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Finding the Right Barbeque Books for Your Book Shelf

Updated on January 4, 2019
tamarawilhite profile image

Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, an industrial engineer, a mother of two, and a published sci-fi and horror author.


It is amazing how many cookbooks equate adding barbecue sauce to the ingredients and cooking it on the grill for a few minutes as barbecue. Relatively few books give you practical tips for maximizing performance and ensuring the quality of your food. Some books are simply an advertisement for a particular smoker, while others contain the same dozen recipes you find everywhere else. We’re going to share our tips on finding the best BBQ cookbooks for your particular grilling style. Then we’ll recommend our top picks for those who want to buy grilling and BBQ books.

The best BBQ books teach you how to safely prepare the ingredients of your choice with what you have.
The best BBQ books teach you how to safely prepare the ingredients of your choice with what you have. | Source

What Should You Know before Buying a BBQ Book?

First know what you want to get out of the barbeque book. The best BBQ cookbooks will teach you something new, especially something you can’t learn from general experimentation or popular culture.

If you’re already a grill master, you may get more out of a book that teaches you the ins and outs of smokers. If you routinely smoke items because you keep drying out meat on the grill, a book teaching you how to create perfectly grilled burgers may be the best book for your bookshelf. If your family is tired of the classic recipes, then you want to pick up a barbecue book with new recipes. Depending on your family and friends shifting preferences, you may benefit from learning how to keep meat moist without dousing it in sauce or grilling vegetables so that there are healthier offerings at dinner. Or you may benefit from learning how to cook a full four course meal on the grill, saving everyone time and effort.

Our Top 5 Recommended Barbecue Books

“Project Smoke” by Steven Raichlen

“Project Smoke” is an excellent guide to smoking anything and everything. This is a must-have barbecue cook book for those who know how to grill but aren’t familiar with smokers. It explains how to choose a smoker or correctly turn your grill into a smoker. It gives detailed lessons on how to hot-smoke, cold-smoke and rotisserie smoke your food. It also shares a variety of recipes. For example, it goes far beyond the classic recipes for smoking sausage and beef. It tells you how to smoke turkey, salmon and even desserts. You could learn how to smoke an entire family meal from this book.

The recipes often include Steven Raichlen’s brand name spices, but you don’t have to buy those to enjoy the recipes in this book. A point in favor of this book is the fact that it is written by a master who doesn’t engage in self-aggrandizement.

This is probably one of the best barbecue books for those who want to learn almost everything you’d want to know about smoking your food.

You don't want to burn the meat trying to thoroughly cook it.
You don't want to burn the meat trying to thoroughly cook it. | Source

“Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book” by Chris Lily

This book was written by the world championship winning barbeque chefs at Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Cue. Chris Lilly is the executive chef, so he gets the by-line on this cook book. This book stands out for the sheer variety of spices and recipes you’ll get. They don’t just tell you to layer on the barbeque sauce much less the sauce they sell on the side. You get recipes for sauces, dry rubs and glazes. However, this book also shares tips for safely barbequing your meat no matter how you’re cooking it. For example, “Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book” gives you tips for getting great barbecue out of a home oven or backyard pit. That lets you enjoy barbecue when you’re camping or living in an apartment without space for a grill.

The book is notable for the easy to follow instructions. The funny stories make this book easier for many to read all the way through but gets in the way if you’re looking for a basic cookbook.

In short, this is probably the best barbecue book for someone who is new to barbecuing and wants to try a little of everything.

“The Kamado Smoker and Grill Cookbook” by Chris Grove

Kamodo grills are small, space saving grills that can act as ovens and smokers, too. They’re versatile, affordable and popular. That makes “The Kamado Smoker and Grill Cookbook” a must-have if you have a Kamodo or Big Green Egg grill but don’t really know how to use it.

This book stands out as the first all-in-one reference book intended for Kamodo owners. You can learn how to cook almost anything in a Kamodo grill. If you can already grill on it, you can still learn how to safely smoke with it, as well. Most of the recipes are traditional barbecue recipes, but you’ll learn the proper method of convection baking and baking on a Kamado. The only weakness of the book is how poorly organized the recipes are. Instead of dedicated sections for beef, fish and vegetarian recipes, you have to bounce around the book to review recipes for particular ingredients.

In summary, this is one of the best barbecue books for those who don’t know how to get the most out of their Kamodo grill.

“Michael Symon's Playing with Fire” by Michael Symon and Douglas Trattner

Michael Symon is well known for his appearances on “Iron Chef” and his role hosting “The Chew”. This book contains more than seventy recipes from his new barbecue restaurant. You’ll find dozens of recipes for ribs, steaks and other cuts of meat. This is an excellent reference book for those who want to cook something other than burgers and ribs.

This barbecue book provides points on choosing the right woods for the particular meat your smoking or the best sauce for the protein you’re cooking. This is the best barbecue book for making world-class versions of regional barbeque recipes like Texas brisket and Memphis dry ribs. There are a few vegetarian recipes like smoked corn on the cob.

This book is intended for people who already know their way around a grill. There is sparse information on how to use various types of equipment. This isn’t a book for someone totally new to grilling and barbecuing.

The short summary of all of this is that this is a good barbecue book for those who can grill steaks and hot dogs but want to expand their grilling expertise.

“The Ultimate Wood Pellet Grill Smoker Cookbook” by Bill West

This barbecue book by Bill West is focused on wood pellet grill smokers. That makes it ideal for those who need to learn how to use the wood pellet grill smoker in the shed or cook something more than a basic steak on it. The book is written for those who aren’t familiar with wood pellet smoking. It outlines the ins and outs on using your wood pellet smoker properly, no matter what you’re cooking.

On top of that, you get more than a hundred recipes. It covers the classics like ribs and chicken, but it also covers breads, desserts and vegetables. You could learn how to truly roast chestnuts or cheese. The author also gives advice on pairing sauces and alcoholic beverages with your smoked foods.

In short, this is one of the best barbecue books to give someone who just received a wood pellet grill smoker or hasn’t been utilizing the one they own.


The best barbecue books are those that teach you what you don’t already know, whether it is new recipes or how to use your new barbecue grill. Determine what you really want out of BBQ and grilling cookbooks, and select the one that is right for you.

© 2018 Tamara Wilhite


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