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While BBQ is rooted in tradition, pitmasters are continuously coming up with new ways to put a spin on this age-old technique. Whether it is unique cuts of meat that suddenly gain popularity, innovative cooking methods, or state-of-the-art equipment that helps elevate the end product, the genre is always evolving. With this in mind, we reached out to a couple leaders in the field to see what new trends are taking hold today.
New Cuts Are Getting Preferential Treatment
Pulled pork and ribs might be what most people think of when you’re talking BBQ, but every now and then, cooks bring a new cut to the table that begins to gain favor. This year is no exception. According to Clay Cowgill, pit hand at Lexington, Texas-based Snow’s BBQ, there are a few new trends that have taken hold as of late.
“I’ve noticed a lot more tri-tip, which is normally a California thing,” he says. “Snow’s BBQ and Southside cook pork steak, but I’ve been seeing more people all over cook this at BBQ festivals. If you’re looking for something different, LeRoy and Lewis are always cooking something new and creative. I saw them cook beef tongues the other day.”
Whether it’s tongue, tri-tip or something more traditional, there’s just one rule to BBQ—if you’re going to it put in the work, it better taste good.
The Controversial Trend
Everybody loves BBQ, and for good reason. However, the long hours and unforgiving nature of live fire cooking have served as a barrier to entry for some would-be pitmasters who want the end product without all the hassle. And while the advent of the pellet smoker has reduced the margin for error and resulted in a wave of new backyard do-it-yourselfers, not everybody is a fan.
“Don’t pay attention to the trends,” Robert Jacob Lerma, the Austin, Texas-based BBQ photographer, says. “I’ve seen the ongoing push of pellet smokers to replace live fire cooking. I’m not a fan, but I guess I can understand the logic. It makes things ‘easier’ I suppose, but, I didn’t get into BBQ to cook with and photograph pellets. I got into it for the history, process, culture and working people.”
Underground BBQ is Coming Out of The Shadows
Call it the Instagram effect, or maybe it’s people just wanting great food without the restraints of a brick and mortar, but the confluence of social media and BBQ has allowed otherwise unknown weekend warriors to come on the scene like never before. Adam Skelly, co-owner and pitmaster at Toronto-based Adamson Barbecue calls this “going Trudy” after L.A.’s Burt Bakman of Trudy’s Underground Barbecue fame. Just take one look online. Between Bakman, other upstart underground notables like Dayne Weaver of Fort Worth’s Dayne’s Craft BBQ, and the wealth of BBQ food trucks descending upon cities across the country—the future of BBQ looks brighter than ever.