A renowned barbecue pitmaster says the barbecue world doesn’t have to be hurt by the healthy-eating movement. Instead, he says, barbecue restaurants can include a turkey barbecue option for health-conscious consumers.

Ed Mitchell, formerly of The Pit in Raleigh, North Carolina, says he had started using more turkey at The Pit before departing, and will continue to do so at his soon-to-be-announced new restaurant in North Carolina.

“Now, because everyone is so passionate about healthy eating, they like alternatives,” Mitchell says. “Turkey is a great alternative, so we just simply said, ‘Let’s put more of an emphasis on turkey barbecue than we previously have done,’ and we didn’t realize it would be such a hit—especially among ladies.”

Mitchell is known for Eastern North Carolina–style barbecue that uses a whole-hog approach, and he says he incorporates the same style—including the whole bird—to his turkey barbecue. He demonstrated his recipe at an event in Durham, North Carolina, hosted by Butterball.

Mitchell says turkey barbecue is not so different from pork or beef that it would scare off barbecue loyalists.

“You’re going to see a product that looks so similar to pork barbecue that if you didn’t know the difference by visualizing it, you probably couldn’t tell,” Mitchell says. “The taste is so similar because we’re using the same ingredients to make the flavor of the turkey that we do the pork. The only difference is the taste of the meat.”

Mitchell will be presenting his turkey barbecue recipe at the 2011 Big Apple Barbecue Block Party in New York City, an event he helped found nine years ago. It’s the first time a turkey barbecue option has been offered at the block party, which in past years has played host to more than 100,000 people. 

Watch Mitchell prepare his turkey barbecue. 

By Sam Oches

Menu Innovations, News