For many Americans, the end of summer also marks the end of prime barbecue season. It’s traditionally the time to move the grill and smoker into the garage for the long cold winter. So with the start of fall a week away, I checked in with legendary grilling expert Steven Raichlen, author of the best-selling Barbecue Bible and dozens of other books on the subject, about the biggest BBQ trends that he spotted in 2017. Here’s what he saw cooking on grills this past summer.
An International Flair
While hot dogs, hamburgers and steak are enduringly popular, Raichlen has seen an increased use of ingredients and spices from around the world in barbecue dishes. Things like Chinese five-spice powder, cumin-scented yogurt and dukkah (an Egyptian pumpkin and sesame seed-based spiced rub) have become more common. Even ubiquitous Argentinian chimichurri suace is now being replaced by things like the South American aji amarillo.
No Grill Needed
Raichlen is a big fan of a technique that he calls “cave manning.” Essentially, you’re cooking right on the embers. “It’s in a sense getting rid of the one piece of equipment that everybody thinks is essential to grilling, the grill grate,” he says. But “that’s been around for a while. Dwight D. Eisenhower actually used to do that at the White House. What’s new is people doing it for vegetables and people are doing it for seafood.” In an episode from the recent season of his TV show, Project Smoke, he even cooks lobster tails in this manner. “You’re getting a surface char and you’re getting a little grit from the cinders and it’s very different than on the grate.”
Four Seasons of Barbecue
Despite the sleet and snow, Raichlen says more people are fighting the elements to grill year-round. Obviously, in warmer climates this has been going on for a while but even in places located in the so-called frost belt, he sees more and more grills used later into the winter. In fact, he says that almost a third of all Americans grill year-round now.
Grilling Has Gone Wide & Far
Not that long ago you, there were great barbecue deserts in America where you couldn’t find a decent slice of brisket or a plate of pulled pork. Those times are, fortunately, long gone. “I call it barbecue where you least expect it,” says Raichlen. In fact, “outside of Texas Hill Country, I would say Brooklyn has the highest concentration of amazing barbecue restaurants.” While barbecuing might seem to be a quintessential American pastime, people around the globe are also getting into it. So much so, that Raichlen has shot a barbecue show for French TV and will soon be shooting another one in Italy that will be shown around Europe.