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Cowboy Cuisine

Smoked, slow-cooked and simple are the name of the game when it comes to cowboy-inspired cuisine. Since the 1700s, this style of cooking has relied on a short list of versatile ingredients—beef, flour, potatoes, beans and onions—that can be transformed into biscuits, stews, fried steaks and more. On today’s menus, Dutch ovens and cast-iron skillets replicate the techniques used on the frontier, creating savory pies, casseroles and even desserts that pay homage to the chuck wagons of yore. The bold flavors of chicory, molasses and sorghum can be incorporated into marinades, batters and basting sauces that reflect a distinct period in America’s regional culinary heritage while appealing to the tastes of today’s patrons.

From the Campfire to your kitchen, get ready to get inspired

Flavor up a juicy pork chop with a Custom Culinary® Pork BBQ Spice and Gold Label Demi-Glace Sauce - the foundations of a dry rub and kickin' whiskey sauce. Click here for full recipe.

Flavor often takes the lead when we’re talking about a new restaurant, recipe, or product, but with Cowboy Cuisine, the technique is just as important. Roasted, simmered, grilled, smoked, braised, slow-cooked, or deep-fried—nothing is off limits when it comes to how we deliver flavor. But there is something about the aroma of smoke, the heat of the grill, the results of a slow braise that heightens the experience and allows for the introduction of new proteins. In fact, according to Technomic, nearly 25% of consumers say they’re eating cuts of beef that they didn’t eat a year ago, and three in 10 diners say the same of pork cuts.

Smoked comes to mind when we’re talking about cowboy cuisine. 69% of consumers say that like or love smoked foods. Open flame cooking has also come into favor over the last few years. Charred has grown 8% on menus in the last year, and is predicted to grow 22% by 2026.

At Ekstedt in Sweden, Chef Niklas Ekstedt is sharing his love for open flame cooking where gas ovens, grills or deep fryers will not be found. Everything that comes out of the kitchen is prepared using live flames in a fire pit. “We wanted to create a place where the emphasis was as much on the process as the end product.”

Others are sharing their expertise through favorite techniques. Chef Dave Swanson of Braise in Milwaukee, for instance, prefers braising to create a fall-off-the bone tender cut of meat, regarding it as “a pillar of the culinary world.” Praised barbecue pitmaster John Lewis knows a thing or two about technique and storytelling. Moving beyond his barbecue roots, Lewis brings the inspiration of his childhood in El Paso to the menu at Juan Luis along with his perfected technique for nixtamalizing corn for masa. Paul Virant, chef/owner of Vie and Vistro outside of Chicago and a partner of Perennial Virant, looks to smoking as a step in the creation of his Smoked Apple Butter which he recommends as an ingredient in a smoky aioli or as an addition to a bourbon cocktail.  

Today’s consumer seeks flavor, yes, but flavor can be added through tried-and-true techniques and seasonings, just as it can be added with time and simple ingredients. We believe this is the heart of Cowboy Cuisine. Country-Fried Steak and Eggs, Pickled Onions, pot pies and biscuits are all perfect examples of simple ingredients prepared just right. Get inspired by this trend (and many others) by visiting our top trends and taking a look around.

MEnu Inspiration

Tender braised meats, smoky sauces and open-fire cooking bring the essence of cowboy cuisine trend to your menu. Get inspired by these recipes, featuring products from Custom Culinary®. Products from Custom Culinary® are ideal for creating simple one-pot fare, accented with rich sauces, marinades, glazes and gravies.

tex mex chili
  • Tex Mex Turkey Chili
    Slow-cooked turkey chili filled with pinto beans, green pepper and tomato, seasoned with Custom Culinary® Master’s Touch® Herb Roasted Beef Base, chili powder, Mexican oregano, garlic and cumin.

  • Fajita Marinade for Beef
    Custom Culinary® Master’s Touch® Beef Base serves as the flavorful foundation for a versatile marinade, seasoned with lime juice, toasted cumin, chili powder, red pepper and garlic.

  • Smokehouse Bacon Jam Burger
    An Angus beef patty topped with smoked Texas-style brisket, buttermilk-battered fried onions, pepper jack cheese and Custom Culinary® Gold Label Bacon Onion Marmalade.

  • Smoky Sweet Potato Soup
    Brimming with mashed sweet potatoes, orange zest, chili powder, and smoked paprika, this craveable soup featuring Custom Culinary® Gold Label Chicken Base brings a robust combination of flavors to the table. Pair with a salad for a light lunch or serve alongside grilled chicken and veggies.

  • Country-Fried Steak and Eggs
    A juicy rib eye pave breaded and shallow fried, smothered in Custom Culinary®  Chicory Brown Gravy*, served with pickled onion petals, sliced green onion, charred leeks and finished with a sunny-side up egg.

  • Calabacita Rellena
    Farm-fresh zucchini hollowed out, stuffed with melty Oaxaca cheese and roasted; topped with crispy bread crumbs and finished with a drizzle of warm Custom Culinary® Fire-Roasted Corn and Poblano Cream Sauce*.

  • Pickled Onion “Wagon Wheels”
    Extra-thick onion rings pickled in Custom Culinary® Chuckwagon Pickle Brine*, breaded and fried to a perfect golden brown, garnished with green onion and served with smoky ancho ketchup.

  • Skillet Fritter Pot Pie
    A savory chicken, pea and pearl onion stew topped with light, crispy fritters made with Custom Culinary® Jalapeño Cornmeal Fritter Batter*, served in a sizzling cast iron skillet.

  • Trail’s End Biscuits and Pimento Cheese
    Two buttery Dutch oven biscuits spread with creamy pimento cheese, drizzled with Custom Culinary® Ancho Pepper Sorghum Sauce* studded with crispy bacon lardons.

Custom Culinary Flavor IQ
FlavorIQ® enables our customers' growth and success by approaching the creation of customized solutions with a bold mix of expertise, aspiration and curiosity. We develop unique products, menu concepts and "gold standard" flavor delivery systems, meeting the requirements of our customers today and anticipating their emerging needs, too. The opportunities we identify for operators and food manufacturers on a global scale are rooted in a deep understanding of the culinary arts, sensory science, consumer insights and food science. Our ultimate goal? Innovation without limits.
*Products are customized; please contact your Custom Culinary® representative for more information.

Datassential Flavor, June 2023
Datassential Menu Trends, June 2023



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