Sponsored by Hormel Foodservice
While barbeque may have its origins in the central and southeastern U.S., its modern-day ubiquity proves those boundaries are gone. Distinct regional styles of barbeque —the slow, low-temperature, cooking of meats over charcoal or hardwood smoke—can be found routinely on today's menus well beyond their birthplaces. In addition, barbeque styles from around the world have grown increasingly popular in U.S. restaurants.
“People love the variety of those regional barbeque types,” says Tony Finnestad, executive chef at Hormel Foodservice. “Barbeque also has been a global phenomenon for a long time. It’s not hard to find styles like Philippine, Peruvian and North African across America. And though those aren’t necessarily the barbeque styles Americans usually think of, the word ‘barbeque’ makes them familiar enough that people want to try them.”
Getting Barbeque Right
The popularity of smoked meats is certainly rising. According to Chicago-based menu researcher Datassential, the addition of smoked meats on menus has increased 10 percent over the past decade. Not only is that rise expected to continue apace over the next four years, it’s also predicted to occur across a wide range of restaurant segments.
But for all of barbeque’s virtues, smoking meats correctly presents challenges such as labor intensity and training. Additionally, commercial-scale smokers are costly.
“It’s one thing to have just one employee who knows how to smoke meats correctly,” Finnestad says. “But what happens when that person quits? Do you have another trained to step in? Good barbeque takes skill.”
Fortunately, those hurdles aren’t stopping chefs from adding smoked meats to the menu mix at a wide range of foodservice operations. According to Finnestad, AUSTIN BLUES® Smoked Meats are a true heat-and-eat option, eliminating the costliest concerns of labor and equipment.
“A lot of foodservice chefs in segments like healthcare, business and industry and colleges and universities would love to smoke their own meats,” Finnestad says. “But they can’t due to the sizes of those operations and the time required to do it.”
Finnestad says what the AUSTIN BLUES® Smoked Meats portfolio provides those chefs is “a product that’s genuine and authentic, one that they’d be proud to put their name on as if they smoked it themselves. They get menu options without the added work of creating those themselves.”
The AUSTIN BLUES® Brand lineup includes:
• Smoked pork (pulled shoulder, rib tips, St. Louis and loin back ribs)
• Beef brisket (whole, sliced and chopped)
• Chicken (pulled dark meat)
Within those options, each smoked meat can be served as traditional barbeque or beyond in unexpected applications.
Heating AUSTIN BLUES® Smoked Meats is as simple as placing refrigerated product into pans, covering them with plastic or foil and placing them in an oven. Boil-in-bag heating works equally well, as does steaming. Large amounts also can be heated from a frozen state in cook and hold ovens while small portions can be heated to order on a flattop or in a pan.
While Finnestad says the AUSTIN BLUES® line would fully outfit a complete barbeque station in a cafeteria setting, he advises chefs to examine wider uses for smoked meats in every menu category and all dayparts. Some easy targets include sandwiches, wraps, salads, pasta dishes, pizzas, grain bowls and more.
“Look at how people are focusing more on proteins for breakfast,” Finnestad says. “A brisket Benedict would be easy, as would a chopped brisket and sweet potato hash. You can really be creative with something as simple as congee by topping it with sliced brisket, a fried egg, onions and bell peppers. It’s a great way to use your protein leftovers.”
Since all AUSTIN BLUES® Smoked Meats are delivered fully cooked, food-safety concerns can be minimized, Finnestad says.
“If you were prepping ingredients for a chicken Caesar wrap, and you’re starting with a bag of raw chicken,” he says, “hopefully the cook puts on clean gloves and then changes those gloves after he puts the chicken on the grill. Then you hope the chicken is cooked all the way through and cooled properly. It’s a multistep process that has to be done correctly.
“But since all of our smoked meats are cooked, we’ve taken every step out of that process except for opening the bag. It’s that easy and safe.”
Whether your goal is expanding your menu easily with popular items, reducing kitchen labor or boosting food-safety standards, AUSTIN BLUES® Smoked Meats make it happen with variety, easy preparation and authentic flavors.
Far More than Sandwiches …
It’s hard to beat the moist and meaty goodness of a smoked pork, beef or chicken sandwich. But barbeque is infinitely more versatile. Some ideas:
Smoked chicken: Showcase in salads with tangy dressings, or in tacos topped with lime-marinated cabbage and pico de gallo. Coarsely chop pulled chicken and add to tortilla soup or a southwestern-style bean soup.
Smoked beef brisket: Slice into strips and then julienne to make a robust pizza topping. Offer it Philly-style with caramelized onions, peppers and a shredded Cheddar-provolone blend. For a smoky and filling side dish, cube brisket and blend with macaroni and cheese.
Smoked pork shoulder: Another easy pizza twist: replace pizza sauce with barbeque sauce, add a thin layer of shredded mozzarella followed by shredded smoked pork shoulder, more mozzarella followed by caramelized onions and pickled jalapenos. A pulled pork shepherd’s pie is unique and filling, and easy to serve quickly as a steamtable item.