Tips and tricks of the trade for novice grillers or the ultimate barbeque snob.
By Rachel Merriman, Photo by Rudy Arocha
If the reactions to Texas Monthly’s list of the top 50 barbecue joints in Texas indicate anything about Texans, it’s that we are serious about our barbecue, and we’ll argue about what qualifies it as good until the cows come home. Barbecue comes in wildly different styles depending on what region you’re eating it in, and there are four different styles in Texas alone. The various ways of cooking and serving barbecue—charcoal, gas, wood, bone in, bone out, sauce, no sauce, rub—create some pretty divisive arguments, and it wouldn’t be surprising if they’ve ruined a perfectly good backyard barbecue or two. We’ve selected these nine grilling cookbooks to help you strike out on your own and find which style rocks your grill.
The Grilling Book: The Definitive Guide from Bon Appetit
As the name suggests, you’ll learn to grill everything— chicken, pork, lamb, fish, veggies, pizza. Try the rack of lamb with Chinese five-spice sauce or tacos al pastor with smoky two-chile salsa. There’s an extensive section on grill preparation— arguably the most important step for grilling success.
The Prophets of Smoked Meat: A Journey Through Texas Barbecue by Daniel Vaughn
An incredibly detailed guide on barbeque in Texas, The Prophets of Smoked Meat follows Vaughn’s 10,000-mile, 35-day pilgrimage across Texas, and features almost 200 barbecue joints statewide. Plan your own trip with the handy map at the front of the book.
Brother Jimmy’s BBQ by Josh Lebowitz
In addition to the usual sections on beef, pork and chicken, Brother Jimmy’s BBQ contains an extensive section on seafood and some killer Southern-inspired sides and desserts, such as deep-fried mac ’n’ cheese, grilled plantains, cheesy grits, buttermilk pie and peach cobbler.
The Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen Grilling Cookbook: 225 Sizzling Recipes for Every Season
This easy-to-use grilling book has tabbed sections organized by protein and includes tabs for starters, sides and even meatless mains. There’s bound to be at least one vegetarian at the barbecue, so you’d be wise to try the recipe for flame-roasted chiles rellenos.
Everyday Barbecue: At Home with America’s Favorite Pitmaster by Myron Mixon
For the no-frills griller, Everyday Barbecue contains the essential sauces, rubs and sides that, according to Mixon, are the only ones you’ll ever need. Be sure to explore the “drunken” and “barbecue fried” sections, which are as epic as they sound.
Slow Fire: The Beginner’s Guide to Barbecue by Ray Lampe
Though geared toward the beginner, this book’s recipes make it a go-to for all levels. The simplesounding recipes have our mouths watering, especially the smoked scotch eggs (twominute eggs wrapped in sausage, then smoked over pecan wood).
Where There’s Smoke: Simple, Sustainable, Delicious Grilling by Barton Seaver
Seaver focuses on the various grilling techniques and different smoking woods to bring out the best flavors of whatever protein you’re cooking. The flavor that wood imparts on the meat is worth the price and extra attention.
Smoke: New Firewood Cooking by Tim Byers
A perfect book for the do-it-yourself griller, Smoke features four feasts with step-by-step lessons on how to build your own drum grill, pig roaster and campfire. If that’s not enough DIY for you, check out the tips for curing meat, making sausage and dressing and stuffing a rabbit.
The Southern Tailgating Cookbook: A Game-Day Guide for Lovers of Food, Football, & the South by Taylor Mathis
In the South, we take tailgating to a whole new level, and that includes the food. Food is an integral part of enjoying game day, which author Taylor Mathis acknowledges by weaving a number of facts about Southern tailgating traditions between recipes for tailgate-friendly main dishes, finger foods, drinks and desserts. Forego the same old seven-layer dip for more than 100 unique recipes, like fried frog legs, sharp cheddar beer bread, smoked beer-can chicken and, of course, barbeque. Try this recipe for baby back ribs, and be sure to wash it down with some bacon whiskey!
Grilled Baby Back Ribs
These ribs can be cooked in about one and a half hours, so they are perfect for tailgaters who have a limited time on campus before the game. They are wonderful with just the dry rib rub or sauced with your favorite barbecue sauce. Makes four servings.
- 2 (1 ½-pound) racks of baby back pork ribs
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- Pinch of ground cloves
The night before the tailgate, prepare the ribs. Use a knife to trim away any excess quantities of fat. Remove the white membrane from the ribs’ underside by piercing the membrane with a small knife and running a finger between the membrane and the ribs. Hold the ribs with one hand while pulling off the membrane with the other. Wrap the ribs tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
In a sealable bag or container, add the paprika, salt, pepper, sugar, cumin and cloves. Seal and shake until blended. Adding the rub prior to arriving at the tailgate could cause them to dry out, so wait until you’re on-site. On the morning of the game, pack the ribs in a cooler for transport. Keep them in the cooler until you’re ready to cook them. When you’re ready to grill, remove the plastic wrap and lay the ribs on a clean surface. Examine the ribs. If one end is drastically thinner than the other or the grill isn’t wide enough, cut the rack in half.
Shake the spice container. Rub each rack with the rub mixture, covering all surfaces. Wrap each section of ribs tightly in foil. Flip the rack over and wrap in a second layer of foil. Place on a medium grill (325 to 375 degrees). Close the grill and let the ribs cook for 30 minutes, then flip them over and cook under a closed grill for another 30 minutes.
Remove from the grill and let them rest for 10 minutes. Remove the ribs from the foil and serve. Or, if you like your ribs wet, place the ribs back on the grill without the aluminum foil and baste with your favorite barbecue sauce. Grill over low heat for a few minutes until the sauce has formed a thick, sticky glaze.
From The Southern Tailgating Cookbook: A Game-Day Guide for Lovers of Food, Football, & The South by Taylor Mathis. Text and photographs copyright 2013 by Jeffrey Taylor Mathis. Used with permission from the University of North Carolina Press. uncpress.unc.edu
Best Grills for Every Man
Best Smoker: The Big Green Egg XL
The largest Green Egg provides a cooking area ready to serve 14 racks of ribs, 24 burgers or a couple of holiday turkeys with all the trimmings. More versatile than any outdoor cooking appliance on the market, the Egg is a smoker, grill and an oven all in one. Eggcellent! $359 (Mini) to $1,099 (XL), available at BBQ Outfitters, 6715 N. Ranch Road 620, 512.347.1988.
Best Gas Grill: The Weber Summit S-670
Featuring 624 square inches of primary cooking area, this grill has a stainless steel smoker box and rod cooking grates, six burners, a rotisserie, a smoker burner and, best of all, a “sear burner” to produce the mouthwatering charring you once only dreamed about achieving. $2,529, available at Home Depot, 3600 S. I-35, 512.693.9811, and various hardware store locations.
Best Charcoal Grill: Weber One-Touch Silver 22.5-inch Kettle Grill
Esquire lists the Weber One-Touch as one of the 31 things every man should own. Try it with hickory wood chips to further enhance your experience. The metal kettle also provides you with the option to smoke your food with 363 square inches of cooking space and a one-touch cleaning system. $99, available at Breed & Co., 718 W. 29th St., 512.474.6679.
Best Tabletop Grill: Char-Griller Portable Tabletop Grill/Side Fire Box
With its dual use and smart design, this product can be used as a tabletop grill or you can mount it to your grill as a smoker attachment. The handle stays cool so you won’t burn your hand, and the ash pan slides out for quick clean up. It’s lightweight with easy-to-carry handles. $69.97, available at Lowe’s, 6400 Brodie Lane, 512.895.5560, or online at chargriller.com.