Few kinds of cuisine elicit more passion and pride than barbecue. Few if any other food categories lead to more debate, either. While the idea and practice of barbecue is a global style, we here in America have very set ideas on what makes barbecue barbecue, and many of those ideas are defined by region. Whether you’re into North Carolina-style pig pickin’s or you’d prefer a melt-in-your-mouth Texas brisket, there are many different styles that fall under the grand banner of barbecue.
The diversity of barbecue styles found across America and indeed across the wider world need not be at odds with one another. It just means we have more amazing foods to try. Thankfully, with so many different styles, there have been tons of books written on the subject as well.
From sauces and rubs to the finer points of brisket bark, here are the best books about barbecue to add to your collection today.
Peace, Love, and Barbecue by Mike Mills and Amy Mills
Barbecue master, founder of 17th Street BBQ, and author Mike Mills (he got an assist from his daughter 0n the latter) wrote a book that’s as much memoir as it is a recipe book, but the 100 recipes in this book will empower you to make the most of your grill or, ideally, your smoker. The book is heavy on smoked meat recipes and has great tips for dry rubs, both which to use and how to make your own. And it’s a fine read even if you don’t plan to cook a single rib, given the cornucopia of insights and anecdotes within.
Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling by Meathead Goldwyn
Far too many barbecue chefs jealously guard their secrets, calling every sauce a secret, extolling a proprietary rub blend without sharing what goes into the mix, or talking about how they cook by instinct. In this book, Meathead Goldwyn (his parents named him Craig, FYI) does quite the opposite. He carefully and methodically explains how various ingredients should be handled (salt penetrates meats, other spices don’t), how to prep meats prior to cooking (you don’t need to bring that steak to room temperature before you grill it), and when to use charcoal, smoke, or even a gas grill.
Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto by Aaron Franklin and Jordan Mackay
Co-written by James Beard award-winning chef Aaron Franklin of Austin, Texas’ Franklin Barbecue, one of the most celebrated barbecue restaurants in the country, this book has plenty of information about how to make great brisket and ribs. But even better than the recipes is the way this book can help you get your barbecue hardware set up. It includes dozens of pages devoted to setting up a custom built smoker, how to kindle and tend the perfect fire, and how to find and manage the best meats.
Barbecue Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades by Steve Raichlen
Of course, you need to start with great meat and cook it properly if you want to produce great barbecue dishes, but a tasty sauce, rub, or marinade can do wonders for your cooking. In fact, a great flavor enhancer can even hide a bit of imperfection if you’re not yet a master of the pit, and you’ll find no fewer than 200 recipes for “sauces, rubs, and marinades [and] bastes, butters, and glazes, too” in this book. There are cuisine styles represented from Thailand, France, Jamaica, Italy, and beyond, so you’re sure to find plenty to love.
Vegetables on Fire: 50 Vegetable-Centered Meals from the Grill by Brooke Lewy
Yes, barbecue cooking is all about the meats, but that doesn’t mean that all you can cook on a grill or in a smoker is meat. The recipes in Vegetables on Fire are focused on a grilled veggie as the centerpiece of a meal — think slow-smoked beets or cauliflower steaks — but in fact, they can make superb side dishes if you want to stick with pork, beef, or poultry as the main dish. The recipes are clearly laid out and easy to follow, and many can be made indoors in a pan or the oven.