Drive summertime traffic with slow-smoked meats

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Where there’s smoke, there are fired-up consumers. Since the first time meat was cooked over an open flame, people have had a taste and fondness for grilled, smoked and barbecued meats. As primal as those original desires for smoked foods were, they still fit into barbecue-lovers’ lifestyles today.

But flavorful smoked meats aren't just for typical center-of-plate BBQ anymore. By separating smoky flavors from strictly barbecue applications and considering them as more broad-use ingredients, the applications become endless. According to Datassential, mentions of smoked items have grown on menus by 5.1% over the past four years. Fueling this is the fact that 51% of customers find smoky flavors appealing or extremely appealing, according to Technomic.

Sandwiches that include hickory flavor, for example, are among the fastest-growing types of handhelds, according to Technomic’s 2019 Sandwich Consumer Trend ReportAnd applewood, another flavor associated with smoked foods, is in the growth stage on appetizer menus, according to Technomic’s Q4 2019Appetizer Menu Trends Report.

Pork is a protein that has always lent itself well to smoking, grilling and barbecuing. Pork cuts that are commonly smoked, including pork ribs, pork loin and pulled pork, are popular pork entrees in the nation’s top limited- and full-service restaurants.

While consumer insights confirm the ongoing popularity of pork as a staple in barbecue and grilled applications, today’s consumers are open to trying smoky flavors when used as an ingredient in breakfasts, appetizers and shareables, ethnic meals and combined with other flavors.

Options such as smoked pork ribs paired with jerk sauce or pork butt marinated in dark beer before cooking are two interesting ways to include new flavors in dishes consumers already love. Even a traditional smoked ham can be elevated with creative-yet-comforting glazes made from pineapple, cherry or bourbon.

Carryout and delivery orders are another way restaurants can capitalize on the smoked meats trend. It's only natural, since carryout accounts for nearly 60% of all restaurant transactions among regular takeout consumers.

Summertime, when grills and smokers are fired up around the country, is another opportunity to bring a twist to classic dishes. Restaurants can grind pork shoulder and mix in seasonings to make a pork burger that’s ready to be grilled. Operators can also swap out basic barbecue sauce on a rack of smoked or grilled St. Louis ribs, instead mopping them with a blackberry-jalapeno barbecue sauce for a sweet-hot taste.

Smoke's tangy profile can enhance more kinds of meals in more ways than ever imagined. Let Smithfield Culinary be the guide to harnessing smoke's amazing versatility. Smithfield has the fresh and ready-to-heat product lineup perfect for enhancing any menu with crowd-pleasing smoky flavor.

To get more recipes and ideas for summertime smoked, grilled and barbecue menus, visit

This post is sponsored by Smithfield Culinary

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