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Sep 8, 2011 08:28 AM

Will barbecue ever go upscale and gourmet?

Will we ever see the day that American Barbecue goes haute?

Y'know, where menus are listing Kurobuta or Berkshire pork spareribs and pulled pork sandwiches? Kobe or Wagyu beef ribs and burnt ends?

And where purveyors are bragging about the appellation and terroir of their coals, and how the wood chips in their smokers are organic and from heirloom trees?

Everything else has gone haute ... from Mac N Cheese, to hamburgers, to fried chicken.

Why not barbecue?

Or has it already and I just don't know?

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  1. I'm sure it's out there. I can envision the plating options. Towering mounds of ribs piled like Lincoln Logs with pulled pork filling the center and a lattice of brisket slices topping the whole.

    What about the Molecular folks? Could smoked pork fat be foamed? Baked bean puree freeze dried, crushed, and the resulting bean powder rimming a cocktail glass of Lynchburg Lemonade?

    1. In major metropolitan regions, yes, I can see it. In the hills of South Carolina and roadside shacks in Memphis? No way. They wouldn't deign to be so prissy and pretentious!
      That fancy pants shit is for Yankees ;-) Any good ole' boy would throw you into the smoker for sissifying his brisket like that.

      1 Reply
      1. re: monavano

        ! ! ! None but the good meat goes into my smoker... I wouldn't sully it by tossing in a sissy chef!

      2. burnt-end foam? brisket water? spherified cole slaw? essence of chicken thigh? yeah, what an important contribution to the food world THAT would be. But you're right, ips, the weenie chefs will find a way to screw up bbq too

        18 Replies
        1. re: BiscuitBoy

          Bun powder with spherified pulled pork and cole slaw foam. Sous vide collards and mac and cheese cream on the anti-griddle- artfully smeared across the plate, of course.

          1. re: monavano

            I've already seen hybrid recipes for barbecue that use a combination of traditional smoking and sous vide cookery.

            1. re: cowboyardee

              Sous Vide barbecue, eh?
              Well, that 's a sad development.

              1. re: The Professor

                Not really, IMO. It's basically just the combination of sous vide and smoking. Bound to happen, really. Not really any more of a bastardization than using an oven in conjunction with a smoker when you think about it.

                1. re: cowboyardee

                  The Kansas City BBQ Society has already forbidden sous vide in competitions.

                  1. re: Msample

                    That's interesting and sort of funny. Do they ban conventional ovens and such as well?

                    1. re: cowboyardee

                      Would it even be practical given the time constraints in competitions? I wouldn't think the texture would be a plus in competitions either.

                      1. re: laststandchili

                        There are lot of different options for texture - it doesn't have to be the super tender result most people associate with sous vide. Likewise, not all preparations call for the 36-72 hour cook times SV is known for. On top of that, I imagine that in some competitions, were the technique no banned, a contestant could precook the meat sous vide and then refrigerate or freeze it still vacuum packed, all ready to go for the beginning of competition.

                    2. re: Msample

                      I haven't cooked in a comp for a couple of years, but the rules have always stated that the barbecue must be cooked over charcoal and/or wood only. Sort of rules out SV without any new clauses.

                      1. re: chileheadmike

                        I thought of the competition BBQ as soon as I read the OP. They are already doing it upscale. Some people spend hours arranging the garnish for their turn in boxes, and then the meats that go in them get extra prep care and are given an artistic flair in the display.


                      2. re: Msample

                        "The Kansas City BBQ Society has already forbidden sous vide in competitions."

                        Well, after a few attmepts and finally perfecting cold smoking a brisket and then cooking it sous-vide I have figured out why the Kansas City BBQ Society has banned it from competition. It pretty much wipes the floor with any traditionally coooked BBQ Ive ever had, and Im currently living in austin texas, and there is good BBQ here.

                        1. re: twyst

                          Care to share a little of your method?

                          1. re: cowboyardee

                            Took cues from Modernist Cuisine and just made a few tweaks based on my personal tastes and adjusted for my equipment.

                            the first order of business is getting a great brisket. For some reason brisket quality seems to vary pretty wildly even in the same market. Trim excess fat etc then get ready to start.

                            I dry rubbed the brisket and let that work for 24 hours. After the meat was happy I cold smoked it in mostly mesquite with a little pecan for 9 hours. Then it was packed and cooked sous vide at 56C for 72 hours. Its a 5 day process, but its pretty sublime.

                            1. re: twyst

                              That's genius. Let's talk franchising....

                              1. re: twyst

                                Thanks. Adding that to my list of things to try.

                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                  The cold smoking was the only part that created any issue, I had to work with my bradley smoker quite a bit to get the cold smoke setup working properly and holding at about 90 degrees.

                        2. re: The Professor

                          Its actually pretty amazing. Cold smoking then cooking sous vide allows you to do some pretty amazing things with meat. Its not really BBQ though.

                    1. It would be a challenge to serve anything really resembling barbecue in a fine dining setting. Barbecue, as opposed to the other things you listed, is very difficult to serve in a place that's not wholly devoted to it, just because of the logistics of having a large on-site smoker. Tends to make the whole place smell all barbecue-y, which isn't conducive to haute cuisine. Also, I suspect a lot of the haute cuisine guys would admit freely that they can't do it better than the specialist shacks.