‘The South’s Best Butts’ by Matt Moore (Oxmoor House, $26.95)
Matt Moore’s tome to Southern-style smoked pork butt touts “150 recipes” on the cover, but the heart of this book is less cookbook and more travelogue.
“The South’s Best Butts” by Matt Moore
In seeking out the best tips for barbecue pork’s most popular cut, Moore traveled to a dozen states to meet pitmasters and ask for their advice. More than a couple of times, Moore admits, they declined to share the secret recipes of their rubs and sauces. Instead, they shared their stories.
Along the way, we're reminded that barbecue is about more than meat-obsessed dudes. We meet Helen Turner of Helen's BBQ in Huntsville, Tenn., who left behind a factory job 20 years ago to become a fearless, celebrated pitmaster in a male-dominated industry. We meet Cody Taylor and Jiyeon Lee, a married couple who combined their Southern and Korean cooking traditions for Heirloom Market BBQ here in Atlanta.
This is a fine introduction to the hardworking people who make some of the best barbecue in the South.
‘Praise the Lard’ by Mike Mills and Amy Mills (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25)
A cookbook from the legendary father-daughter team behind 17th Street Barbecue in Illinois, Praise The Lard might be the one must-have barbecue book of the year.
“Praise the Lard” by Mike Mills and Amy Mills
The tongue-in-cheek religious themes for the chapters (“The Holy Trinity: Seasoning, Smoke, and Sauce”) are no joke. This is a barbecue bible for devotees who want to know the nitty-gritty gospel of traditional pork barbecue. Why does a true barbecue pro always have extra string mops and PVC pipe on hand? The Mills can tell you. A section titled “The Gospel According to Mike Mills” might be worth memorizing.
The book is written with alternating anecdotes from father and daughter that give a personality and voice to the authoritative advice doled out in the pages.
The centerpiece is focused on one of the most challenging of the barbecue arts: smoking a whole hog. The 20-page chapter contains enough detail, advice and encouragement that you’ll be able to do as the book commands — “Go forth, armed and ready with the knowledge, tools, and confidence to take on the whole hog challenge.” Amen.
‘Grill Smoke BBQ’ by Ben Tish (Quadrille, $35)
While reading Ben Tish’s latest cookbook, I could almost hear the groans of Southern barbecue purists. “A fancy television chef with restaurants in tony London? What the heck could he know? That’s not real barbecue.”
“Grill, Smoke, BBQ” by Ben Tish
Though it likely won’t fit any narrow definition, the recipes Tish has collected from his SoHo restaurant Ember Yard are the impressive work of a chef pushing the boundaries of smoke and meat.
Drawing on Spanish and Italian wood-fired cooking influences, there are fascinating ideas on nearly every page. Recipes for smoky watermelon with burrata, balsamic and basil, or thyme-smoked mussels, could be sourced from a Georgian garden and coast as easily as one from England. Illustrated with impressive, gorgeous photography, dishes such as cold-smoked sea bream with pomegranate, bottarga and coriander look as good as they sound.
Some of these recipes are so preciously and exactingly defined that you might have trouble actually executing them. (If you know where to source the leg of a lamb raised in the salt marshes of coastal England, as one recipe calls for, please let me know.) But if you’re looking to smoke something other than another pork butt on your Big Green Egg this summer, this is the book for you.
‘Barbecue Sauces Rubs and Marinades’ by Steven Raichlen (Workman, $17.95)
“Barbecue Sauces, Rubs and Marinades” by Steven Raichlen
Though the title of this book is rather bland, the recipes contained in it are anything but.
Rather than focus on the actual smoking of barbecue, Steven Raichlen narrows into the two other fundamentals of barbecue, the seasoning and the sauce.
You may be tempted to try charmoula, a North African sauce of herbs and paprika. You may learn to marinade your pork in the Chinese tradition of char siu. Or you could take tip from New Yorkers and brine your beef pastrami style.
Sure, you can get plenty of flavor out of just salt, pepper and a little vinegar, but the nearly academic breadth of recipes here is a reminder that barbecue is a global phenomenon with wildly diverse styles.