10 new grilling cookbooks to help you raise your live-fire game.
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.
As we enter the second half of the grilling season, here are 10 new books to help you raise your live-fire game. Find them at major booksellers.
“Cool Smoke: The Art of Great Barbecue,” by Tuffy Stone ($30). “Mise en place” is not a term typically found in barbecue cookbooks. But Stone is not your typical barbecue cookbook author. He has traditional, top-shelf bona fides: He was a judge on TV’s “BBQ Pitmasters,” a five-time world champion and owner of Richmond, Virginia’s Q Barbeque restaurants. But Stone is also a classically trained chef.
Despite the fancy verbiage, Stone’s approach is laudably down-home, with appealing variants of grilling mainstays. 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.
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 ($30). 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 mashup 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 ($25). Third-generation pitmaster Adrian Davila, of Davila’s BBQ in the 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 ($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 of France.
“Hardcore Carnivore: Cook Meat Like You Mean It,” by Jess Pryles ($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 an outdoor/indoor 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. Looking for exciting ideas? This is the book for you.
“How to Grill Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Flame-Cooked Food,” by Mark Bittman ($30). The latest in Bittman’s How to Cook Everything series, this whopping 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 ($23). This book is like a live album. It doesn’t provide much new stuff, but it can satisfy nonetheless. Now some 30 books 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, grilled sangria) are classics for a reason.
“Fire Food: The Ultimate BBQ Cookbook,” by DJ BBQ, aka Christian Stevenson ($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 ($25). This book from the Food52 team smartly balances the straight-ahead with the bold. 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 ($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.