As soon as you pull the lawnmower out of storage for the first cut of the year, it’s also time to clean the crust off the grates from last fall’s final grilling session. Some consider Memorial Day to be the unofficial start of outdoor cooking season, but why wait for the Indy 500 to fire up the grill? To get you inspired, here are a few new cookbooks that focus on barbecue and other al fresco cooking options.
Austin’s Aaron Franklin is almost universally regarded as the barbecue king of his generation, earning a nod from Texas Monthly as the best pitmaster in the Lone Star State. Even more impressive: his recent James Beard Foundation nomination for Best Chef: Southwest, a recognition that is practically unheard of for someone who does the majority of his cooking outdoors.
If it’s Central Texas, then it’s all about the brisket, and Franklin spends plenty of time sharing his secrets for cooking this notoriously tricky cut of beef in his new cookbook, Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto, published by Ten Speed Press. Not only does this lavishly illustrated tome spill the beans on Franklin’s techniques, but there’s also plenty of information on sourcing quality meat, choosing the proper fuel source to add smoky awesomeness to your barbecue, building or customizing your home smoker and managing the capricious flames that provide both heat and flavor during the cooking process. Franklin and coauthor Jordan MacKay have definitely put together the most anticipated barbecue book in years, and it sure beats paying for a plane ticket to Austin to wait in line for hours for a possible taste of Franklin’s wares.
Over in Atlanta, Kevin Gillespie has created his own meat emporium in the shape of Gunshow, a restaurant that offers a sort of dim sum experience concentrating on small meaty plates. Many of those tapas feature porky goodness, so it’s logical that Gillespie followed up his first cookbook, Fire in My Belly, with his latest release, Pure Pork Awesomeness: Totally Cookable Recipes From Around the World.
After a few short chapters focusing on building a proper pantry of rubs, brines and sauces, Pure Pork Awesomeness dives straight into the recipes, organized around the morphology of the pig. Divided into main dishes, small plates, sandwiches, breakfast and the like, this is not a book to be read on an empty stomach. Gillespie is a big fan of international flavors and preparations, so look for plenty of Asian and Latin American dishes to add some spice to your usual cookout menu.
During his time in office, Barack Obama has visited Asheville, North Carolina, three times. The only stop that has been on his itinerary for every trip has been 12 Bones Smokehouse in the city’s River Arts District. Regardless of your political party affiliation, if it’s good enough for POTUS, it should be good enough for you.
Owners Bryan and Angela King have partnered with their head chef, Shane Heavner, and local food writer Mackensy Lunsford to create their first cookbook, 12 Bones Smokehouse: A Mountain BBQ Cookbook. Although 12 Bones doesn’t necessarily cling to any particular regional style of barbecue, a mélange of influences comes through in the recipes. The restaurateurs’ commitment to vegetable dishes is also well represented, so look for the same pickled okra salad and savory jalapeño cheese grits that appear on the restaurant’s menu. There are also sweet desserts and the proprietors’ famous Blueberry-Chipotle Barbecue Sauce, which will leave your palate delightfully confused.
Who could be a more trustworthy source of barbecue knowledge than the editors of Southern Living? That’s pretty much a rhetorical question, and the new Southern Living Ultimate Book of BBQ: The Complete Year-Round Guide to Grilling and Smoking proves the point. Compiled with the assistance of Wendell, Nort Carolina, pitmaster Chris Prieto, this book presents more than 200 of the magazine’s top-rated barbecue recipes from throughout the years.
Well illustrated and quite instructional, Southern Living Ultimate Book of BBQ offers step-by-step techniques for making excellent barbecue at home. There’s even a chapter titled “Rainy Day BBQ” with tips for creating passable barbecue in a slow cooker, oven or even on the stovetop. But consider that a last resort.
Although it’s difficult to get a Southerner to admit it, great barbecue is no longer only found below the Mason-Dixon line. (Case in point: NYC.) Joe Carroll has been offering more-than-respectable smoked and grilled meats to Brooklynites at his restaurants Fette Sau and St. Anselm for almost a decade. Come this May, he’ll share his secrets in Feeding the Fire: Recipes and Strategies for Better Barbecue and Grilling. Together with coauthor Nick Fauchauld, Carroll has created a barbecue primer organized around 20 lessons and more than 75 recipes for smoking meats. He even addresses why barbecue pairs so well with American whiskey. (Spoiler alert: Both get their flavor from charred wood.) Just be sure to check with your landlord before you crank up a live fire on your stoop or apartment balcony.
Now that we’re willing to accept the concept of proper barbecue existing outside of the borders of the Southeastern Conference, it’s even conceivable that great smoked meat could appear on the other side of the Atlantic as well. That’s the promise of Richard Turner's new book, Hog: Proper Pork Recipes from the Snout to the Squeak. As you can probably deduce by his use of “squeak” instead of “squeal” in title, Turner is from England, where he is a co-owner London’s celebrated Pitt Cue Co.
Maybe it’s unfair that Turner earned his acclaim by giving many Southbank residents their first taste of Southern-style smoked meat, but the kitchen at Pitt Cue Co. does not rest on its laurels or the novelty of the menu. Their pit is legit, and this book features all sorts of recipes for pork products ranging from Fried Suckling Pig Cops to Candied Bacon Pecan Popcorn to old-school backyard barbecue. Since it’s British barbecue, just make sure to cook on the left side of the grill.
More grilling stories on Food Republic:
- 20 Recipes To Get You Eating Outside
- 12 Grilling Accessories To Help You Reach The Backyard Big Leagues
- A Look Back: The Best Advice From Food Republic’s Grilling Month