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Raichlen’s Barbecue Trend Predictions for 2020



Raichlen’s Barbecue Trend Predictions for 2020

Could it be 2020 already? It seems like just yesterday that 1999 rolled into a new millennium. Of course, back then I had just written my first barbecue book—The Barbecue! Bible—and I didn’t realize I was embarking on a career that would keep me busy and traveling for two decades.

So much has happened in the world of barbecue since then. And so many of my predictions have come true. Multiple grill ownership? According to the HPBA and the market intelligence agency Mintell, 30 percent of Americans grillers own more than 1 grill or smoker; 12 percent, 3 or more. Barbecue where you’d least expect it? (Brooklyn’s Hometown Bar-B-Que just opened a branch in Miami.) The whole meal on the grill? Almost every respectable bar serves smoked cocktails, and grilled desserts are everywhere.

So what‘s in store for 2020? More grilling and smoking and better grilling and smoking, whether at home, at barbecue joints, or in high-end restaurants. And a growing social consciousness that includes concerns about where your food comes from, how it’s raised, and the most eco-friendly way to cook it. Sustainability has become a major concern, leading to more vegan and vegetarian grilling and new ways to harvest and grill seafood. Grill manufacturers continue to raise the bar with new high-performance grills and smokers. Big flavors are bigger than ever. So, here are my predictions for the New Year.

Steven Raichlen’s Barbecue Trend Predictions for 2020

1. American BBQ goes global.

Last June, I had the good fortune to run a mini Barbecue University at a cooking school/store called Barbecue Paradise in Turin, Italy. I couldn’t believe how many of my students competed in American-style barbecue competitions and have opened American-style barbecue restaurants and catering companies across Italy.

I’d like to call out my friend Alfio Sapienza, one of the organizers of the Barbecue Paradise event and a popular caterer specializing in barbecue. (His company is called Brace Toscana.) There’s Blacket in Como, Q-King American Barbecue in Turin, or Angus Beers and BBQ in Cittadella, to name a few. Ditto in other European capitals and around the world, from the Beast in Paris to Red’s True BBQ in London to the Smokin’ Pug American Barbecue in downtown Bangkok. When I was starting out in the food world, Americans traveled to Europe to learn the fine art of cooking. Today, the world’s aspiring pit masters come here.

The Beast Paris Tray Horizontal


2. Meatless meat.

Ten years ago, a meatless burger would have been laughed out as impossible. Today, a meatless patty called the Impossible Burger has become a bestseller at such huge food chains as Burger King and White Castle. Earlier this year, another maker of meatless burgers, Beyond Meat, went public: its stock quintupled the first day of trading.

These meatless burgers enjoy enormous popularity among millennials—and an American population concerned about healthy eating and the health of the planet. And they’re actually good, with a meaty, umami rich-flavor that compares favorably to a fast food patty. What’s next? Meatless meatballs and meatloaf? Meatless steak? Actually, all three are in development, as are plant-based seafood alternatives.


3. Pellet grills proliferate.

It used to be that pellet grills were cult cookers, used by a tiny segment of the barbecue community. Today, these sawdust pellet-burning grills are on a tear, with dozens of new manufacturers joining the guard brands like Traeger and Louisiana Grills. Even Weber got in the act, launching a new pellet grilled called SmokeFire.

Performance has improved, too. You can now control your Green Mountain pellet grill from your smartphone. Other pellet grills, like Memphis Pellet Grills, have installed sear stations, overcoming the traditional shortcoming of pellet grills—their actual ability to grill at higher temperatures. Wi-fi connectivity for closely monitoring cook sessions is now common as well.

black open pellet grill


4. Charcoal returns.

Ever since the introduction in the 1950s of the Arkla , the gas grill has gained in popularity to the point where 64 percent of Americans are gas grillers. But lately, there’s a move back to charcoal. You see it at restaurants, like Asador Etxebarri and Gastronomika in Spain’s Basque Country, in Barcelona’s Enigma, all of whom have installed impressive charcoal grill and ovens from European manufacturer Josper. You see it in high-end charcoal grills, like the Fire Magic Legacy, and in multi-fuel barbecue grills, like the American Muscle Grill and Kalamazoo Hybrid Fire Grill. You see it in new single wood charcoals, like Fogo and Kalamazoos quebracho (a hard, hot-burning charcoal from Latin America) and the maple wood charcoal from Basques.

Charcoal burns hotter and drier than most propane grills and allows you to do such flavor-boosting (and dare I say, theatrical) techniques as smoking, smoke-roasting, and caveman grilling.

How to Light a Charcoal or Wood Grill


5. Kamados go upscale.

Thanks to the Big Green Egg, the ovoid ceramic cookers known as kamados have become some of America’s favorite cookers. Now, the super-premium grill manufacturer, Kalamazoo, has gotten into the act, launching a high design kamado called the Shokunin. Named for the Japanese word for “master” or “artisan,” the Shokunan is fabricated from stainless steel, not ceramic, and is supported by an attractive ipe wood frame. Multi-level grill grates accommodate barbecuing/smoking, smoke-roasting, and searing.

Kalamazoo Shokunin Kamado Grill


6. Vegan charcuterie.

Shiitake “bacon.” Radish “prosciutto.” Watermelon “ham.” Once primarily derived from pork, charcuterie (French for “cured and smoked meats”) has gone vegan, with fruits and vegetables standing in for hog bellies and hams. Fancy Radish in Washington, D.C., for example, serves a stunning meatless charcuterie platter popular with vegans and carnivores alike. (Its sister restaurant, V Street in Philadelphia, pioneered a mushroom and seitan “cheesesteak” with rutabaga-based cheese “whiz” superior to many of the beef versions.) Jeremy Umansky of the decidedly meat-centric Larder delicatessen in Cleveland, serves koji-cured carrots and a killer burdock root snack sticks. (Koji is an Asian curing mold—a spore—grown on rice or barley that’s traditionally used to ferment sake or miso.) Will Horowitz, who rocked the blogsphere with his watermelon ham and cantaloupe burger at his Manhattan restaurant, Duck’s Eatery, recently launched a carrot hotdog at the vegan fast food chain By Chloe. Look for more vegan cured and smoked “meats” in the coming year and coming decade.

Vegan Charcuterie


7. Wagyu goes mainstream.

It used to be that that America’s premier beef was Certified Angus Beef. CAB still enjoys great popularity and street cred, but there’s a new steer on the block, whose ancestors hail from Japan—the wagyu. Prized for its gentle disposition and the generous marbling of its meat, wagyu is a prince among steers, with lush-textured, buttery-rich tasting meat. Wagyu produces some of the world’s most richly marbled and exclusive meat, like Kobe beef and Saga from Japan. (But while all Kobe beef comes from wagyu steers, the vast majority of wagyu is not Kobe. Only a handful of restaurants in North America are allowed to sell Kobe beef, so unless you’re paying upwards of $50 per ounce, you’re probably not getting Kobe.) Today, many small farms in the U.S. raise wagyu beef—each with its own unique flavor. Look for it online from,,, and others.

Snake River Farms American Kobe Gold Grade Manhattan NY Filet


8. Eco-friendly insulated coolers.

Crowdcow eco-friendly insulated cooler

When we tape my Project Fire TV shows and when I test recipes at home, a lot of our specialty meats and seafoods arrive by mail order. I used to be distressed to no end by the Styrofoam coolers used for shipping. These days, there’s a new cooler on the block, made from biodegradable cornstarch by a company called Green Cell; it’s completely eco-friendly. Crowdcow and D’Artagnan use it—and I hope a lot more companies will follow suit. Recyclable? I buried one container in the garden. Another one I dissolved in the pool. One of my New Year’s resolutions? Banish Styrofoam from my food supply.


9. Grills in super high-end restaurants.

When Kyle and Katina Connaughton opened their refined wine country restaurant SingleThread in Healdsburg, California, they made a wood-burning grill the focal point of their kitchen. They recently received their third coveted Michelin star. At San Francisco’s high-end steakhouse, Niku, the extraordinary A5 steaks from Japan (not to mention their dry-aged domestic beef) come grilled over blazing hardwood. The premier wood-burning grill company, Grillworks, is installing its grills in high-end restaurants from Los Angeles to Toronto to London.

Could it be that the high-tech immersion circulators and sous vide machines that characterized so much restaurant cooking in the last decade are finally giving way to the most primal and best tool for cooking of all: the wood burning grill? It’s about time!

Wood-burning grill in restaurant


10. Eat less meat (maybe), but eat better meat.

Gloucester Old Spot. Red Wattle. Ancient White Park. Plymouth Rock. Not familiar to you? Hopefully, they will be. These are so-called “heritage breeds”—just a few of the endangered species threatened by changes in animal husbandry in the last 50 years. They are representative of the animals your great-grandparents might have raised—naturally bred, pasture fed, humanely treated.

On the leading edge of the movement to restore these breeds to our tables is the Livestock Conservancy. Headquartered in Pittsboro, NC, the Conservancy was founded in 1977 and works to protect some 150 breeds of cattle, swine, goats, sheep, rabbits, chickens, turkeys, geese, ducks, etc. Heritage meats are different from those that are factory-farmed, offering superior flavor and texture. Yes, you’ll pay more for them per pound as they cost more to raise (and often take significantly longer to reach market weight), but reducing our consumption of animal products is better for us and for the biodiversity of the planet. Begin by searching out local sources (farmers’ markets are often a place to start). For a zip code-specific online directory for sources, click here.


What are your barbecue trend predictions for 2020? Tell us about it in the comments or by sharing it with us on Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, or Twitter.

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Don’t Have a Smoker? Ingredients That Add Smoke Flavor



Want to boost the smoke flavor—even if you don’t have time to fire up your smoker? Add one of the following smoked ingredients.

Ingredients That Add Smoke Flavor
Bacon: Everything tastes better with bacon. Wrap lean foods, such as shrimp or chicken breasts, in bacon for grilling. Grill or pan-fry bacon until crisp and crumble it over whatever you’re serving. Use bacon fat for sautéing or basting. In the best of all worlds, you’d make your own bacon or use a good artisanal brand like Nueske’s. Most inexpensive bacon uses injected smoke flavoring, not real wood smoke.

Chipotle chiles: Smoked jalapeños from Mexico. This is one of the rare foods I prefer to buy canned. Canned chipotles come in a spicy marinade called adobo. A teaspoon of adobo in addition to the minced chiles will electrify any dish.

Ham: Like bacon, smoked ham is a great way to add rich, smoky, meaty umami flavors to any dish you can think of. Wrap asparagus stalks in speck (Italian smoked prosciutto) for grilling. Add diced cooked smoked ham to mac and cheese. And slivers of smoky Virginia ham in red-eye gravy.

Lapsang souchon: Tea leaves are dried over pinewood fires to make this smoked black tea from the Wuyi region in Fujian, China. Use for teasmoking; add to brines and marinades. Makes great smoky iced tea. Freeze that tea with a little lemon and sugar, then scrape it with a fork to make a refreshing granita.

Liquid smoke: There’s no substitute for wood smoke, of course, but liquid smoke—a natural flavoring made by condensing real wood smoke in a sort of still—does give you a distinctive smoke flavor. Available in several flavors, such as hickory and mesquite, it’s especially useful for barbecue sauces. Use sparingly—a dash or two goes a long way.

Mezcal: Tequila’s cousin, mezcal is made from fire roasted agave cactus hearts in the hills around Oaxaca. It gives any cocktail an instant smoke flavor. Sprinkle a few drops on grilled oysters or in smoked tomato salsa.

Pimentón: Use this smoked paprika from Spain to add a smoke flavor to dishes not easily cooked on a grill—scrambled eggs, for example. I also like to substitute pimentón for the paprika in barbecue rubs.

Rauchbier: Smoked beer is traditionally from Bamberg, Germany. To make it, the malted barley is dried over a wood fire. Makes interesting beer-based cocktails and barbecue sauces. Melt grated smoked cheese in rauchbier for the ultimate cheese fondue.

Scotch whisky: One of the world’s most distinctive whiskies, Scotch is made by drying malted barley over a smoky peat fire. The best single-malt Scotches come from Islay Island off Scotland’s western coast. My favorite brands are Laphroaig (the smokiest), Lagavulin (distinguished by its finesse), and Bowmore (remarkable for its caramel sweetness). Indispensable in a Blood and Sand cocktail. Add a few drops to heavy cream with confectioners’ sugar to make a smoky whipped cream.

Smoked cheese: The best grilled cheese I ever tasted was smoked mozzarella grilled in lemon leaves at the restaurant Bruno in Positano, Italy. I like to grate smoked cheddar into mashed potatoes and mac and cheese. Popular smoked cheeses include cheddar, Gouda, and mozzarella. Learn how to haysmoke mozzarella and cold-smoke ricotta.

Smoked salt: A no-brainer seasoning for steaks, chops, and other grilled meats, and a great way to put extra smoke flavor into barbecue rubs. Two brands I like are dark Danish Viking Smoked Salt and Alaska Pure Alder Smoked Sea Salt.

Have you tried any of these ingredients to add smoke flavor? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, or Instagram!

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Now that was GOOD…



Morning All:

Did another slab of beef ribs today…used some Kosher salt & a rub mixture of 3 parts Dizzy Pig Game On, 3 parts DP Raising the Steaks & 4 parts Turbinado Sugar (a mixture I've used on the past couple of briskets)…Just on the Egg indirect with a dome temp about 300 with a couple chunks of cherry for some added flavor…

Since I was late getting them on the Egg (about 3:15pm) & I don't like eating after 8:00pm, I ran the Egg about 350 for most of the cook & took them off after about 3 hours with IT over 200 everywhere I checked…wrapped in foil while I grilled the corn…

Sliced & looking so tasty…

Added some corn on the cob & Kathy put together a fruit salad for a DELICIOUS meal…

As I said — That was GOOD!

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Beat Winter Boredom: Throw an Outdoor Après-Ski or Sledding Party



The slopes are the place to be in the wintertime, from Mammoth and Big Bear in Southern California, to Big Sky in Montana, to Stowe, Vermont, and many places in between. Even Mankato, Minnesota, has a ski resort. (Don’t believe me? Google Mount Kato.)

Snowboarding, skating, and sledding are options, of course, as is cross-country skiing. What all these activities have in common is they get you outside and moving. An added advantage is that all are relatively safe to practice while the pandemic is active, being both social and independent pursuits. In other words, it’s easy to maintain safe distances between yourself and your mates.

As a reward for getting off the couch, we propose an outdoor après ski party. Pronounced “ah-pray skee,” it’s a French term for “after ski.” It’s that sweet spot between an afternoon (or day) of invigorating activity and dinner. Or maybe it is dinner. You can interpret it loosely.

In the Swiss Alps, a day shooshing down the mountainside might be celebrated with raclette—essentially, roasted cheese, partially melted near a fire, then scraped onto bread. I was obsessed with raclette when I was a child. I didn’t know the proper name, but was beguiled by this passage in the classic book “Heidi” by Johanna Spyri:

“When the kettle was boiling, the old man put a large piece of cheese on a long iron fork, and held it over the fire, turning it to and fro, till it was golden-brown on all sides. Heidi had watched him eagerly. Suddenly she ran to the cupboard. When her grandfather brought a pot and the toasted cheese to the table, he found it already nicely set with two plates and two knives and the bread in the middle. Heidi had seen the things in the cupboard and knew that they would be needed for the meal.”

As you can imagine, the brick of Velveeta in the family refrigerator fell a bit short of my expectations.

Which is why Steven’s recipe for A New Raclette so intrigued me. It appears here for the first time, but will be featured during a new episode of Project Fire when the show begins airing this spring. (Contact your local public television station to make sure they intend to carry the show.)

Like the classic raclette, it is served with small potatoes and cornichon (small cucumber pickles), but takes things further. You know Steven! This rendition features a terrific product, Rougette Bonfire Marinated Grilling Cheeses. If you can’t find them, substitute another grilling cheese like halloumi. (For more on cheeses that can be grilled, click here.)

Get the Recipe »

Other main course options for your party could include nachos, brats, kebabs, or anything that cooks fairly quickly and can be eaten easily by potentially mittened guests. A portable campstove/fire pit like this one, which burns propane, wood, or charcoal, ensures you can cook in style. But there are a number of small grills we like, including Weber’s Smoky Joe and Lodge’s Sportsman hibachi.

For beverages, consider beer, wine, mulled wine, or hot toddies.


How are you beating winter boredom this year? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, or Instagram!

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