by Michelle Park
There is arguably no other American cooking tradition quite as lore ridden as barbecue. This month, we’ve handpicked two cookbooks devoted to that mouthwatering marriage of meat and smoke that will urge you to partake before summer officially ends. The first is one of the most-classic books we have on the subject, and the second is sure to become one.
The Complete Book of Outdoor Cookery, James A. Beard and Helen Evans Brown (1955)
When navigating something as American as barbecue, who better to turn to than quintessential American cooks? A little antiquated on some fronts, pheasant being less common than it used to be, The Complete Book still has much to offer anyone entering the foray of outdoor cooking — something tells me corn pudding and grilled sausages won’t go out of style anytime soon. Inside, you’ll find a handy guide of times and temperatures for nearly every cut of meat you can put over a fire. True to its title, the book also dedicates entire chapters to tried-and-true sauces, marinades, appetizers and sides to round out your all-American feast — each, of course, matched with its ideal meat pairings. At once authoritative and approachable, this book is the trustworthy friend you’ll consult before any cookout. The American palate may have since graduated beyond French dressing, but we think this book is here to stay.
The New Kid
Smoke: New Firewood Cooking, Tim Byres (2013)
Tim Byres is the co-owner and chef of the acclaimed Dallas restaurant Smoke and, most recently, the author of a James Beard Award-winning cookbook of the same name. Smoke starts out modestly enough, with homemade rubs, pickles and a host of bright sides to beautifully complement your meat. Then, for its greater half, it dives headfirst into four grand barbecue feasts: a seafood boil, a pig roast, a campfire breakfast and a Tejano barbacoa, all meticulously planned out, from the drum grill you’ll need to build to the Mezcal and Key Lime Meringue Pie you’ll serve for dessert. What’s most refreshing about Byres is that he doesn’t spend too much time coaxing you into believing all this work will be worth it. He just starts digging a barbacoa pit and fully expects you’ll join in. He briskly walks you through different types of firewood, tools and chiles, then describes a pig roast with the same efficiency. There’s even a section on canning safety and method. The recipes can be involved — like the Pork Jowl Bacon with Half-Sour Cucumber Salad, which combines no less than four separate recipes. But the gorgeous photos and Byres’ informative blurbs are all the convincing you’ll need, making Smoke a great pick if you’re looking to step up your barbecue game.