The year of brisket

Consumers and chefs agree barbecue remains a hot commodity.

By 
Jill Failla, Editor, Consumer Insights

brisket beef plate

Just when it seemed barbecue couldn’t get any trendier—it did. More consumers now than in 2014 are looking for a variety of barbecue menu items, according to Technomic’s Center of the Plate: Beef & Pork Consumer Trend Report. The demand is up for smoked sausage (+19%), beef brisket (+12%) and beef ribs (+16%) for dinner—a trend noncommercial operators say they are also noticing.

Corporate Executive R&D Chef Jeffrey Quasha at Atlanta-based Morrison Healthcare helped launched 50 Liberty Street BBQ microconcept locations throughout the U.S. in December. Due to their success, Quasha says Morrison will launch a full concept station called Smokehouse BBQ at select hospital locations in May.

Executive Chef Gregory Gefroh at the University of North Dakota is also betting on barbecue. Gefroh said the university added a cook-chill sous vide machine, a smoker, a rotisserie and a churrasco grill to its Grand Forks, N.D., dining center a little more than a year ago. “We figure the payoff [on investment] will probably be two to three years at the longest,” he says, basing his prediction on increased yield and lower food costs. Sous vide, for example, provides a 90% yield compared to about 70% to 75% in an oven, and many of the new cooking methods make the meat more tender and juicy, Gefroh says.

Both chefs called out brisket as a star barbecue item, and provided these tips for how to boost the experience for diners.

Cook it slow and low

“I think cheaper cuts of meat like brisket are becoming more popular with chefs because you can slow cook them in these different pieces of equipment and make them more palatable, while improving your profit margins,” says Gefroh. His advice: Play around with the different cooking methods for each cut of meat to determine the optimum cooking time.

Master the presentation

Quasha says that brisket is the show stopper at Liberty Street. “If you’re cooking something 12 to 18 hours, the smell is the advertisement,” he says. “People like to be part of the experience.” His advice? Looks are important, too. “If you don’t serve food that looks sexy, people are going to take a picture and post it. You can’t fake barbecue.” 

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