Friday, June 3, 2011

The BBQ Books I Gots on my Shelf

Tomorrow is our annual birthday BBQ, so, of course, today is the run around like a maniac and get ready for the BBQ day.  Part of this running around is figuring out what to cook.  We normally do it pot-luck style and let people bring whatever sides they want (except Blu--he is required to bring deviled eggs).  For our part, Kim normally makes something and I make pulled pork sandwiches.  I'll have more on this tomorrow.  This year I thought I'd also do a cole slaw to go with the sandwiches which sent me digging though my BBQ books to find something great. 

As a preamble to the much anticipated BBQ of the Year post coming in the next couple days, I figured I'd give a run down of the BBQ books that I use in case anyone is interested in getting some books on BBQ.

Now, let's define BBQ (Bar-B-Que) for a minute.  Many people think of Weber grills and charcoal briquettes when they think of summertime, have-your-friends-over bar-b-ques.  This is not what I'm talking about.  Although the rich petroleum aromas of Matchlight briquettes brings back many childhood memories for me, and the explosive rush of lighter fluid is fun, I'm doing something different.

When I'm talking about Barbecue, I'm talking about something that is more like what people think of when they imagine smoking foods.  I'm talking about slow cooking using indirect heat with hardwood logs for hours on end in a big, black metal drum.  Technically, what I'm talking about is called "hot smoking".  Hot smoking is like slow roasting in the oven, but with smoke.  Hot smoking is meant to take tough pieces of meat and melt them down over time.  Normally the temperature is around 225 degrees (f).  I don't want to go on about this, but I just want to be clear about what kind of cooking we're talking about here.

Grilling is direct heat, high temperature, fast cooking.  Grilling is for hamburgers and steaks and bratwursts and legs of lamb, etc.  Grilling is what most people do.  It's gas grills or Webers with charcoal briquettes.

There is another method called "cold smoking" which takes several days, never really gets over 90 degrees (f) and is what you do when you are trying to cure large peices of meat or some types of sausages.  I personally have never cold smoked anything...yet.  Cold smoking is used in some kinds of charcuterie.

Okay, now that we've got the definitions out of the way, let's get on with the books.   I'm leaving out the charcuterie books because those are more in line with "cold smoking" and that is not what I feel like writing about today.

The Barbecue! BibleI'd resisted this book for a long time because of the cheesy title (I've resisted buying the rest of Raichlen's books that came after this one for the same superficial reason).  Actually, this is a really good book.  I have been surprised how often I reference it for ideas on barbecue.  The international nature of this book is interesting, but not my favorite part.  What I really like is that it is that this book is well rounded.  It's the kind of book that you can sit down with and find something.  It is by no means exhaustive (although I think the sauces and rubs chapters are given more room than they need), but what is in here is good and interesting.  That's why I like it.
Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook: Recipes and Recollections from the Pit BossesI have to admit that Texas style barbecue is not my favorite.  Mesquite smoked beef is good, but not my personal favorite.  That being said, this is an outstanding cook book.  It really does try to be a "cook book" in that it features a deep collection of old-school Texas barbecue recipes from masters around the state.  And Robb Walsh is successful at doing what he seems to set out to do--bring forward the down-home roots of Texas barbecue.  He clearly prefer history over awards in this book.  If you're still running the same pit your grand-dad started in 1940, then you've got a good shot at getting into this book.  This book could be called "Roots of Texas Barbecue".  It's a good read

Peace, Love and Barbecue--Recipes, Tall Tales, and Outright Lies from the Legends of Barbecue
Peace, Love, & Barbecue: Recipes, Secrets, Tall Tales, and Outright Lies from the Legends of BarbecueEasily my favorite BBQ book; this is a unique BBQ book.  There are more stories than recipies in this book.  It's more like a tour around the professional bbq world that just happens to pick up some great recipes along the way.  If you want a specific recipe you have to go to the index, because the chapters are about the bbq world and the pit masters who inhabit it.  Mike Mills clearly knows the BBQ world inside and out.  This is the kind of cooking book that can go from night stand to kitchen counter in the same day.  It's just fun to read.
Dinosaur Bar-B-Que: An American RoadhouseFrom what I understand Dinosaur Barbecue is a pretty good place to eat if you are in upstate New York.  I wanted the book because I'd found a recipe online a long time ago and it was attributed to Dinosaur Barbecue. The cook book is good.  It has some interesting ideas about meats and sauces.  I like to use this book for some alternate ideas and to see how they mix flavors.  And the pictures are good.
Weber's Charcoal Grilling: The Art of Cooking with Live FireNot really a barbecue book at all, but it's in the same general world of outdoor live fire cooking.  There are some recipes for indirect heat cooking using 2 stage fires, etc., in a Weber grill.  I got this as a gift and have been really surprised at the quality of the recipes.  There are some really interesting ideas with small sauces and grilled meats.  And the photography is beautiful.  Like the Dinosaur Barbecue cookbook, I use this as a secondary reference to see some alternative ideas on flavor pairings.  
Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine WayI was really looking forward to getting this book, and when I got it I was mostly satisfied.  Again, not really a barbecue book, but more a grilling book using seven different ways to set up the fire.  The chef--Francis Mallman--is Argentinian and the book positions itself as a sort of manifesto on Argentinian outdoor cooking.  What this book really excels at is surprising you with some really new ideas on how to grill meats.  The example of cooking an entire cow whole on a giant metal rack raised over a bonfire using cables and pulleys is amazing.  Hardly practical, but amazing.

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