Father's Day: Barbeque Classics Made Clean

Sysco Shape June 2013

Father’s Day is the perfect time to treat Dad to what is probably his favorite food, barbeque. But most people don’t have smokers in their backyard, so they will go out to eat this June 16. That means opportunities for many operators, even restaurants that do not specialize in barbeque.

To make it a special day for Dad, consumers will want more than grilled burgers or barbequed spare ribs covered in tomato-paste-with-vinegar barbecue sauce. So, instead of offering the usual foods, operators are creating exciting new flavors and presentations—everything from new cuts of meat to house-made sauces to desserts featuring grilled fruits.

Grilled vegetables“Barbeque has become its own genre,” says Sysco Chef Tony Romanelli. “You have to pick the right meats, get the right rubs, and smoke the meat the right way.”

Many restaurant-goers want something new and different, preferably a healthier option. That makes picking the right meat a very important task. “Even for a burger, we have 15 different meats,” says Kevin Wassler, marketing manager for Sysco Chicago. “So you look at buffalo or bison, for example, and ask is it grass fed, how is it ground, what is the blend? Some people now make exotic blends with brisket.”

Turkey burgers are still popular, especially among diners who seek healthier barbeque. Operators can buy pre-portioned turkey burgers and grill them as is, or add their own seasonings. Serving the turkey burger without a bun appeals to another healthy eating segment, as does topping it with vegetables. Seafood is also a lean alternative, and one new way to offer it is as a grill-roasted whole fish, Mexican style.

Another way to offer barbequed meat in a healthier way is to think beyond the familiar entrée, something other than the old favorite “meat plus two sides.” Instead of a T-bone with a baked potato, consider a flank steak, sliced and presented as the protein in a fresh salad. “Flank steak is leaner than other cuts, and it cooks up nicely on the grill,” Wassler says. “But it needs to be marinated.”

Skirt steak is gaining popularity with various ethnic menu items, such as Mexican and South American foods. Skirt steak picks up marinade very well, Wassler says, and can be sliced into tacos or fajitas. “Our customers buy the skirt steak pre-portioned, flash it on a hot grill and get a nice char on it,” he says.

Of course, Dad does not celebrate Father’s Day with meat alone. Grilled vegetables are gaining favor. Brush a slice of eggplant with olive oil, and grill it so that it has grill marks similar to those on a burger. Prepare a warm, smoky salsa by cooking the tomatoes and onions on the grill, then mixing the ingredients in a blender. Another on-trend side vegetable is Mexican-style corn on the cob, which is grilled, then finished with queso fresco or cotija cheese, chili powder and lime juice. Also, if Dad or a family member wants a meatless option, don’t forget the vegetarian standby, grilled Portobello mushroom. For added flavor, stuff the mushroom cap, instead of just sliding it into a bun.

Dad and the rest of the family will probably want a healthy dessert, and few desserts are healthier than fruit. Grilled slices of pineapple or peaches get a caramelized texture as the sugar is heated. Apples, sliced and grilled, also work well for dessert, as do figs. steak

As for the other ingredients, such as sauces and rubs, fruit sauces are trendy now. Romanelli says blueberry sauces and blackberry sauces are popular, and some operators buy Sysco sauces and enhance them with their own signature ingredients. Some opt to go without a sauce and instead use spicy rub, such as Cajun or Montreal Steak Seasoning.

It’s hard to keep track of all these trends, but as more consumers become barbeque enthusiasts, it becomes even more important to know what works and what doesn’t in barbeque, and in other foods. That’s why Sysco offers educational sessions for its customers. In May, Chef Romanelli and Chef Klaus Mandl hosted a Sysco Barbeque Grilling Class in Chicago. The effort was designed to help operators of non-barbeque restaurants learn more about sauces, rubs, how to use a smoker inside the kitchen and how to create non-traditional grilled menu items.

“The class was for restaurants that want to start offering barbeque items,” Wassler says. “They can try it for Father’s Day and then add it to the regular menu.”

The event, which included hands-on instruction and tastings, also covered the various types of barbeque styles, which vary according to the fuel, sauces and cooking times. The chefs also helped attendees learn how to choose the right meat, such as spare ribs versus baby back ribs. There are differences in how the meat cooks and holds the juices.

“An operator might go to their neighborhood butcher looking for beef brisket, and the butcher sells them corned beef brisket,” Romanelli says. (The difference is that the corned beef is soaked in a brine solution.) “The meat specialist with any Sysco house will point them in the right direction.”

The chefs also showed attendees how to prepare barbeque inside the kitchen, in a portable electric smoker. A four-foot-high smoker can fit 100 lbs. of meat, and can cook the meat, unattended, for 12 to 18 hours.

The equipment is important, but the key is creativity. “You name it, and you should be able to put it on the grill,” Wassler says.

Related Recipes:

BBQ Salmon Salad
Grilled TBone Steak
Grilled Pork Chop
Marinated Grilled Wings