By Debbie Freeman, NTF Advisory Board Member & Consumer Insights Manager, Menu & Innovation at Red Robin Gourmet Burgers

BBQ…We all know it.  We all love it.  If we didn’t, there wouldn’t be a “BBQ” or BBQ-inspired item on nearly 60 percent of all restaurant menus today.

When I polled my friends and colleagues to find out what comes to mind when they think of BBQ, they listed some of the most iconic forms and flavors – hickory-smoked, sweet honey BBQ, Memphis dry-rub, Texas brisket, fall-off-the-bone ribs, Bourbon BBQ Sauce…the list went on and on. As they listed each flavor and style I couldn’t help but think about how turkey can be a great canvas for all of them.

Turkey is more than up to the task when it comes to grilling and smoking. Like many other tried and true “American favorites,” BBQ is evolving and modernizing as our population diversifies and seeks bolder, unique flavors.  Latin influences like chimichurri and barbacoa are appearing as BBQ options on menus, as are Middle Eastern and Asian flavors and preparations like curry, ginger, soy and satay.  Pitmasters to top-rated chefs to backyard grill masters are experimenting with apple, peach, cherry, oak, maple and pecan woods to impart new and more modern smoked flavors to their recipes.

Tarragon, chervil, allspice, chocolate and coffee are just a few of the interesting ingredients being incorporated into dry rubs to create complex and mouth-watering “crusts.” Don’t believe me? Well, you don’t have to take my word for it! Check out this recipe for Grilled Chimichurri Turkey Tenderloin from my fellow National Turkey Federation Advisory Board member Dan Phalen, where ancho chili brine elevates a turkey breast to delicious heights before hitting the grill and being topped with a delicious chimichurri sauce.

Turkey has even made its way into the competitive BBQ arena as a new challenge for seasoned BBQ competitors. For the second year in a row, competitors lined up to show off their BBQ skills and throw down their best turkey recipes to vie for the title of Turkey Smoke Champion at the America Royal World Series of Barbecue in Kansas City. The 2018 Champion, Slow and Easy BBQ, won with their Turkey Burnt Ends beating out 180 other teams to snatch the title.

Get out the smoker and prepare your favorite flavors, turkey is on the BBQ horizon!