One of the best I've encountered is Wicked Good Barbecue, by Andy Husbands and Chris Hart with Andrea Pyenson. I'll admit that it languished on my bookshelf for a couple of months until I saw a recommendation from frequent Bites commenter Ulika BBQ, someone who I trust when it comes to good 'cue. So I cracked open my copy and started reading.
Wicked Good Barbecue is the story of how two self-professed damn Yankees from Boston became the first Northerners to win the prestigious Jack Daniel's World Barbecue Championship in 2009. Along the way, they reveal some of the secrets, tips and recipes that have helped them win hundreds of barbecue ribbons and 30 KCBS championships.
Their recipes include a "25-Step Championship Chicken," a "$100 Meatloaf" and simpler, more prosaic dishes like "Seven Layer Dip of Disbelief" and "Turkey Skin Chips with Blue Cheese Vinaigrette." The recipes are clearly written and easy to follow, and the wit of these two rockin' pitmasters shines through in their prose. The photography is also fabulous and more than a little inspirational.
To accompany the high season of grilling between now and Labor Day, they have graciously allowed me to share a few grilling and smoking tips with you:
1. Never use lighter fluid unless you want your food to taste like gasoline. Chimney charcoal starters are definitely the way to go.
2. Burn a clean fire. If your smoke is billowing white, like the announcement of a new pope, then your coals aren't ready to cook on yet. Crack open another cold one and let the coals cook down a little bit more. Dense black smoke means you need to clean your smoker, or your food is on fire. You're looking for thin blue smoke coming out of your grill vents.
3. Adjust temperature with the bottom vent of your grill, not the top one(s.) Unless you really overshot your temperature, leave the top vent all the way open to encourage a clean fire.
4. Most home smokers aren't equipped to burn wood logs, but if you want to try to add some hickory goodness to your meat, try a mix of 3/4 charcoal and 1/4 hardwood.
With these tips and the other hints and recipes in Wicked Good Barbecue, even an amateur ought to be able to produce some award-winning dishes. And they want to share this knowledge with a lucky Bites reader. Y'all have been talking about some out-of-the-way barbecue joints in the comments lately, so let's use this contest to put together a list.
Leave a comment with your favorite hole-in-the-wall pit within a couple hours' drive of Nashville along with any description you want to share. At the end of next week, I'll randomly draw a winner and the good folks at Fair Winds Press will send the winner their very own copy of Wicked Good Barbecue. Put on your thinking caps and get to commenting!