Every year, cookbooks on the age-old art of grilling arrive in the spring. This year, more than half a dozen landed on my desk.
The lineup includes books from seasoned pros like Steven Raichlen, Michael Symon and Mark Bittman. Though some are more in-depth than others, all include the basics of grilling: starting the fire, checking for doneness, tools to have, timing and temperature. They also may inspire you to try new techniques like grilling directly on hot coals and learning how to arrange coals to maintain a steady temperature longer. Here’s a look at five new books and a recipe from each.
“Project Fire: Cutting-edge Techniques and Sizzling Recipes from the Caveman Porterhouse to Salt Slab Brownie S’mores” by Steven Raichlen (Workman, $22.95).
What: This is the sixth volume Raichlen, author of more than 30 books, has churned out on the grilling and barbecue. “Project Fire” is typical Raichlen and loaded with fully explained tips and techniques for successful grilling. In its more than 300 pages, Raichlen covers every inch of grilling from choosing your grill to selecting your tools to choosing your method of grilling. He also covers some specialized methods of grilling like plank, salt slab and even grilling using hay, straw, pine and spruce needles. A bonus throughout are the “Grilling Hack” boxes that offer tips like how to pour injector sauces through a coffee filter or strainer to remove any pieces that may clog the injector needle. There are 13 chapters that cover subjects like breakfast on the grill, breads and pizzas as well as standard topics like pork, beef and lamb.
Best advice: Raichlen offers nine ways to oil your grill grates, including using a skewered onion or lemon, and has some advice regarding cave man grilling, which involves grilling food directly on hot coals.
Recipe to try: Maple-Sriracha Chicken Drumsticks.
“Michael Symon’s Playing with Fire: BBQ and More from the Grill, Smoker, and Fireplace (Clarkson Potter, $30.)
What: Michael Symon is a co-host of ABC’s “The Chew” and Food Network’s “Iron Chef America” and “Burgers, Brew & ‘Que.” He also owns several restaurants, including a B Spot Burger in Royal Oak, Mich. This is Symon’s fifth book, and it’s inspired by Mabel’s BBQ restaurant in Cleveland, which opened in 2016. It’s a compilation of Symon’s travels across the country to sample and research barbecue in preparation for the opening of Mabel’s. The recipes cover beef, chicken, pork, seafood, lamb, vegetables and sides. There’s also a section on sauces, relishes and rubs. Symon offers recipes for smoking foods as well as direct grilling. If you like to read about pitmasters, Symon provides profiles of several.
Best advice: Use the snake method of arranging charcoal to maintain heat longer with a kettle-style grill. Instead of lighting a chimney starter full of briquettes, Symon places a low mound of three or four unlit briquettes in a snakelike fashion around the edge of the kettle. At the start of the snake, Symon places several lit coals that slowly light the remaining coals along the snake.
Recipe to try: Mabel’s Pork Ribs with Cleveland BBQ Sauce.
“The Secrets to Great Charcoal Grilling on the Weber” by Bill Gillespie (Page Street Publishing, $21.99.)
What: Bill Gillespie is pitmaster of Smokin’ Hoggz BBQ, an award-winning barbecue team. This is his third book on grilling and barbecue. With a focus on using a kettle-style grill, Gillespie provides the tips and techniques to know for everyday grilling and to master your kettle-style grill. His approach is thorough with easy instructions from knowing how to start the coals, determining doneness and getting the perfect bark. Chapters include those on chicken, beef, fish, pork and game meats. There’s a separate chapter on competition barbecue with step-by-step photos.
Best advice: Gillespie thoroughly provides several ways to set up charcoal for direct and indirect grilling. There are more than half a dozen full-color photos showing the configurations.
Recipe to try: Jalapeno, Bacon and Cheddar Stuffed Burgers.
“How to Grill Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Flame-cooked Food” by Mark Bittman (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30.)
What: Known for his “How to Cook Everything” series of cookbooks, Mark Bittman delivers another compendium filled with 1,000 recipes and variations on them. In the first few pages, there’s lots to read if you’re new to grilling. Bittman provides approachable recipes that are easy to understand. There are plenty of tips and techniques, including 10 ways to flavor store-bought ketchup. Though there are plenty of recipes for weeknight grilling, there are also more adventuresome ones (smoked brisket, whole turkey on the grill, quail with a dipping sauce). The book also includes plenty of suggestions for flavoring foods, mix-and-match ideas for burgers and ways to doctor up baked beans.
Best advice: Use the reverse method, which is typically done for steaks, with chicken. Don’t cook bone-in chicken skin-side first. Start it off on the cooler side until just done, then cook over the fire.
“Korean BBQ: Master Your Grill in Seven Sauces” by Bill Kim (Ten Speed Press, $28.)
What: Although it’s not Korean, kung fu is how Bill Kim likes to describe his cooking style. He also says he’s a Korean American who loves Bruce Lee movies. His book is all about grilling in your environment with the ingredients you have on hand, and it’s also about perfecting your skill set. Seven sauces and three spice mixtures are at the heart of the book. The sauces are easy to put together and can be made ahead. They also freeze well. Best advice: If you don’t have a basting brush use a bundle of herbs to brush sauce on your food.