Although it might seem complicated, grilling is nothing more than cooking food over a fire. If you want to barbecue, however, that’s a whole different process that requires specific conditions.
With quality ingredients and the right technique though, anyone can make perfectly cooked brisket or ribs with ease. Whether you’re all about beef dishes or prefer something spicy instead, these books will teach show how easy it is once you know what you’re doing.
1. Best Overall: Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling
Perhaps best known for his award-winning Amazing Ribs website, Craig “Meathead” Goldwyn has done all the research on barbecuing so you don’t have to. However, if you’re interested in learning the science behind it all and perfecting your grilling skills, then look no further than Goldwyn’s BBQ primer and recipe book.
Apart from the 100+ recipes included, Goldwyn dispels many myths about barbecuing and provides extensive knowledge on questions commonly asked about cooking with fire, salt curing, basting with sauce, and more.
2. Best for Beginners: Real BBQ: The Ultimate Step-by-Step Smoker Cookbook
Will Budiaman, professional recipe developer, wrote this cookbook with the intention of giving smokers confidence in their abilities to try different smoked meats.
In nearly 100 recipes, Budiaman thoughtfully demystifies perfectly smoked meat. Rather than discussing the “art” of barbecue and the “secrets” of smoking poetically, he shares the science behind the “why” and step-by-step instructions for the “how.” You’ll also find a materials primer as well as pitmaster tips, shopping advice, and even a few drink pairings in this book.
3. Best for Smoking Meats: Project Smoke
Since the publication of his best-selling “The Barbecue! Bible” more than 20 years ago, Steven Raichlen has been a well-known authority on all things grilling and smoking. He’s traveled the world to learn various techniques and written several cookbooks since then, as well as hosting a number of television programs on the subject.
Though it may be shocking, “Project Smoke” is actually Raichlen’s first book that focuses entirely on smoking. In this step-by-step guide, he starts from the very beginning and teaches his readers how to choose the right smoker and tools for the job.
He then goes on to explain tried-and-true techniques as well as some more complicated ones, such as smoking with tea or hay. The 100 recipes included in the book are all super accessible and go beyond your typical meat and potatoes; think smoked cheesecake, cocktails, etc.
4. Best for Brisket Lovers: Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto
The World’s Best Barbecue is a New York Times bestseller that’s for anybody who loves to geek out over smoking meat. Aaron Franklin’s personal journey and now-famous low-and-slow Texas barbecue technique are outlined in this instructional book, which also chronicles his controversial rise to fame as the “King of Barbecue.”
Of course, there are other meats covered in addition to brisket, such as sausage, ribs, and more. This is a must-have for people who enjoy eating brisket.
5. Best History of BBQ: Black Smoke: African Americans and the United States of Barbecue
For anyone interested in thoroughly researched books, Adrian Miller’s work on the history of American barbecue is a great option. He covers BBQ’s beginnings in the 16th century with Indigenous peoples and how it changed with Western African influences brought over during slavery.
In this book, Miller not only shares the fascinating stories of influential Black Americans throughout history who have helped shape the grilling scene, but also features 22 delicious BBQ recipes.
6. Best for Kamado Grill Owners: Hot Coals: A User’s Guide to Mastering Your Kamado Grill
If you’re a passionate barbecue fan, then you know that the best way to do low-and-slow cooking is with a ceramic kamado grill. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Big Green Egg, Kamado Joe, or some other brand–they all work great for smoking meats. This book (originally written in Dutch) goes into great detail about how these grills work.
You’ll learn everything from its history to how to get the grill to do exactly what YOU want it too. Even though there are only 30 recipes included, they show just how versatile these cookers can be. They also provide a solid foundation for more adventurous preparations down the road.
7. Best for Caribbean Barbecue: Jerk From Jamaica: Barbecue Caribbean Style
You need more than the signature spice blend of the Islands to achieve that jerk flavor so many people crave. You need smoke too, and this is where Helen Willinsky’s “Jerk From Jamaica” comes in a collection of over 100 recipes for smoked meats beyond chicken including pork, beef, lamb, goat, and seafood.
Plus there are traditional Caribbean barbecue sides and desserts included as well. If you’re ready to expand your repertoire or just a fan of spicy smoked meats , look no further because this is cookbook was written for you!
8. Best for Korean Barbecue: Korean BBQ: Master Your Grill in Seven Sauces
You haven’t spent much time in Korea if you believe that Americans are obsessed with barbeque. Barbecue is an important aspect of Korean culture; on every block in Seoul, you’ll find a barbecue restaurant (or three). Each one has its own sauce, which is either secret or not.
In his Korean BBQ cookbook, Bill Kim starts with seven essential sauces to cover the sweet, spicy, and all in-between flavor profiles. However, there’s much more to this style of barbecue than justseven sauces.
Throughout the book, Kim and co-author Chandra Ram break down the techniques that define Korean barbecue through recipes for meat chicken dishes , vegetables, among other things . Of course each recipe features one of the aforementioned seven key sauces.
9. Best Vegan: VBQ―The Ultimate Vegan Barbecue Cookbook: Over 80 Recipes―Seared, Skewered, Smoking Hot! Paperback – Illustrated, May 1, 2018
“Vegan” may not be the first term that springs to mind when you think “barbecue,” but those on a plant-based diet should be treated better than fake-meat patties and black bean burgers when they gather around the grill.
Vegans can now enjoy barbecue, too, with this collection of more than 80 delectable, smokey recipes that include seitan ribs, zucchini steaks, tandoori tofu skewers, eggplant hot dogs, and pulled mushroom sandwiches as well as sides such as crunchy coleslaw and grilled potato salad.
“VBQ” is for everyone, not just vegans and vegetarians. If you’re looking to eat more veggies or love grilling, this cookbook is definitely for you.
10. Best for Variety: America’s Best BBQ: 100 Recipes From America’s Best Smokehouses, Pits, Shacks, Rib Joints, Roadhouses, and Restaurants
In this unique barbecue cookbook, Ardie Davis and Paul Kirk traveled across the country to find the best recipes from world-famous pitmasters. Davis and Kirk are BBQ Hall of Famers themselves, so they know a thing or two about good barbecue. The book includes classic recipes like pulled pork and barbecued shrimp, as well as some less familiar dishes like North Dakota style barbecue.
Sides and dessert, on the other hand, are essential components of a genuine American barbecue experience. You’ll also find recipes for mac and cheese, fried green tomatoes, and peach cobbler in between meals. You can learn all about the creators of the dishes while you wait for your meat to smoke or during intermissions between courses.
11. Best for Sauces: American Barbecue Sauces: Marinades, Rubs, and More from the South and Beyond
No matter what region of the United States you hail from, chances are good that you enjoy a good barbecue sauce. This cookbook explores different regional styles of preparing barbecue sauce and provides readers with recipes that use easily-found ingredients.
You can tailor the barbecue sauce to your specific taste, whether you like it sweet, spicy, or tangy. And with rubs, mops, brines and more, there is more than just a simple glaze. If you are new to barbecuing then don’t worry! There is a section which tells you what staples (for example: sugar and spices) you need for your pantry as well as how important it is to have disposable gloves at hand.
What to Look for When Buying a BBQ Book
Cookbooks are generally tailored to a certain demographic, such as total novices, seasoned pitmasters, or grillers in the middle. Keep your level of expertise in mind while shopping for a BBQ book.
If you buy a book for beginners but have been barbecuing for years, you’ll probably receive little value out of it. Novice grillers may be perplexed by more advanced books that assume they already know fundamental BBQ skills.
The type of grill or smoker you own is also worth bearing in mind. A lot of BBQ books target a particular type of grill like a pellet smoker, kamado grill, or charcoal kettle grill, so it’s useful to find a book with tips you can use on the equipment you already have.
Lastly, decide if you want to concentrate your grilling on one cuisine, like Korean or Caribbean barbecue, or try a bit of everything. Some BBQ books go into great detail about one particular style of cooking while others offer a more comprehensive assortment of recipes.