Cookbooks are some of the best things to happen to barbecue during its current boom. The big general overview books are deeper and more informed than similar books from yesteryear. And there is increasing room for books that draw on heritage, helping to evolve the cuisine in exciting ways.
“Cool Smoke: The Art of Great Barbecue,” by Tuffy Stone (St. Martin’s Griffin, $30). “Mise en place” is not a term typically found in barbecue cookbooks. But Stone is not your typical barbecue cookbook author. Oh, he has traditional, albeit top-shelf, bona fides: He was a judge on TV’s “BBQ Pitmasters,” five-time world champion on the competition circuit and owner of Richmond’s Q Barbeque restaurants. But Stone is also a classically trained chef who has cooked barbecue for a sold-out audience at the James Beard House.
Despite the fancy verbiage, Stone’s approach is laudably down-home. There are highbrow touches (dove breast, goose pastrami) and competition items (chicken thighs, ribs, pork butt). But it’s the sensible variants of grilling mainstays that make this book so appealing. Pork loin is stuffed with kale and bacon. Chicken leg quarters are dressed with tarragon and Aleppo pepper. Herb-Stuffed Trout With Savory Almond Granola balances beautifully between simple campfire cooking and elegant dinner-party fare.
Instruction is clear. An overview of fire management is comprehensive without being overwhelming. Advice, such as “saving over- and undercooked meat,” is informed and valuable.
Whether you’re cooking the basics or seeking dishes that are a bit more elevated, this is the one essential barbecue book for you this year.
“Korean BBQ: Master Your Grill in Seven Sauces,” by Bill Kim, with Chandra Ram (Ten Speed Press, $30). Talk about atypical. Bill Kim, having cooked at Chicago’s groundbreaking Charlie Trotter and Philly’s celebrated Chinese/ fusion Susanna Foo, goes further into chef-barbecue territory, adding a welcome ingredient: his Korean background. Capitalizing on a superhot trend, Kim, the owner of Chicago’s BellyQ, goes far beyond the tabletop full of grilled meat commonly associated with Korean barbecue. He combines a chef’s creativity and exactitude with a larder from his heritage to create such dishes as kimchi salsa, gochujang salmon and the Mexican-Asian mash-up Korean Al Pastor. Kim dazzles with unfamiliar sauces and spice rubs. The book is a gloriously mind-bending trip into barbecue’s evolution.
“Cowboy Barbecue: Fire & Smoke from the Original Texas Vaqueros,” by Adrian Davila, with Ann Volkwein (The Countryman Press, $25). Third-generation pitmaster Adrian Davila of Davila’s BBQ in the Central Texas town of Seguin assembled engaging recipes that pay tribute to his Latin American heritage, such as smoked beef tongue, in-the-ground cooked beef head, and the ever-popular Beef Fajitas. Engaging cultural, historical and personal overviews, along with unconventional items (goat tacos, peanut butter mole and shrimp in chile broth) expand our knowledge — and our culinary repertoire.
“French Grill: 125 Refined & Rustic Recipes,” by Susan Herrmann Loomis (The Countryman Press, $30). Incorporating elements of Syrian (spiced lamb chops) and North African cooking (cod with chermoula) with more traditionally French recipes (tomatoes Provencale), “French Grill” reflects past colonial rule and current immigration trends. The handsomely presented book transports you to a cookout in the south (or, really, anywhere) of France. At this time of peak produce, try the “purely French” Grilled Vegetable Salad.
“Hardcore Carnivore: Cook Meat Like You Mean It,” by Jess Pryles (Surrey Books; $30). The good news: This is an informative and well-written book. The bad news: Only about half of it is about barbecue. But so what if your meat game gets a hybrid outdoors/indoors boost? The self-taught, Australian-born, Texan meat expert has an adventurous palate: Sumac-dusted roast chicken, dukkah-crusted backstrap, peanut-butter-and-jelly wings. There is even a recipe for kangaroo (she’s Australian, remember). Looking for exciting ideas? This is the book for you.
“How to Grill Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Flame-Cooked Food,” by Mark Bittman (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30). The latest in Bittman’s How to Cook Everything series, this whopping 576-page book covers the basics of appetizers, sides, entrees and desserts in clear, well-reasoned prose. As the subtitle suggests, the recipes are unfussy. For each primary recipe, the former New York Times columnist provides variants to help inspire culinary improvisation. The book is a comprehensive primer, more for those learning their way around live-fire cooking than those already adept at taming the flames.
“Project Fire,” by Steven Raichlen (Workman; $23). This book is like a live album. It doesn’t provide much new stuff, but it can satisfy nonetheless. By now, some 30 books, a couple of TV shows and a “university” into an unrivaled barbecue career, Raichlen perhaps couldn’t stop but also needed a breather. Whatever the case, the classics here (caveman porterhouse, chicken breasts grilled under a salt brick, harissa mayonnaise, grilled sangria) are classics for a reason.
“Fire Food: The Ultimate BBQ Cookbook,” by DJ BBQ, a.k.a. Christian Stevenson (Quadrille Publishing, $23). This outlandish YouTube barbecue sensation brings his brash flair to globe-trotting recipes (Korean Philly cheesesteak, whole harissa-roasted cauliflower). Chapters include one on breakfasts and another on “dirt” cooking (on embers). The book could have been all attitude, but it’s grounded in a commendable and surprising sensibleness.
“Any Night Grilling: 60 Ways to Fire Up Dinner (and More),” by Paula Disbrowe (Ten Speed Press, $25). This book from the Food52 team smartly balances the straight-ahead with the bold. But, “any night”? Consider the former for weeknights, the latter for weekends. From grilled halloumi cheese with blood oranges and ember-roasted beets with black lentils to leg of lamb with a sumac yogurt sauce and grilled figs with coffee ice cream, Disbrowe shows that, with a little forethought, an otherwise ordinary evening meal can be something special.
“The Secrets to Great Charcoal Grilling on the Weber,” by Bill Gillespie with Tim O’Keefe (Page Street, $22). The winner of two of America’s biggest barbecue competitions, Gillespie brings his considerable knowledge to the basic backyard Weber. His recipes are generally beginner’s level (pork loin, beer can chicken), but his descriptions of different charcoal configurations are useful even to live-fire veterans.
Shahin is an associate professor of journalism at Syracuse University. He will join Wednesday’s Free Range chat at noon:
. Follow him on Twitter: @jimshahin.
6 to 8 servings
We found in testing that it helps to give the meat a 15- to 30-minute rest in the freezer before slicing; this firms up the meat and makes it easier to slice thin.
MAKE AHEAD: You’ll have some sauce left over, which can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, or frozen for up to 2 months. It won’t fully harden when frozen, so you can spoon out as much as you need whenever you want to use it. The pork needs to marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Adapted from “Korean BBQ: Master Your Grill in Seven Sauces,” by Bill Kim with Chandra Ram (Ten Speed Press, 2018).
For the Ko-Rican sauce
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons Madras curry powder
¼ cup salt
½ cup distilled white vinegar
26 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
For the tacos
1 cup Ko-Rican Sauce
½ cup gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)
½ cup fresh pineapple juice
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
¼ cup honey
3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut against the grain into ¼ -inch-thick slices (see headnote)
Flesh of 1 pineapple, cored and cut into ½ -inch-thick rings
Corn tortillas, warmed, for serving
Lettuce cups, for servings
Sliced yellow onions, for serving
For the pork
½ cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
For the Ko-Rican sauce: Whisk together the paprika, oregano, chili powder, curry powder, salt, vinegar, garlic and oil in a medium bowl, until well blended. The yield is 1½ cups.
For the tacos: Combine 1 cup of the sauce, the gochujang, pineapple juice, chopped yellow onion and honey in a large, shallow dish and mix well. Add the pork slices and turn to coat evenly. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Prepare the grill for direct heat: If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or briquettes; when the briquettes are ready, distribute them on the grill. For a medium-hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand 6 inches above the coals for 6 or 7 seconds. Close the lid and open the vents about a quarter of the way. Have ready a spray water bottle for taming any flames.
Place the pineapple slices on the grill grate; cook for 2 minutes on each side, turning once, until lightly charred. Transfer the grilled fruit to a cutting board; once it is cool enough to handle, finely chop it. Toss together that pineapple and cilantro in a bowl.
While the pineapple is cooling, place the pork slices on the grill grate and season lightly with salt, discarding any sauce left in the dish. Cook for about 3 minutes on each side, turning once, until lightly charred. Transfer the pork to a serving platter and let it rest for 3 minutes.
While the pork is resting, place the corn tortillas on the grill to warm them slightly on each side, and soften, before serving.
Top the pork with the pineapple-cilantro salsa and serve with the tortillas, lettuce cups and sliced yellow onions on the side.
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