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Beyond the recipes, a cookbook is equal parts instruction manual, personal history, and story book. Barbecue reminds us of backyard parties and bonding over burgers, so it’s no surprise that barbecue and grilling cookbooks tend to be personal for the author.
Whether you’re planning your next dinner party, slow cooking your first brisket, or just looking for some new grilling recipes, these cookbooks will help turn any home cook into a grill master. Here are 16 cookbooks that celebrate regional flavors and offer personal tips for ensuring your best barbecue yet.
“Flavors of the Southeast Asian Grill: Classic Recipes for Seafood and Meats Cooked over Charcoal” by Leela Punyaratabandhu, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble
Leela Punyaratabandhu celebrates the open-air grilling traditions of Southeast Asia in this cookbook. The more than 60 recipes are organized by type of meat and highlight the region’s signature flavors and spice blends. Punyaratabandhu selected recipes that could be replicated with cuts of meat and ingredients common in the U.S., bringing meals from her childhood in Thailand to her adult life in Chicago.
For the eternal optimist
“Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ: Everyday is a Good Day” by Rodney Scott, available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble
Equal parts inspiring and instructional, this book is a guide to James Beard award winning chef Rodney Scott’s barbecue. The first part of the book chronicles Scott’s journey from his family owned barbecue joint to his restaurant in Charleston and every fire pit in between. Later, he explains how to build your own barbecue pit and roast a whole hog. You’ll also find easy to manage recipes like loaded nachos and grilled chicken wings, too.
For bringing vegans to barbecue
“VBQ: The Ultimate Vegan Barbecue Cookbook” by Nadine Horn and Jorg Mayer, available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble
Vegans don’t have to be an afterthought at your next backyard party. The Ultimate Vegan Barbecue Cookbook has more than 80 recipes using vegetables, tofu, tempeh, and seitan. You even get a crash course in choosing the right grill and how to avoid common mistakes when cooking vegan dishes.
For those looking to slow down
“Mallmann on Fire: 100 Inspired Recipes to Grill Anytime Anywhere” by Francis Mallmann, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble
To the celebrated Argentine chef Francis Mallmann, known for live fire cooking, the environment is just as important as the meal. His belief in enjoying the process of cooking in nature is the backbone of this cookbook, with recipes developed in Paris and the remote Patagonia region of Argentina. On every page, from the charcoal explainers to a recipe for coal roasted squash, Mallmann brings an attitude of wonder back to cooking.
For the history buff
“Black Smoke: African Americans and the United States of Barbecue” by Adrian Miller, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Bookshop
This book centers Black barbecuers through their historical and present contributions to the American food scene. Each chapter tells a different part of the African American connection to barbecue, from the relationship between grilling and church culture, to the history of sauce. Recipes are interspersed throughout, so you can cook up some ribs to go along with your knowledge.
For the Korean BBQ fan
“Korean BBQ: Master Your Grill in Seven Sauces” by Bill Kim and Chandra Ram, available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Crate & Barrel
Inspired by his training and Korean roots, Bill Kim created this cookbook, which details his approach to Korean BBQ through the flavor profiles of seven master sauces and three spice rubs. Flexibility is at the core of each recipe so any chef can experiment with the flavors depending on what they have available.
For those who like wine with dinner
“Fire + Wine: 75 Smoke-Infused Recipes from the Grill with Perfect Wine Pairings” by Mary Cressler and Sean Martin, available on Amazon and Walmart
In this book, married couple Sean Martin and Mary Cressler combine their areas of expertise as a pitmaster and sommelier, respectively, to pair barbecue with bottles of wine. The regional distinctions of wine are like those of barbecue, and this book honors the two philosophies. Pacific Northwest flavors are prominent in the book, but Martin and Cressler explore multiple flavor profiles in their 75 recipes.
For thinking of smoke as an ingredient
“Project Smoke” by Steven Raichlen, available on Amazon, Target, and Barnes & Noble
The author of the Barbecue Bible, Steven Raichlen focuses on the intricacies of smoking in this book. Whether it’s with your brand new Big Green Egg or a trusty grill, Raichlen walks you through the setup and technique needed to impart smokey flavor to your food. He treats smoke as an ingredient, using it to elevate basics like salmon and pork, as well as new creations like smoked cheesecake.
For a good laugh and a good meal
“Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling” by Meathead Goldwyn and Greg Blonder, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble
A blend of scientific exploration and humor, “Meathead” is a practical approach to barbecue. Author and chef Meathead Goldwyn offers definitive dos and don’ts with myth busting asides, promising you’ll leave this book with perfectly roasted ribs in your future. Like any good barbecue chef, Goldwyn includes a chapter just on brines, rubs, and sauces.
For getting the most out of veggies
“Charred: The Complete Guide to Vegetarian Grilling and Barbecue” by Genevieve Taylor, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble
Genevieve Taylor is out to counter the idea of grilling being all about man versus meat. As a lover of vegetables, Taylor created over 70 original recipes for “Charred.” The same flavor-intensifying, sugar-caramelizing magic that happens with meat can happen with vegetables. Some of the recipes can be replicated on a griddle pan or in the oven, but all of them are meant for open flames.
For the true beginner
“How to Grill Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Flame-Cooked Food” by Mark Bittman, available on Amazon, Target, and Barnes & Noble
If you’re new to grilling, don’t be overwhelmed by the 1,000 recipes and variations inside “How to Grill Everything.” Bittman strips down the basics of cooking over fire so that beginners can follow every step to smokey perfection. Before you invent your own recipes, get the basics down and impress everyone at your barbecue.
For the precision chef
“Cool Smoke: The Art of Great Barbecue” by Tuffy Stone, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Bookshop
This book is a treasure trove of grilling and smoking recipes, from mustard and rosemary-crusted pork shoulder to caramelized apple sauce. Champion pitmaster Tuffy Stone offers readers every tip and trick he’s learned from years on the barbecue competition circuit. Trained by a French chef before he found his way to the open flames, Stone has precise recipes and a plethora of complimentary flavors.
For the Big Green Egg-head
“Mastering the Big Green Egg by Big Green Craig: An Operator’s Manual and Cookbook” by Greg Tabor, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble
The Big Green Egg has become synonymous with outdoor cooking in recent years, and this is the perfect cookbook if you have one of these grills in your backyard. Greg Tabor honed his BGE expertise while cooking for his family, and developed his signature style through attending grilling competitions known as Egg Fests. If you’re new to the world of the Big Green Egg, this book prepares you for common problems, encourages experimentation, and provides fail-proof recipes.
For a new regional taste
“Michael Symon’s Playing with Fire: BBQ and More from the Grill, Smoker, and Fireplace” by Michael Symon, available at Amazon, Walmart, and Barnes & Noble
When Michael Symon opened his barbecue restaurant in Cleveland, Ohio, he wanted to cultivate a regional style of barbecue, instead of imitating other delicious other traditions. This book documents the results of his tour of American barbecue, with original recipes that have a distinctive Cleveland flair.
For a tour of American barbecue
“Pitmaster: Recipes, Techniques, and Barbecue Wisdom” by Andy Husbands and Chris Hart, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble
If you’re looking for a barbecue anthology, this book covers almost all of American barbecue’s standards. The book is divided into six sections: backyard barbecue, North Carolina, Kansas City, Texas, the North, and competition barbecue. Each section has guest pitmasters, like Steven Raichlen and Tuffy Stone, as expert guides for the recipes and techniques.
For the DIY barbecuer
“Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto” by Aaron Franklin and Jordan Mackay, available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble
This book offers advice on do-it-yourself barbecue from one of the most popular barbecue chefs. There are fewer recipes here than in traditional cookbooks. Instead, Franklin and Mackay use the space to consider wood type and describe the gradations of fire and smoke. For the cook who considers barbecue a personal and delicious art form, this book will help them create their own recipes and signature style.