The last decade or so has brought a bumper crop of new books on barbecue, and we were glad to have a number of them on hand as we put together this issue’s tribute to that great American culinary form. One guiding light is Elizabeth Karmel, executive chef at Manhattan’s Hill Country Barbecue Market, whose Taming the Flame (Wiley, 2005) defines the difference between grilling and barbecuing—offering a solid grounding in technique for both modes of cooking—in an easygoing, engaging style. Another book that’s now dog-eared and sauce-splattered is Adam Perry Lang’s Serious Barbecue (Hyperion, 2009), a chef’s perspective on everything from how to select cuts of meat to a breakdown of the science of smoking, with recipes ranging from a foolproof beer-can chicken to a “Very French Rack of Veal.” At the other end of the spectrum, with more than 300 recipes, is Planet Barbecue! by Steven Raichlen (Workman, 2010). We like the friendly guides to grilling and the global scope of the recipes (Vietnamese spit-roasted duck, Currywurst, tacos al pastor).
Other books took us out of the kitchen and transported us directly to barbecue country. Two especially personable reads are Peace, Love, and Barbecue (Rodale, 2005)—part travelogue, part cookbook, and part memoir—co-authored by competitive barbecue legend Mike Mills and his daughter, Amy Mills Tunnicliffe; and Smokestack Lightning (Ten Speed, 2005), writer Lolis Eric Elie’s lyrical account of “one long summer of the people and the tastes and the places of barbecue.” Michael Karl Witzel’s Barbecue Road Trip (Voyager Press, 2008), a scrapbook of Witzel’s journey through the barbecue belt, is chockablock with recipes, photographs, and interviews with the people tending the pits. Clearly, barbecue is more than recipes and restaurants; it’s a way of life. No title better captures that than Republic of Barbecue (University of Texas Press, 2009). Compiled by University of Texas professor Elizabeth S. D. Englehardt and a team of graduate students, the book documents what barbecue means to Texans via vivid oral histories from pitmasters, sausage makers, operators of cattle feed yards, and others. Photographer Wyatt McSpadden’s Texas BBQ (University of Texas Press, 2009) takes a different tack, allowing its deeply affecting images to speak for themselves. Two other excellent books that zoom in on the barbecuing traditions of specific regions are Bob Garner’s North Carolina Barbecue (John F. Blair, 1996) and Doug Worgul’s The Grand Barbecue (Kansas City Star Books, 2001), devoted to Kansas City ‘cue. And for the whole glorious story in one volume, Robert F. Moss’s authoritative, engaging Barbecue: The History of an American Institution (University of Alabama Press, 2010) charts the evolution of barbecue in America all the way from the 16th century to the present.