this year, half involved spit-roasting. Topping the list were our spit-roasted prime rib (4.3 million on Instagram and 3.5 million on Facebook) and rotisserie duck (1 million plus on Insta). We’re not alone. Big Green Egg added a rotisserie attachment to its accessory line and will launch a rotisserie basket in 2023. The Kalamazoo Gaucho Grill comes with a rotisserie heavy duty enough to handle a whole prime rib. Ditto with the new Father’s Cooker. There’s more to rotisserie grilling than the mesmerizing spin of the turnspit. The slow, gentle rotation insures even browning on the outside while keeping the meat moist in the center. The meat bastes in its own fat and juices. How’s that for a new turn on ‘cue?
3. Barbecue you’ve never heard of:
Just when you thought you knew all the exotic dishes on Planet Barbecue—from Peruvian anticuchos (beef heart kebabs) to Balinese sate—American grill masters continue to expand our horizons. This year, get ready to add three new terms to your grilling vocabulary: shipudim, chichinga, and inihaw. The first is Israeli barbecue—skewers of poultry, lamb, and vegetables scented with cumin, turmeric, and other Middle Eastern spices and grilled over charcoal. Check out the Israeli grilled game hens in my book Planet Barbecue. Chichinga refers to West African barbecue—spicy skewers of beef, lamb, or goat seasoned with a fiery blend of chili peppers, ginger, and ground peanuts. Experience it with the grilled beef with peanut flour in The Barbecue Bible. Iiahaw refers to Filipino barbecue—every imaginable cut of chicken, pork, and even seafood marinated with soy sauce and sometimes Sprite and served with a hyper-tart citrus fruit called calamansi. Here, too, we were ahead of the game with the lemongrass rotisserie chicken in Planet Barbecue.
4. Porchetta 24 / 7:
Born in the hills of Tuscany—or maybe in the meat markets of Rome—porchetta (pronounced “poor-ketta”) is to Italy what pulled pork is to the U.S. Which is to say, pig transformed by the restorative powers of garlic, fennel, fresh rosemary and sage and fire-roasted to fork-tenderness. Tradition calls for starting with a whole young pig, which you bone through the spine, slather with this pungent wet rub, and spit-roast to smoky perfection. American pit masters are applying the same seasonings to pork loins, bellies, and shoulders—and even other meats, like lamb and veal—doing their cooking in smokers or kamados. The result: Italian porchetta with American barbecue wood smoke. But don’t take my word for it: make a New Year’s resolution to try it yourself.
5. Pellet grills that really grill:
Pellet grills have been around for decades, but until recently, they were good for smoking and roasting and not much more. Despite the name, they simply didn’t get hot enough to do true grilling (that quick, high-heat method so well-suited to steaks, burgers, and chops). Thanks to new technologies, higher-end pellet grills made by companies like Traeger, Weber, and Green Mountain can reach temperatures that exceed 600 degrees. Pit Boss’s direct flame searing feature will likely be imitated by other pellet grill manufacturers. Want to know more about pellet grilling? Check out the Healthy Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker Cookbook by our own barbecuebible.com editor: Nancy Loseke.
6. Electric grills that smoke:
Electric grills don’t have much street cred in this barbecue community. At least not until now. But the fact is that many people—apartment dwellers and folks who lack an outdoor cooking area—simply can’t fire up a charcoal, gas, or wood-burning grill. Enter the Ninja IG651 Foodi Smart XL Pro, an indoor grill with multiple functions which uses a unique interior ventilation system to achieve the high searing temperatures (500 degrees) you associate with outdoor grills. And now Ninja has come out with a new grill for outdoor use; it is equipped with a smoker attachment that burns wood pellets: the Ninja Woodfire. The result: an electric grill that imparts the authentic barbecue flavor of wood smoke.
7. Fusion ’cue:
Smoked prime brisket with Thai green curry sauce? Barbecued chicken wings served with massaman spices? East meets West at Curry Boys BBQ in San Antonio—just one example of the sort of culinary fusion taking place at many new up and coming barbecue restaurants across the U.S. Khoi in Houston serves brisket pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) and beef rib dry ramen. (Khoi is the Vietnamese word for “smoke.”) Kyu in Miami, New York, and Mexico City serves garlicky sweet soy barbecued beef ribs and Asian-inflected duck burnt ends. (Where else do you get to eat barbecue with chopsticks?) In a nod to African grilling, Distant Relations in Austin pairs pulled pork with tamarind molasses barbecue pork (don’t miss the berbere-spiced carrot pickles on the side). As a longtime traveler on the world’s barbecue trail, I love this meshing of flavors and live fire cooking techniques from different cultures. So will you!
8. Multi-function grills:
It used to be that a grill was a grill was a grill. Today, a new generation of gas grills allows you to do so much more. The new Father’s Cooker from Quebec, for example, allows you to grill, griddle, roast, bake, smoke, steam, and even boil. (We’re using it on my new Planet Barbecue TV show to do a Gulf Coast Shrimp Boil with grilled Texas Toast.) Fire Magic’s Echelon Grill comes with a griddle insert, charcoal tray, smoker box, and of course, a rotisserie to deliver five grilling experiences in one sleek high tech package. The Handcock grill deftly combines charcoal and wood grilling with a sleek polished steel wrap-around plancha. They also offer a Santa Maria-style wood-burner attachment and 3 in 1 smoker box. What’s next—a grill that talks to your smartphone? Yes, that’s available, too, on many new grills, from the Green Mountain Pellet Grill to Traeger’s Ironwood 885 model.
9. Non-grill grilling (plancha grilling goes mainstream):
It looks like a grill. You hook it up to a propane cylinder as you would a gas grill. And although the Blackstone griddle doesn’t really cook over open flame, it has taken the outdoor cooking world by storm. The reasons are simple: effortless heat control, a complete absence of flare-ups, and the ability to cook a host of foods—from breakfast pancakes to dessert crepes—you simply can’t make on a conventional grill. No wonder these propane griddles have become one of the fastest growing segments of the outdoor cooking market. Purists may object. (Hey, I was one of them!) But the tradition of cooking on a live-fire heated slab is both ancient and universal. Think of Spain’s plancha, Argentina’s champa (championed by no less than Francis Mallmann), Japan’s teppan yaki, and the Mongolian grill (which, despite the name, was actually invented in Taiwan). When it comes to grilling delicate fish, like sole; liquid foods, like eggs; battered foods, like French toast, and a wide range of other ingredients you can’t really cook on a grill, you just can’t beat a plancha. Still skeptical? I like plancha grilling so much, I actually designed one, link and I use it on my charcoal and gas grill. I even toss wood chips on the coals, so I can smoke the food while I griddle it.
What are YOUR predictions for 2023?
From all of us here at barbecuebible.com: wishing you a happy and healthy New Year!
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