12 Essential Grilling Cookbooks to Seriously Up Your Game
No one ever said grilling had to be fancy, but my God, there's a hell of a lot more nuance involved than slapping a hunk of meat over an open flame and waiting until it's done. For all of the scientific complexities that go into barbecuing, smoking, and charring meats and vegetables, backyard grill culture is a notoriously lazy one. Don't be one of those inattentive grill cooks who doesn't even have an opinion about propane vs. charcoal -- get yourself learned with these essential grilling and BBQ cookbooks, each an imperative foundation in the chargrilled canon. Collect them all to achieve flame-taming mastery.
Around the Fire by Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quiñónez DentonHusband-and-wife pair Greg and Gabi are the chefs behind Portland, Oregon's Ox, a restaurant known for its flame-kissed fare. Take a cue from these 2017 James Beard Award winners: Think of fire as "relaxing and enchanting, something that can intrigue and mesmerize." The partners' zenned-out approach to grilling stems directly from their studies of the Argentinian techniques that Mallmann espouses, taken to its logical end in grilled desserts and smoked cocktails. While there are some decidedly high-brow recipes in their book (grilled foie gras, anyone?), the primary focus echoes the mentality of their ethos at Ox in using seasonal ingredients, which means great things for vegetarians. But perhaps the most rewarding revelation is for the meat eaters in the form of "black gold": Greg and Gabi advise collecting the drippings from your grilled meats and flavor with herbs and other aromatics to devise an otherworldly yet enormously simple dressing or sauce.
Seven Fires by Francis MallmannFrancis Mallman is South America's most famous chef, aptly distinguished as the godfather of the open flame. After stints in the world's finest restaurants, the Argentinian chef has spent much of his career breaking down the barrier between food and the kitchen, returning to cooking in its most simple form. He approachably walks through the literal seven types of fire techniques, from the traditional parilla to the equivalent of a cauldron. The recipes range from the extremely simple to the highly ambitious: as in, a lamb al asador, complete with timed itinerary that lasts most of the day. There's a primal sense as you flip through pages of pictures of splayed rib cages and the insides of fish open to a spit, but that's exactly what grilling should be all about: a callback to our deep connections with ingredients and the simplest measures taken to make them taste delicious.
Meathead By Meathead GoldwynIf a man who willingly goes by the name "Meathead" writes a book about meat, rest assured it will be reliable AF. Everybody loves this cookbook, and everybody loves Meathead Goldwyn. A longtime BBQ judge and proprietor of the site AmazingRibs.com, Goldwyn is fanatic in his love for properly smoked and cooked cuts -- one look at the site will tell you as much. But in the cookbook, he dives into the weeds with his technical prowess of the ins-and-outs of barbecue, but he writes without pretension as if he were offering advice to an interested, slightly dumb friend. This book is best-known and most-praised for its meat myth busting, so all you rib boilin', salt rubbin' monsters out there are in for a rude wake up call in Meathead.
Taming the Flame by Elizabeth KarmelElizabeth Karmel is out to break every single bullshit gender stereotype that the grilling game has been fostering since the past... forever. Growing up in North Carolina, Karmel was raised on the vinegary style of barbecue the region hawks, eventually becoming keen on making Carolina-style BBQ herself. The rest is herstory (which, as an unabashed pun user herself, Karmel would approve). With her mission to get women in front of the grill in tow, Taming the Flame is approachable and welcoming, perfect for the absolute beginner who's a tad intimidated with all there is to know. Karmel, insanely knowledgeable and charming, includes an FAQ-stylized rundown of all the questions you could possibly have, and a BBQ dictionary to unmuddle terms you've pretended to understand.
How to Grill by Steven RaichlenTV host and author Steve Raichlen has written many, many cookbooks about grilling by now, but maybe none have surpassed the eminence of How to Grill. Published back in 2001, this book has a few outdated cues (pretty sure nobody's using mail-order anything anymore), but when it comes to the basic essentials like smoking brisket, making pulled pork, or nailing the perfect burger, the information itself is indispensable. His newer books, namely Project Smoke, have become more artfully sophisticated, but you know you're getting solid advice regardless of the pretty pictures when it's coming from Raichlen.
Franklin Steak by Aaron Franklin
In his must-own debut, Franklin Barbecue, Texas BBQ wunderkind Aaron Franklin essentially spent an entire book telling readers how to make one thing: slow-smoked brisket. It’s an essential read for meat lovers and anyone who hopes to someday make brisket 1/100th as good as Franklin’s (which, honestly, would still be pretty great), but it’s also a time investment -- not the reading book, which is brisk, but the method, which takes half a day. In Franklin Steak, the meat master turns his attention from the smoker to the grill, and from brisket to steak, offering up another essential manifesto that details pretty much everything you need to know about steak, from what to buy to how to cook it at a level that would be steakhouse worthy to the pros and cons of various kinds of grilling. Given Franklin got his start hosting backyard cookouts, there’s really something for anyone with even a passing interest in red meat and fire.