National Barbecue Week at the start of June marks the official start of the UK’s barbecue season, but for many restaurants and pubs, the charcoal grill is increasingly a year-round part of their core offer. From a basic burger to Brazilian-style churrasco menus, consumers’ enjoyment of the theatre of food served straight from the grill shows no sign of cooling down.
Foodservice analyst Horizons reports that that burgers, both beef and chicken, are the dishes most commonly seen on menus, while what it calls the ‘dude-food’ trend for barbecue-style dishes also continues. Horizons’ menu research found that dishes such as chicken wings and slow-cooked cuts such as beef brisket and pork belly are widely seen on menus.
Traditionally, this style of dish has been a useful way for chefs to make the most of less-expensive cuts of meat. However, as inflation continues to bite and demand grows, the latest edition of the Lynx Purchasing Market Forecast reports that all meat, whether prime or offcuts, is in high demand. This is a challenge, but there are some simple ways that caterers can ensure that customers get value for money while still maintaining margins, including:
- Highlight the provenance of meat served from the barbecue wherever you can, using descriptors such as ‘farm-reared’, ‘grass-fed’ and ‘rare breed’. Your catering butcher should be able to provide details and descriptors for your menu.
- Talk up your accompaniments, and give customers the full story about what comes with their barbecue meal, such as fresh lettuce and tomato, crispy fried onions, and home-made coleslaw, mayonnaise, and barbecue sauce.
- Add premium choices, giving customers the option to trade up for a little extra, with additions such as sweet potato fries in place of standard chips, local cheeses, and extra elements such as bacon or chorizo. By offering the basics as standard and other options as extras, caterers can push up the profit margins not just on burgers, but on the full range of barbecue food.
- Put the focus on fish, a great alternative to meat on the barbecues, and often seen as a healthier choice by customers. By using different marinades and spices it’s easy to create an al fresco seafood menu. Your fish supplier can update you regularly on which species are at their best in terms of price, quality and availability.
- The National Barbecue Association (NBA) reports that US style low & slow cooked dishes continue to be very popular. Pulled pork is the best-known style, but the process can be adapted for most cuts of meat. Hot and spicy food from regions such as South African, Caribbean, Mexico, North Africa, as well as Cajun and Creole, are also very much in vogue.
- The NBA also advises that not only does marinated food taste great and grill better, it also helps protect food against high grill temperatures. Normally the longer the better, but a simple tip to reduce marinating time is to place food in a sealed plastic bag, massage in marinade and place in fridge – this can cut marinating time by half.
Advice on outdoor cooking from the Food Standards Agency:
- Pre-cook: Cook all chicken, including chicken on the bone, in the oven prior to giving it a final ‘finish’ on your barbecue. This technique can also be used for sausages, burgers and kebabs when you’re catering for large numbers of customers all expecting to be served at the same time.
- Charred doesn’t mean cooked: Cook barbecue food thoroughly, until you are sure that poultry, pork, burgers, sausages and kebabs are steaming hot, with no pink meat inside. Turning meat regularly and moving it around the barbecue will help to cook it evenly. Charred on the outside doesn’t always mean cooked on the inside so, it’s always safer to cut food open and check the inside.
- Avoid cross-contamination: Follow the same food hygiene procedures you would in the kitchen. Store raw meat separately before cooking, use different utensils, plates and chopping boards for raw and cooked food. Always wash your hands thoroughly before handling food for the barbecue and after handling raw foods.
- Don’t wash raw chicken: Washing raw chicken or other meat just splashes any bacteria around and can spread bugs on to hands, clothes, utensils and worktops. Cooking will kill any bacteria present, including campylobacter.
- Keep plates and cutlery away from raw meat and fish: Never serve your customers cooked food on a plate or surface that’s had raw meat or fish on it, and don’t use cutlery or marinades that have been in contact with raw meat.
Barbecue and al fresco menus can use a wide range of ingredients, including meat, fish, fresh veg, cheese, bread, side dishes and toppings. Keep track of your costs and maintain margins using the Lynx Purchasing GP Calculator App, available FREE for Apple and Android devices. Endorsed by the Craft Guild of Chefs, the App helps chefs to monitor margins, particularly specials, using their smartphone or tablet in a busy kitchen. You can download from the App Store or Google Play, using the links below:
For Android: Lynx Purchasing GP Calculator App on Google Play
For a FREE copy of the latest edition of the Lynx Purchasing Market Forecast, go to Lynx-Purchasing-Market-Forecast-Summer-2017.pdf