Smoky BBQ flavor meat

Flavor of the Month

Smoky BBQ Enjoys its Season in the Sun

Nothing says summer like the rich, savory taste of smoky BBQ. This flavor trend has been heating up with expanded uses ranging from BBQ-flavored black bean burgers to pea protein chips. See how manufacturers are adding a spicy kick to their products with smoky BBQ flavor.

The Smoky BBQ Flavor Trend

Gathering friends and family for a barbecue (or BBQ for short) is a favorite American past time. Cooking meat over a grill, smoker, or even a pit is often considered a culinary event rather than simply meal preparation due to the more involved process and the delicious smoky BBQ flavor it creates.

Now, this traditional backyard favorite is growing and evolving, taking influence from Argentinian and Brazilian steakhouses as well as other restaurant trends. Another international influence bringing new flair to BBQ is Korean BBQ, which includes dishes like beef bulgogi. In traditional Korean restaurants, diners are given thin slices of marinated meats that they can BBQ themselves on grills built into the tables.

Also helping to propel the BBQ trend is the rise of regional BBQ flavors. Besides the well-known Memphis and Kansas City-style BBQ sauces, consumers can now choose from Tennessee (whiskey-infused), Hawaiian (teriyaki and pineapple-flavored), and Louisiana (Cajun-spiced) BBQ sauces. Carolina Gold BBQ sauce offers a mustard-based version, while Alabama White BBQ sauce relies on mayonnaise.

father and son cooking meat at a BBQ

How Smoky BBQ Flavor Is Made

While the distinct taste of smoky BBQ has its origins in slowly cooking meat over a fire, that fresh-off-the-grill flavor can be added to nearly any product thanks to flavor innovations. Reaction flavors are a unique category of flavors that require a cooking step to produce the final flavor. Roasted, grilled, and smoked flavors are popular examples. 

Roasted and grilled flavors use sugars and amino acids as the starting ingredients. In a controlled heating step, these ingredients undergo a chemical reaction known as the Maillard reaction—a non-enzymatic browning reaction that produces the characteristic cooked notes of roasted or grilled meats. For smoke flavor, the starting material is wood, such as hickory, mesquite, or applewood.

Due to the many options in starting materials and heating parameters, a wide variety of roasted, grilled, and smoked flavors can be produced, each with its own distinct flavor profile. This allows manufacturers to choose from fire-roasted flavors to charred or seared, for example, or a robust smoke flavor vs. one that’s sweet and mellow. With added tomato flavor, tanginess, and spicy heat, smoky BBQ flavors that work for a variety of applications can be made.

Top Smoky BBQ Flavor Applications

At home and in restaurants, grilled or smoked beef, pork, and chicken are the most popular ways for consumers to enjoy smoky BBQ tastes, especially with a flavorful dry rub or BBQ sauce. However, growing consumer interest in plant-based and flexitarian diets has caused an uptick in meatless options such as BBQ portobello sliders and baked BBQ tofu.

Plant based burger in a bun

In retail foods, smoky options range from BBQ sauce to BBQ chips to frozen pizza topped with BBQ chicken. Perhaps the newest applications for smoky BBQ flavors are seasoned plant-based meats (such as burgers and jerky) and savory snacks made with plant proteins (such as chips, pretzels, and puffs containing pea protein). 

For these plant protein-based foods, flavor masking is often a key step to ensure the best protein flavor before adding a smoky BBQ flavor. Flavor masking can include bitter masking, which may be necessary when high levels of pea, hemp, or rice protein are used. In addition, the amounts and types of plant proteins can be adjusted to ensure the best tasting protein possible.

Add Some Summer Fun with Smoky BBQ Flavor

For just the right smoky BBQ flavor—and protein flavor masker—for your products, Glanbia Nutritionals has got you covered. We have solutions and expertise in flavoring and masking proteins, plant-based ingredients, vitamins, and minerals. Collaborate with us to meet today’s flavor trends with our custom flavors, bitter masking solutions, and more!