My library is packed with barbecue books, and it seems there are more options showing up every year. Most folks at this time of year would provide a round-up of the best books of 2013. I’ve got some catching up do, so I included some great ones from 2012 as well. This is a lot of books to choose from, and they all have some merit, but I’ve marked my favorites that I keep going back to as resources. You should find at least one good title in here for a gift for your friends in barbecue, or maybe do some shopping for yourself.
Adams, Anderson, Berger & Turner – Pitt Cue Co.: The Cookbook (2013) FAVORITE
In a Nutshell: A group of Brits decide to open a real barbecue joint in London. Pitt Cue Co. is now just over a year old, and they wrote a cookbook anyway.
Author’s Mantra: “The attitude of anything is possible and that rules are meant to be broken, or at least bent a little, as long as the results are super tasty.” – page 13. They exercise this attitude with recipes for five week dry-aged brisket, and belly-on pork spare ribs.
Best Line: “Most significantly perhaps, our travels confirmed that trying to replicate US barbecue was exactly the route we did not want to go down.” – page 13
Best Recipe: Smoked Ox Cheek. Served on sourdough with pickled walnuts and fresh shaved horseradish.
Uncomfortable Moment: Everything is in metric, and it’s hard to find a hard copy in the States. A US version is coming soon.
Bruce Aidells – Great Meat Cookbook (2012) FAVORITE
In a Nutshell: It’s a monster. There are 632 pages of meat recipes and techniques covering poultry, beef, pork, sausage, bison, lamb, goat and veal. If you need an introduction to just about any meat variety, this is a good starting point.
Author’s Mantra: “Whether you buy meat from a farmer or at the supermarket, you need to know how to choose great cuts and match them to the best cooking method.” -page 1
Best Line: “If you have been relying on time tables to determine when a piece of meat has reached your desired level of doneness, Stop!” – page 15
Best Recipe: Home-Cured Corned Beef and Pastrami. How to make these classics at home from a whole, raw brisket.
Uncomfortable Moment: There is not a single recipe for seitan, tofu or any other meat substitute. Oh wait…I’m totally comfortable with that.
Akerberg & Lindberg – SAUSAGE! (2013)
In a Nutshell: Learn to make homemade sausages from pretty much any protein, and even a few vegetables.
Author’s Mantra: “If you can make meatballs and hamburgers, you can make sausage.” – page 7
Best Tip #1: “Pork…produces a juicy sausage and the fat content is easy to control. As a result, pork is the main ingredient used in most sausages.” – page 10
Best Tip #2: “Keep it cold!” – page 182. This means keep the meat, batter and equipment cold during the sausage making process.
Best Recipe: Crab and Lobster Sausage. Seasoned seafood stuffed into lamb casings and steamed.
Uncomfortable Moment: The “smoky” sausages call for liquid smoke in the recipes rather than just smoking them.
Todd Blackledge & J. R. Rosenthal – Taste of the Town (2013)
In a Nutshell: A college football analyst travels the country to call games, and gives you a taste of his favorite restaurants in those college towns.
Author’s Mantra: “Two of the things I am most passionate about are college football and food.” – vii
Best Line: “The smell of Dreamland Bar-B-Que is the psychological trigger that says, ‘okay, now, Roll Tide.'” – page xiv
Best Recipe: Salt Lick Beef Ribs
Uncomfortable Moment: The most interesting recipe they could get out of Nick Saban was for ham soup.
Tim Byres – Smoke: New Firewood Cooking (2013) FAVORITE
In a Nutshell: A fine dining chefs finds his soul in wood cooking and wants to teach you how to find a piece of that lifestyle.
Author’s Mantra: “Demystifying food…is a big part of what I want to share in this book. I will map out how to build a smokehouse, explain how to dig a barbacoa pit, and show you many other useful means of firewood cooking.” – page 15
Best Line: From New York barbecue cheerleader Josh Ozersky: Texas is “the nation’s barbecue capital.” – page 9
Best Recipe: The Big Rib with Chimichurri. I’ve eaten this beef rib several times, and it’s glorious.
Best Construction Project: How to dig and prepare a barbacoa pit.
Bonus: The author teaches you how to properly smoke a pipe.
Uncomfortable Moment: Realizing how much cooking equipment you need to build to be as badass as Tim Byres.
Robert Carriker – Boudin: A Guide to Louisiana’s Extraordinary Link (2012)
In a Nutshell: The ultimate guide to finding the best boudin in Louisiana from the authority on boudin hunting in Louisiana.
Author’s Mantra: “You are as likely to find an expert boudin chef in a gas station convenience store with an added kitchen as you are an established meat market.” – page 16
Best Tip: A link of boudin and a Dr Pepper is known as a Cajun breakfast.
Best Line: Baline Broussard on boudin: “It’s everything good about Cajun cooking and you don’t need a plate.” – page 61
Uncomfortable Moment: “[M]any equate the eating of a good link as an almost sensual experience.” – page 5
Ardie Davis & Paul Kirk – America’s Best BBQ Homestyle (2013)
In a Nutshell: “What do championship barbecuers cook at home in their own backyards, when there are no rules but the simple laws of physics and basic chemistry?” – page viii
Author’s Mantra: “This book serves two purposes: introducing you to the champs and introducing you to one of the best barbecue you’ve ever eaten.” – viii
Best Line: “Contest rules and regulations literally put barbecue creativity in a box – a turn-in box.” – page viii
Best Recipe: Gaelic Gourmet Smoked Corned Beef Brisket. The seasoning and cooking method will make this a little different than pastrami.
Uncomfortable Moment: A creepy photo of a guy who calls himself Dirty Dick on page 152. The term “Dirty Dick’s” appears at least a dozen times in the book.
Dominic Episcopo – Meat America (2013)
In a Nutshell: Carvings, mainly of states in the US, made out of raw meat.
Author’s Mantra: “Meat America…celebrates our collective American appetite for insurmountable odds, limitless aspiration, and immeasurable success.” – page 3
Best Line: “Though, some may just see it as a bunch of American icons fashioned out of animal products, which is totally cool too.” – page 3
Best Quotation: “Thanks to the interstate highway system, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything.” – Charles Kuralt
Uncomfortable Moment: A photo of the author with a dead baby pig over his shoulders and dozens of cleavers covering the wall in the background.
Bobby Flay – Barbecue Addiction (2013)
In a Nutshell: A famous chef provides recipes for a complete meal – from cocktails to dessert – that all involve live fire cooking.
Author’s Mantra: “I’m addicted to barbecue. No intervention necessary.” – page 12
Best Tip: “I just can’t recommend trying to use a gas grill to smoke meat for two hours or longer.” – page 14
Best Recipe: Smoked Prime Rib
Interesting Fact: The photographer for the book is named Quentin Bacon
Uncomfortable Moment: “I love to cook outdoors, but until recently my main means of doing so was on a gas grill.” – page 11
George Hensler – Totally Q (2013)
In a Nutshell: A collection of barbecue facts, trivia, jokes and general barbecue information.
Best Story: About the world’s largest barbecue party in Oklahoma City in 1923. Thousands of animals ranging from squirrels to steers were barbecued.
Best Quotation: ” I can walk into a kitchen, cut a piece of meat, and tell you how long and how fast you cooked it. I know you think I’m bulls—ing you, but that’s the honest truth.” Harry Green of Houston, Texas
Best Recipe: Dwight Eisenhower’s barbecue sauce
Uncomfortable Moment: Top 10 Wines to Drink with BBQ
Husbands, Hart & Pyenson – Wicked Good Barbecue (2012) FAVORITE
In a Nutshell: A group of guys were very successful on the barbecue competition circuit, and want to tell you their secrets to barbecue success.
Author’s Mantra: “Let’s assume our readers’ top priority isn’t that the food be easy to prepare. Let’s assume they want to be challenged…”
Best Line: On team member Chris Hart’s relentless barbecue practice regimen: “He made so much brisket that his next door neighbor’s dog refused to eat any more.” – page 23
Best Recipe: Whole Hog, Porchetta Style. A whole, skin-on, boneless carcass that’s been rubbed, stuffed and tied before being smoked.
Uncomfortable Moment: It can seem daunting to start a recipe that takes days to prepare like the Duck, Duck, Smoke po-boy that includes duck pastrami and smoked duck confit, but at least they’re not giving you a half-hearted shortcut recipe.
Ray Lampe – Slow Fire (2012) FAVORITE
In a Nutshell: A barbecue competition champion sets out to teach the beginner cook how to make real, low & slow barbecue.
Author’s Mantra: “With a small investment in a home smoker and a little practice, you will go from beginner to champion of your neighborhood in no time.” – page 11
Best Line: “Barbecue sauce does not make meat barbecue.” – page 27
Best Recipe: Korean-Style Barbecue Short Ribs. Korean barbecue flavors with added smokiness. Yes, please.
Uncomfortable Moment: I doubt Dr. BBQ uses a thermometer to tell him when the brisket is done, so it’s curious that all three brisket recipes tell you that doneness is determined by the meat’s temperature.
Robert Landauer – Bikes, Blues, and Barbecues (2013)
In a Nutshell: A father and son go on an epic week-long bike ride around Central Texas and eat barbecue all along their route.
Author’s Mantra: “Driving is about the destination, but biking is about the journey itself.”
Best Line: “If you were to write a book containing every blues euphemism ever used, it would take one year to write, two people to carry, and five people to understand. Euphemisms about sex would be a volume unto itself.”
Uncomfortable Moment: They visited all of Texas Monthly’s Top 5 barbecue joints from the 2008 list. If a sequel is in the works, their next trip to hit the Top 4 from the 2013 list will have to be a lot longer.
Adam Perry Lang – Charred & Scruffed (2012)
In a Nutshell: A grilling and barbecue recipe book from a classically trained chef who has also won some serious barbecue competitions.
Author’s Mantra: “This is a new and different kind of barbecue book because it is about invention, not tradition.” – page ix
Best Tip: Board dressings – For an added layer of flavor, make a dressing of oil, spices and herbs right on the cutting board before you start slicing. Then use the drippings mixed with the dressing to pour over top the meat before serving.
Best Recipe: Roasted Rib Stack – A layered stack of bacon and pork ribs, wrapped in bacon, and smoked.
Uncomfortable Moment: “Nothing says barbecue like a beautifully done steak.” – page 34. One vote for smoked brisket.
Adam Perry Lang – Serious Barbecue (2013) FAVORITE
In a Nutshell: “So in each chapter, I take you on a trip through the butcher case, providing an amazing recipe for almost every cut you can think of, a recipe that accentuates its best qualities.” -page 5
Author’s Mantra: “”‘Barbecue’ does not just mean the slow-cooked, smoke perfumed meats of the South. It also means the charred, juicy direct-grilled meats, which I had become equally obsessed at perfecting.” – page 3
Best Tip: “Picking a certain type of wood is not about choosing between different flavors that you’d like to impart in your meat – cherry and apple might smell different, but the flavor difference is very, very subtle.” – page 21
Best Recipe: Burnt Ends with Melting Garlic.
Uncomfortable Moment: I don’t like foil as much as Lang, but there just isn’t much to argue with here.
Myron Mixon – Everyday Barbecue (2013)
In a Nutshell: Myron wrote a true barbecue book two years ago called Smokin’ with Myron Mixon. He needed another book deal, so he did this one with (mostly non-barbecue) recipes he makes at home.
Author’s Mantra: “I want to teach one lesson and one lesson only about cooking barbecue: Make it easy on yourself.” – page xv
Best Tip: A whole section of the book is dedicated to creative ways for using leftover barbecue.
Best Recipe: Smoked Turkey Drumsticks.
Uncomfortable Moment #1: The New York location of Pride & Joy (which never opened) is included in his barbecue resume.
Uncomfortable Moment #2: A whole series of “Barbecue-Fried” items are just fried meats with barbecue sauce for dipping. Thankfully, there are no Barbecue-Fried Chicken Nuggets.
Uncomfortable Moment #3: These are Myron’s favorite home recipes, so I didn’t expect a ton of true barbecue recipes, but including recipes for baked “barbecued” brisket, ribs, pork shoulder, and chicken seems silly.
Jeff Phillips – Smoking Meat: Essential Guide to Real Barbecue (2012)
In a Nutshell: “This book will equip you with the basic knowledge you need to produce succulent slow-smoked food over hot coals and wood, right in your own backyard.” – page viii
Author’s Mantra: “I’m all about doing what works, even if it hasn’t always been done that way.” – page viii
Best Tip: “[T]he taste of meat cooked on an authentic wood-fired smoker is unbeatable in every way.” – page 15
Best Recipe: Smoked Fried Turkey. That’s right. Smoke it for ninety minutes, then fry it to finish.
Uncomfortable Moment: The pretty clear knock-off of a Bacon Explosion should at least give a shout out to its creator, Jason Day.
Michael Pollan – Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation (2013) FAVORITE
In a Nutshell: Pollan looks at the transformative power of food preparation in four categories: Fire (barbecue), water (braising) , air (baking), and earth (fermentation). It’s the thinking man’s barbecue book.
Author’s Mantra: “The premise of this book is that cooking…is one of the most interesting and worthwhile things we humans do.” – page 11
Best Line: “[G]rilling meat over a fire today commemorates the transformative power of cooking itself, which never appears so bright or explicit as when wood and fire and flesh are brought together under that aromatic empire of smoke.” – page 55
Best Recipe: There are no barbecue recipes, but the entirety of Part II is a drawn out recipe for braising any number of large pieces of meat.
Uncomfortable Moment: Forgetting forty-seven year old Bum’s Restaurant, Pollan says Skylight Inn is the only barbecue joint in Ayden, North Carolina.
John Rivers – The Southern Cowboy Cookbook (2013)
In a Nutshell: An already successful businessman puts his energy into ministry through barbecue. He cooks barbecue out of his garage until opening a joint in Winter Park, Florida in 2009. Now there are five locations of 4 Rivers Smokehouse.
Author’s Mantra: “From the beginning, my mantra has been to de-regionalize and break down the boundaries of barbecue.”
Best Tip: Brine chicken, then cook it hot and fast to create crispy skin and retain moist meat.
Best Recipe: Santa Maria Tri-Tip. The meat is smoked, then marinated, and finished on a hot grill.
Uncomfortable Moment: The author failed the only cooking class he’s ever taken – high school home economics.
Scott Roberts & Jessica Dupuy – Salt Lick Cookbook (2012)
In a Nutshell: Salt Lick owner Scott Roberts shares stories of his family and their recipes that came together to create the Salt Lick. The homestyle family recipes outnumber the barbecue recipes.
Author’s Mantra: “If you respect the land around you, respect all the ingredients that go into the dish to make it right…and respect the very heritage that made you what you are today, then you hold the key to great food.” – page 19
Interesting Fact: Salt Lick cooks at least 2,600 pounds of brisket every day.
Best Tip: How to cope with the meat sweats on page 201.
Best Recipe: Smoked Brisket Burger. Chopped, smoked brisket mixed with ground beef and barbecue sauce then grilled.
Glaring Recipe Omission: If you want the sauce recipe, you won’t find it here.
Uncomfortable Moment: They’ve caught it early enough to include an insert, but the recipe for cole slaw as printed would have been mighty salty and spicy with 1/2 cup of salt and 1/4 cup of white pepper.
Daniel Vaughn* – The Prophets of Smoked Meat (2013) FAVORITE
In a Nutshell: Two guys drive 10,000 miles in Texas to see how the barbecue styles change across the state.
Author’s Mantra: We eat the bad barbecue so you don’t have to.
Best Line: “We are unabashed culinary Luddites, seeking the destruction of the modern machines of barbecue cookery that have infested kitchens across the state and helped cheapen the quality of good smoked meat.” – page 303
Best Recipe: John Mueller’s Pork Spare Ribs. They surprisingly include corn syrup and Italian dressing in the glaze.
Uncomfortable Moment: The copy editors and I didn’t catch a misspelling of epic proportions. Texas barbecue legend Vencil Mares has his first name spelled as “Vercil” in his pitmaster profile.
* That’s me, so I am shilling my own book. In fairness, it is very much about barbecue and did come out this year.
Robb Walsh – Barbecue Crossroads (2013) FAVORITE
In a Nutshell: Two guys travel from Texas to North Carolina and back looking for traditional, regional barbecue all along the way.
Author’s Mantra: “We had no interest in places that used electric or gas-fired barbecue ovens. We were looking for the keepers of the flame – the last of the old-fashioned Southern barbecue pits.” – page xi
Best Line: “Bureaucrats who use petty complaints to harass barbecue joints are partly responsible for the near disappearance of artisan wood-fired barbecue.” – page 211
Best Recipe: Barbecued Hog Forequarter. Like a pork shoulder, but so much more.
Uncomfortable Moment: After traveling across the south eating at barbecue restaurants, the conclusion was that “barbecue restaurants are not places to go looking for American barbecue culture anymore.” – page 233