Anyone who knows me will tell you that I love to barbecue. Love it. Living in Quebec you might think of it as a seasonal thing. You would be wrong in my case. I have lit up coals in howling winds in -20 celsius. I like to think that the art of barbecue is my strongest skill as a cook. However, in recent years I had found myself starting to fall into a pattern of sticking to the same recipes and techniques I had done for ages. I’ve always been a fan of Weber’s products so when I walked by this cookbook with those sweet looking ribs on the cover I figured this might be just what I was looking for to bring my grilling skills to the next level.
The opening chapter of this book alone is worth the purchase. This book is more than a collection of great recipes for the grill. It is a learning tool for how to incorporate wood smoke into cooking on any type of grill. Afraid that trying to smoke food is too intimidating for someone who only grills occassionally? That’s crazy talk. In this section you will be shown helpful basics like cooking on direct or indirect heat to more advanced techniques like using a water smoker. But perhaps the most useful thing you’ll find here is a wide array of recipes for rubs, marinades, brines and sauces. Author Jamie Purviance breaks down key ingredients in all of the above mentioned techniques into various categories like; salty, sweet, spicy and so forth and how to best combine them to compliment each other. So, once you get the hang of a few of his marinade recipes you can try to mix and match ingredients from this section and perfect your own! I could honestly go on about this chapter all day but I will just sum up by saying read this chapter over and over. As great as the recipes are in later chapters, oh and they are great, I can’t emphasis enough the importance of learning the basics of smoking. I have met many great cooks who struggle at the grill because they don’t know the fundamentals of grilling and smoking. What types of wood work with which type of meat? What technique is best for a certain cut of pork? How do I control the temperature on a coal grill? It is all right here and I reference this section the most.
If you’ve never really grilled with smoke before I would recommend starting out simple. Use wood chips, as seen on the left, to start off or wood planks. Simply soak either of these in water for at least 30 minutes (I soak the planks a little longer, more like an hour) so they don’t burn and catch fire; that would obviously ruin the flavor you are trying to attain.
The remaining chapters cover appetizers, various meats, seafood, fish, and vegetables. I hope to this point that I have not misled you. This book is not just for people who want to learn how to smoke food. Recipes range from extremely easy and quick to much more labor intensive and tricky. But barbecue is a labor of love, so what’s wrong with setting aside a Saturday once in a while to smoke a beautiful pork butt? That’s shoulder by the way people, come on, kids read this!
Now, anyone who grills has their go to recipes; burgers, steak, ribs and whatnot, and trust me my gut can attest to this, those can all be great but once you serve guests a cedar plank smoked brie cheese with cherry chutney and toasted almonds it will change how you look at your grill for the rest of your life. A side note, it will be harder to get your guests to leave too. Sound daunting? Sure, but it’s an extremely simple recipe to follow and it will blow the funky minds of whomever you serve it to.
Bored of your standard burgers? Give some lamb cheeseburgers with manchego and harissa a go. The beauty of this book is that once you understand the essence of smoking you can use any of these recipes as a guideline and tweak them to suit you and the awaiting hungry mouths around you. Once you try out some of the simpler recipes you will soon be a full on addict and moving onto brining and smoking your own bacon in no time!
Pork was without a doubt invented by some genius specifically to go on the grill. One of my favorite things to make are hotel style pork chops, that would be the thick cut chops still on the bone. I had always stuck to pretty much salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon. Always good but always the same. So, once I got this book and started busting out marinades like teriyaki style or Chinese 5 spice rub and incorporating a little smoke (I LOVE Jack Daniels smoking chips for this!) I literally had my neighbor come to ask me what I was cooking. Naturally, I did what any good neighbor would do; asked him how he got in my yard and then tasered him. Once he came to I showed him this book and all summer long he keeps reminding me that we should barbecue together.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts I have kids and they can be tough to please food wise. There are days where they don’t want steak. Ya I know, don’t ask me, kids are crazy that way. One thing they always love is mac-n-cheese. I flat out refuse to make the boxed ones and have had some success making my own but in this book I found a roastd pepper mac-n-cheese that you smoke on the barbecue. This is a great example of a very easily tweakable dish. I have tried smoking various types of peppers, using different kinds of cheese, and best of all smoked crispy pork belly cubes.
I have a ton of cookbooks. Seriously, A ridiculous amount of them along with binders bursting with recipes I’ve collected. Smoke has become one of the books I go to the most. It has changed the way I look at grilling and has opened up a whole new world of epic flavors. So, whether you’ve been grilling and smoking for years or you are interested in starting you should check this book out. Forget what your doctor says, the Phatman says Smoke your brains out!