Here’s my problem with barbeque books. There’s always a lot of posturing, fuss, and meat. And I know that’s what everyone loves about barbeque. The posturing can be amusing, but for me, it gets old fast. I can appreciate the fuss, especially when someone else is doing it, but don’t want to get sucked in. I can appreciate the meat too, but there’s only so much of it you can eat, and for me a good steak—well cooked, lightly salted—is just fine.
That said, this book offers some really approachable recipes that can be cooked at a scale appropriate for families rather than festivals. These recipes are what bbq competitors cook when they’re not bound by competition rules and include some pretty creative combinations. I won’t be making Jaan’s Barbecue Meat Cake anytime soon, but Bill Gillespie’s Shrimp Tacos, Chris Lilly’s Flank Steak and Shiitake Yakitori, or Big Billy’s BBQ Sticky Lemon-Pepper Chicken Wings, why not?
And for those cooks who like the posturing, fuss, and meat, that’s here too. Witness the self-administered “Ph.B.s” and the opening discussion of techniques and gadgets. And for lovers of carnivorous excess—the Screaming Redneck Breakfast Sandwich (your cardiologist will be the one screaming), Bill Minahan’s Chicken and Prosciutto Fatties (the chicken breasts are merely a condiment for the prosciutto, mozzarella, and Italian sweet sausage), and the aforementioned meat cake, complete with pork tenderloins, grated chocolate, and birthday candles.
You can go right for the big meat, but there are lots of seafood grills worth trying—coconut shrimp, planked scallops and razor clams, and ahi tuna with mango salsa. Likewise, you’ll want to mess around with the starters and sides like stuffed grilled mushrooms, fried rice balls, chicken sausage in cornhusks, duck sliders, or bloody mary granita. Along the with the expertise and enthusiasm, there is some real creativity here.
The desserts have that to be expected afterthought feel—assembled from what a guy could grab off the pantry shelves and throw on the grill—peanut butter, marshmallow fluff, canned peaches, chocolate syrup. But, they fit in perfectly with the over the top eating style of backyard grillmasters.