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Good food comes to those who wait. The increase in popularity of slow-cooked BBQ menu items indicates that low-and-slow is the order of the season.

Brisket, pork shoulder and pork ribs, along with pulled pork and beef are now trending in restaurants, takeaways and supermarket ready-meals. Slow-cooked BBQ has expanded into all dayparts – check out the breakfast brisket bagel sandwich!

Origin of the Trend
Cooking food for a long time over a low heat has a long history, dating back to the first time humans cooked meat over a rudimental fire. As a trend in the quick-serve industry it has its origins – as with most fast food trends – in the USA, particularly in the Southern States where Barbeque pits are used to cook tougher cuts of meat like beef brisket and pork shoulder. Cooked ‘low and slow’ the fats break down leading to a tender and smoky finished product. They tend to be served with sweet and spicy barbeque sauces.

US style
This is such an established trend in the US that there are numerous regional styles of BBQ. You can choose between Carolina, Texas, Memphis, St Louis and Kansas City. Chains specialising in this include Corky’s, Dickey’s, Famous Dave’s and Sonny’s BBQ.

Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurant has more than 550 locations serving Texas-style barbecue across the US. Their guests look for authenticity of products as well as convenience, which is something Roland Dickey, Jr., CEO of Dickey’s Capital Group, sees continuing. The chain’s beef brisket and pulled pork meat plates are their top dishes.

‘Guests look for sustainably raised meats that have that delicious smoky flavor that can only be achieved with the highest quality meat smoking overnight,’ he says. ‘While we enjoy creating innovative twists on classic favorites to appeal to the novelty of an audience, quality and craftsmanship will always be the staple of the barbecue lover’s palate.’

Non-BBQ specialists are getting in on the act too. Arby’s sandwich chain is adding the new Bourbon BBQ Barrel Stack sandwich to its menu. It featuring a buttermilk chicken fillet paired with pit-smoked ham, 13-hour smoked brisket, brown sugar bacon, Kentucky bourbon barbecue sauce, melted cheddar cheese, and crispy onions all served on a star-cut bun.

Diana Kelter, foodservice analyst at Mintel International, agrees that BBQ is currently having a ‘creative moment’ in the US: ‘Chefs are blurring the lines of regionalism, international inspiration and innovation blending with tradition.”

Unusual and interesting takes on traditional dishes include:
– Texas-based Black Iron BBQ’s Texas Cuban Sandwich
– Slap’s BBQ in Kansas City offers a No Cow Combo, which includes a choice of smoked turkey, jalapeno cheddar sausage, chicken leg quarter or pulled pork.
– TGI Friday’s offers a BBQ Chicken Flatbread, featuring a pulled all-natural chicken breast in a chipotle barbecue sauce.
– Quiznos, the sandwich chain, is introducing the Pit-Smoked Brisket Sandwich. Loaded with brisket smoked for 13 hours, the sandwich includes cheddar, pickles, red onions and a sweet and smoky barbecue sauce.

International Style
And that’s just US-style. Slow-cooked BBQ is an international trend. Korean BBQ is featured in our Chimac restaurant review in this issue, and Vietnamese is the order of the day for Californian based Charcoal Venice which offers a Brisket Kimchi Banh Mi. The US and Canadian chain, Qdoba Mexican Eats, has a new menu item – ‘The Smoked Brisket Keto Bowl’ contains smoked brisket and guacamole on a bed of lettuce topped with pico de gallo, salsa verde and shredded cheese.
Mexican slow-cooked has certainly come to Ireland – one of the most popular fillings in Mexican burritos is the slow and low cooked pork carnitas.

Irish Style
In Ireland, the Slow Food movement started in Ballymaloe in Cork. And, of course, ‘pulled pork’ or ‘pork belly’ has been a restaurant speciality for the past decade.
Today there are plenty of places servicing consumer demand for smoky-flavoured meat. Check out Smokin Bones on Dame St, Pitt Brothers on George’s Street, Bison BBQ on Wellington Quay and White Rabbit in Cork.
Tap into the home-grown tradition, while borrowing from the experts internationally, to create your own slow-cooked dishes – serve them in baps, wraps, or a BBQ bowl.

Sustainable and Healthy
Slow-cooked is a trend for the 2020s because it ticks the boxes for environmental, sustainable and healthy. Tougher cuts of meat that would take too long to grill or fry work brilliantly when cooked slowly. Says Mark Lambert, president of the US National Barbecue and Grilling Association: ‘High-end chefs are really paying attention to utilizing the entire animal, and by that, you wind up with a lot more processed meat,” he explains. “Of course, those processed meats are done in house a lot of times because it gives the chef more of a blank canvas to personalize a signature dish.’
To meet the demands of healthy consumers, barbecue bowls can be positioned as power bowls and salads, with proteins served on rice, grains and greens. They can feature a variety of barbecued meats, from brisket to pulled pork, carnitas, and barbacoa. These items can be positioned as healthy, protein-rich meal options packed with flavour.

Roland Dickey, Jr. agrees “High-protein, low-carb diets are a trend right now that put barbecued meats in high demand and offering those in a way to bring them directly to the guests will only grow sales.”

Slow and low is both sustainable and suited for the health-conscious, high protein, low carb modern consumer. The fact that it also tastes delicious indicates these dishes are here to stay.

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