Burgers sizzling on the grill. Close your eyes. Can you hear it? There isn’t a more satisfying, salivating sound in the world. Unless you’re a vegetarian and then it’s the worst thing that ever happened, ever. Burgers, hot dogs, steaks, brisket, spare ribs, baby back ribs, someone please stop me (clearly I am not said vegetarian). Barbecues and block parties are times that we can indulge. Every guy thinks they’re the guru of the grill like some Jedi master. Usually this so-called expertise ends up with overcooked burgers and steaks so underdone they look like they should still be grazing in the fields. I am guilty of this sin thanks to the time I tried tackling a big rack of spare ribs and I flew to close to the sun (er, grill). My eyebrows have just now started to grow back. So to get better at things that I suck at, I usually pick up a book and learn. It worked in school so it should work for life, right?
This summer I’ve come across three books that could help anyone feel comfortable with the apron and spatula.
Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling by Meathead Goldwyn and Greg Blonder (Rux Martin, May 10, 2016)
First of all, what a fantastic name. I haven’t been so impressed with a name since I heard Meatloaf’s “Bat Out Of Hell” album. Want to go beyond the average dude who brings buns and patties to a BBQ? Goldwyn walks you through a step-by-step process explaining how your meat’s interaction with smoke might be the most important aspect of grilling.
Myron Mixon’s BBQ Rules: The Old-School Guide to Smoking Meat by Myron Mixon and Kelly Alexander (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, April 19, 2016)
Another fabulous name. Must come with the territory of being a grillmaster. When I try to cook I look for the quickest option while still retaining quality. This book is for the old-school backyard enthusiasts. And when I mean old-school, I mean making your own charcoal in a classic masonry fire-pit type of old-school. If you want to go all in with smoking meat and be the designated chef at the next block party, you’ll put this book between the family photo album and King James Bible.
Taming the Flame: Secrets for Hot and Quick Grilling and Low-and-Slow BBQ by Elizabeth Karmel (Houghton Mifflin Hartcourt, May 6, 2005)
The author, Karmel, was born and raised in North Carolina which is a mecca of American BBQ. Don’t believe me? Go to any rib place. Even if it’s just some rinky dink takeout joint, North Carolina soul food is a delicacy beyond any measure. And Karmel does not disappoint with classic and odd dishes that are sure to expand your pallet, as well as your waistline.