Britain’s biggest food trend of recent years is being powered by technology developed at the start of the Second World War, Harvester Restaurants has revealed.
Smoked meats, such as pork ribs, brisket and pulled pork, are available on the most discerning menus in the UK and, this year, have become the big seller for British restaurateurs. But they’d never have been possible without the invention of the Torry Kiln in Scotland in 1939, says the chain, which has restaurants across Fife, Edinburgh and the Lothians.
Invented at the Torry Research Station in Aberdeen, the kiln allowed for uniform mass-smoking and is considered the prototype for all modern large-scale commercial smokers.
In 1929 the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) set up a research station in Torry, to carry out research and development into fish preservation due to growing concern surrounding the loss of thousands of tons of fish annually through decay.
World War II had a significant impact on Torry’s research programme and from 1939 the research station took on a more advisory role; developing innovative ways to use underutilised fish and making cheaper cuts of meat more palatable to make rations go further. Thus the invention of the Torry Kiln and the first widespread UK trend for smoked meats.
Although refinements in technique and advancements in technology have made smoking much easier, the basic steps involved remain essentially the same today as they were back then.
In the immediate post-war years smoked meats were all the rage in the kitchens of the best restaurants across the UK. But their popularity fizzled with modern kitchen advances in the 1960s, 70s and 80s.
But this year, Britain celebrated a return to more traditional cooking methods and simpler foods cooked in
time-honoured style. Indeed, the celebration became a fully-fledged trend as more and more restaurants turned their back on fiddly nouveau cuisine.
Food historian and writer Seren Evans-Charrington said: “Dating back to before the ice age, smoking was initially used to preserve meats. The distinctive flavour that the smoking process imparts was preferred and became widely used as much for its additional taste to the food as its preservation quality.
“Microwaves and ready meals put paid to the old smoked meat style and in the 1990s the final nail in the coffin came as Britain looked for new, more modern cooking methods and different cuisines to excite their tastebuds. However, the ancient method is experiencing a revival for the modern day.”
British chefs looked backwards to move forwards – resurrecting simpler, classic foods and cooking them in old-fashioned ways to remind the UK how Great British Food became great.
Family favourite, Harvester Restaurants, has seen a huge surge in the demand for smoked meats by its customers.
“Our smoked pork ribs are flying out the door right across the UK, “ said Anneli Fereday, Harvester marketing manager.
“Smoked pork ribs and smoked meats in general might well be the hottest food trend of this year but, in reality, their success is down to a wartime invention, without which, smoked meats wouldn’t be the roaring success they are in 2015.”
All Harvester’s Cornish Smoked Back Ribs come from Fresh From Cornwall smokehouse based in Truro, Cornwall. The smokehouse uses an AFOS kiln, which is based on the original Torry design.
The same is true of smokehouses across the nation, all of which are seeing a massive rise in the popularity of their smoked meats as Britain goes smoked meat mad.
The smoked meat trend is a timely one too – coming on the back of a nationwide survey from Harvester Restaurants reveals that seven out of 10 Brits want nothing more than simple, no-fuss meals made using traditional cooking methods when they eat out.
So, those restaurants guilty of over-stuffed menus featuring painfully trendy foods like Curly Kale, Cruffins or the increasingly popular gourmet pizza are quickly having to re-assess their offerings.
And Britain’s foodies are less than polite about some modern food trends. Some 63% of Scots describe the trend of making new meals out of deconstructed classics as ridiculously fussy and desperate for attention. Almost four out of 10 food fans say they’d choose the original classic over its modern deconstructed version every single time.
An overwhelming 93% of Brits say that modern restaurant food is too trendy for its own good and admit they’d prefer a return to the old days of simple, honest food cooked well.
Harvester marketing manager, Anneli Fereday, added: “Our research shows that food fans want to see trendy foods like courgetti and cauliflower rice culled from menus. Those foods might grab the headlines right now but, it is the simple, honest goodness of great food cooked well that always wins.
“Here at Harvester we pride ourselves on a menu that not only serves up a range of timeless classics but also keeps up with trends too – you’ve only got to see the overwhelming popularity of our Cornish smoked ribs to realise that they are the new food trend.”