Barbecuing is arguably the most American cooking tradition. Most Americans think fondly of the barbecues they have shared with friends and family, be it at home for a summer holiday, while camping, or at the local stadium before a big game.
Despite this unifying American tradition of barbecuing, not all barbecues are created equal. Knowing how to get perfectly juicy and smokey flavors every time doesn't just come naturally, and learning the precise science and art of barbecuing requires a lot of expertise that can only come from, first, learning about barbecuing, and second, practicing what you have learned.
To build a strong foundation for your next barbecue, definitely consider doing some background reading. To help you out, let's go through what you need to look for when looking for the best barbecue books for learning to smoke meat.
While there is no single book that can teach you absolutely everything that you need to know about barbecuing, investing in a couple of thorough guides is usually one of the easiest ways to get a strong grasp on the basics.
However, not every barbecue guide is created equally, and there are hundreds of books on the market. To wade through all these books, here's some things to keep in mind so that you can choose the best barbecue books for you.
When choosing a barbecue guide, it's a good idea to consider who the author is and what they know about barbecuing. Aside from the obvious need for the author to be a barbecue expert, you might also want to consider the kind of voice they have when they write. The author's voice is something that is particularly important to me: if I'm going to spend my time reading a book, especially if that book is information heavy, I like to have jokes or stories to keep it interesting.
Another factor to keep in mind when choosing the best barbecue books is the kind of barbecue, grill, or style of barbecuing that the author presents. This is especially important if you have already invested in a specific grill: you don't want to buy a guide that is all about a completely different appliance.
While the basics of barbecuing don't vary too much, the philosophy for how to improve your barbecuing techniques and the choice of equipment and tools can vary drastically. What's more, so can the specific ways to learn about the art of barbecuing.
In general, you can find barbecue guides with all kinds of background information. Some books will have a more scientific approach to explain why barbecuing should be done a certain way, and others may focus more on the traditions and history of a technique.
The book you choose will depend largely upon your own hobbies outside of barbecuing. A chemist, for instance, may really enjoy books that explains how each technique gives the meat a slightly different flavor. On the other hand, a journalist may be interested in a more auto-biographical guide, where the barbecuer explains how they came to be famous.
Most books for learning to barbecue will include some of the expert's favorite recipes. The best barbecue books have recipes for all kinds of meats, although some will focus on a single kind of meat, like brisket. You can also find guides that focus on very traditional recipes that are deigned to help you truly master the basics, or you can choose instead a book that has a lot of avant garde dishes that you can use to impress your friends.
The style of barbecuing that you choose to pursue will be a direct reflection on your own personal taste and style, so it is important to start from the beginning by learning to make the dishes you love the most.
With all this in mind, let's now take a look at five of the best barbecue books for learning to smoke meat
Eric Mitchell is a judge of the Kansas City Barbecue Society and director of the New England Barbecue Society. Not only that, he has competed at both the Jack Daniel's World Championship Barbecue Invitational and the American Royal Invitational with his ceramic cooker. In this easy to read book, he gives you insider tips on how he roasts, smokes, and grills using his preferred kind of barbecue.
As an author, journalist, and television host for Primal Grill and Barbecue University, Steven Raichlen has a unique kind of expertise for writing a how-to book about grilling.
Coming from a humble background as the owner of a family-operated barbecue joint in Austin to being the winner of every single barbecue award, Aaron Franlkin's guide to smoking gives you the sense that you, too, will be able to become a master.
Jeff Phillips is well known online for his presence as a smoking expert, this book is like a reference guide for barbecuers of all experience levels. His straightforward storytelling makes this how-to guide easy to read, despite the fact that it is very information dense.
A world-renowned barbecuer and food critic, Meathead Goldwyn's barbecue guide is thorough, scientifically-based, and filled with tips for all kinds of barbecuing. His humorous voice makes this 350-page book easy and fun to read.
Ultimately, the decision about the best barbecue books to buy as your guides to barbecuing will depend largely on your own personal preferences. However, as a guide that will be good for the majority of people to get into the more complex styles of barbecuing, Aaron Franlkin's Meat-Smoking Manifesto is a great starting option. Franklin's journey from amateur to award-winning expert means that he has already walked on the path where many beginners will find themselves. More importantly, his guide presents some of the more intricate details of smoking in an easy-to-understand way. While his book doesn't have as many recipes as others, his guide is one that you can grow with as you become more confident in barbecuing.
We hope you enjoyed our guides on the best barbecue books for learning to smoke meat!