Customers Crave Creative, Flavorful Pork Cuts
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Barbecue cuts combined with ready-made sauces offer rewarding adventures for customers.
Consumer interest in new and innovative dishes has set the stage for a new BBQ food trend—alternative pork cuts with flavorful barbecue sauces.
Dishes that feature alternative pork cuts can pique diners’ curiosity with intriguing options and help operators differentiate themselves from competitors — especially when combined with flavorful, ready-to-use barbecue sauces that add efficiencies to kitchen operations.
“American pork brings a combination of flavor, versatility and creativity to the live fire,” says Jim Murray, a certified executive chef and National Accounts and Innovation Manager at the National Pork Board. “Drawing from a global palette of techniques, flavor profiles and ingredients, pitmasters are able to tap into a myriad of creative barbecue pork dishes.”
Following are some tips and suggestions for utilizing alternative pork cuts and flavorful BBQ sauces in barbecue preparations.
Barbecue-flavored pork belly has been popping up as a BBQ food trend on menus from fast food to fine dining in recent years in the form of sandwiches and other main dishes.
“Pork Belly has become a universal cut with great versatility, seeing menu incidence from fine dining to BBQ operations,” said Jenny Moyer Murphy, Corporate Executive Chef at Clemens Food Group. “It can be used as a center of the plate option, a protein component to salads and street tacos, or even slow roasted and added to sliders. The applications are numerous and this cut can bring global appeal to a classic dish.”
Arby’s, for example, offered a couple of pork belly sandwiches with barbecue sauce as limited-time promotions:
- Smokehouse pork belly sandwich. Hickory-smoked pork belly with smoked cheddar cheese, barbecue sauce, crispy onions and mayonnaise.
- Smoke mountain sandwich. Pit-smoked ham, smoked pork belly and smoked brisket, topped with smoked cheddar cheese, crispy onions and barbecue sauce.
“Our guests love pork belly,” the company says in a statement, noting that demand for the sandwiches exceeded expectations.
Charlie Torgerson, a former executive chef at barbecue chain Famous Dave’s who now works as a consultant at Charlie T’s Foods, Eagan, Minn., suggests another use for these popular alternative cuts as a BBQ food trend:
- Pork belly fries. Slow-smoked pork belly cut into long lardons, and crispy fried with hoisin sauce.
Other barbecue pork cuts
Torgerson notes that operators can experiment with fresh international flavors and spices in their barbecue pork dishes.
- For example, pork collar — a well-marbled, flavorful alternative cut popular in Europe and often used in making sausages — can be used to prepare a Korean barbecue-style dish, with gochujang barbecue glaze and kimchi pickles.
“That was one of my favorite dishes — it eats so well because there’s great internal fat, good marbling,” Torgerson said in a recent interview with with BBQindustry.com.
- Pork skirt steak — sometimes called “secreto” — is another underutilized, alternative cut that lends itself to international barbecue recipes, whether it’s prepared like a beef skirt steak in a Mexican dish or Korean-barbecue style with a sweet-and-spicy glaze.
Murray of the NPB notes that pork skin is another versatile product that can be used in two forms in the barbecue world: rinds and cracklins — the latter of which have a small amount of lean pork attached. Both can be braised until tender, and then dehydrated or dried, puffed in hot pork fat and finished with dry rub.
They can then be used as an inexpensive and craveable bar snack or to add a textural accent to barbecue sandwiches, he says.
Sauces add flavor and quality
No matter which alternative cuts you use, premade barbecue sauces such as those made by Smokehouse220® can help you execute them with greater operational efficiency.
Using flavorful premade sauces helps minimize labor costs in the kitchen, for example, and also ensures product quality and consistency across locations.
The variety of premade sauces that are available also makes it easy for operators to revamp the flavor of their dishes as often as necessary, whether it’s for daily specials, limited time offers or permanent menu items.
By switching up the sauces and sides, a dish based on alternative pork cuts can reflect the cuisines of different regions, for example, or can simply provide a new BBQ food trend taste experience for customers to enjoy.
Unquestionably, consumers crave the flavors that barbecue-style preparation and BBQ sauces bring to the table, and chefs are responding in new and innovative ways. Operators can create global flavors for barbecue dishes easily by combining traditional barbecue sauces with international global inspired ones, such as mixing new Sauce CraftTM Gochujang Korean Pepper Sauce with Smokehouse 220 Sweet & Spicy Barbecue Sauce, for example.
Murray cites the opportunity to utilize barbecue sauces not only to enhance the taste of pork-based starters, snacks and entrées, but to impart their unique flavors to vegetables and starches as well.
“I think not enough people use barbecue sauces as a foundational flavor element,” he says.
Alternative pork cuts, when prepared properly and combined with the right BBQ sauces, can help operators stand out from the crowd — and generate positive buzz when customers rave about the unique experience.