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BOOK REVIEW

NBN’s 2015 Barbecue Book of the Year

By Doug Mosley
doug_mosley@hotmail.com

Well, well – another 12 months have flown off the calendar. Here we are about to celebrate our holiday season, culminating with our annual sendoff of the year past and welcome to the new one. To put it in barbecue terms, your pork shoulder internal temp may stall for seemingly forever, but time marches on nonetheless.

Before we kiss goodbye to 2015, we have one last bit of business to conduct in this space, and that is, of course, our annual National Barbecue News Barbecue Book of the Year Award.

This will be the ninth time we’ve proudly presented this award, and every time the competition has been stiffer than the one before. That is evidence of the outstanding books that have been released each successive year and haven’t we all been the beneficiary of that. Here’s a look back at the previous honorees:

2007 – Dr. BBQ’s Big-Time Barbecue Road Trip by Ray Lampe ($16.95, St. Martins Griffin, 272 pp.)

2008 – The Best Barbecue on Earth: Grilling Across 6 Continents and 26 Countries With 170 Recipes by Rick Browne ($22.95, Ten Speed Press, 254 pp.)

2009 – Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book: Recipes and Secrets from a Legendary Barbecue Joint by Chris Lilly ($24.99, Clarkson Potter, 256 pp.)

2010 – The Kansas City Barbeque Society Cookbook 25th Anniversary Edition by Ardie Davis, Paul Kirk and Carolyn Wells ($24.99, Andrews McMeel, 318 pp.)

2011 – Smokin’ with Myron Mixon: Recipes Made Simple from the Winningest Man in Barbecue by Mixon and Kelly Alexander, with a forward by Paula Deen ($22, Ballantine, 192 pp.)

2012 – Wicked Good Barbecue: Fearless Recipes from Two Damn Yankees Who  Won the Biggest, Baddest BBQ Competition in the World by Andy Husbands and Chris Hart ($21.99, Fair Winds Press, 224 pp.)

2013 - America’s Best BBQ Homestyle: What the Champions Cook in Their Own Backyard by Ardie Davis and Paul Kirk ($19.99, Andrews McMeel Publishing, 180 pp.)

2014 – Wiley’s Championship BBQ: Secrets That Old Men Take to the Grave by Wiley McCrary, Janet McCrary and Amy Paige Condon ($19.99, Gibbs Smith, 216 pp.)

Looking back on those eight books, it’s impossible for me to pick a favorite among them. Each one had its own unique features that made them special and I still use every one of them for new ideas to this day, and that’s remarkable for a book like Dr. BBQ’s Big-Time Barbecue Road Trip that has now been in print for nearly a decade. Every one of these winners has been duplicated in ways by others but they each still remain one-of-a-kind. I hope you have every one of these titles on your bookshelf or, if not, have them on your checklist to add to your library soon.

Before we begin considering this year’s nominees, let’s review the rules that determine eligibility for the National Barbecue News Barbecue Book of the Year Award. First, a book must come from the genre of outdoor cooking to be placed into consideration. Second, a book has to have been printed within the calendar year for which it earns the award. I do allow for exceptions for books from the previous November and December since this publication goes to press for each December edition in November, but in reality there aren’t many eligible books that are released during those months. After meeting those qualifications, the hard work begins where we decide which books become finalists and, from there, which one earns this prestigious award. So now, without further ado, here are the books that made finalist this year.

Let’s start with a pair of books from some of the best-known authors in the genre of barbecue. I believe Dr. BBQ (a.k.a. Ray Lampe) has made finalist for this award every year he’s had a new book out, and this year is no exception. He released Flavorize: Great Marinades, Injections, Brines, Rub, and Glazes ($22.95, Chronicle Books, 192 pp.) last spring and it was just as outstanding in every way just like all the rest of his books. Combine that with a new book from the wife-and-husband writing duo of Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison - The Barbecue Lover’s Big Book of BBQ Sauces: 225 Extraordinary Sauces, Rubs, Marinades, Mops, Bastes, Pastes, and Salsas for Smoke-Cooking or Grilling ($16.95, Harvard Common Press, 336 pp.) – and you’ve instantly acquired enough knowledge about what to put on or in your barbecue that you’ll surely elevate your game to expert level.

There were two excellent books that were written specifically to equipment: Secrets to Smoking on the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker and Other Smokers: An Independent Guide with Master Recipes from a BBQ Champion by Bill Gillespie ($19.99, Page Street Publishing, 192 pp.) and Smoke It Like a Pro on the Big Green Egg & Other Ceramic Cookers: An Independent Guide with Master Recipes from a Competition Barbecue Team by Eric Mitchell ($21.99, Page Street Publishing, 224 pp.). If you have a Weber Smokey Mountain or a Big Green Egg, then these are must-haves for you. I know this phrase if often a publishing cliché, but these books really are the missing manuals.

Just last month I told you about a series of books from publisher Globe Pequot that I really enjoyed. Under a common title of Barbecue Lover’s… and subtitle Restaurants, Markets, Recipes & Traditions, three different authors told the stories of their specific barbecue region. The book on Kansas City Style was written by Ardie Davis, the one on The Carolinas by Robert F. Moss and the Memphis and Tennessee Styles book was written by Stephanie Stewart-Howard. They were all great reads and effectively serve as barbecue travelogues for each region.

Canadian Brian Misko is no stranger to the competition circuit and his new book, Grilling with House of Q: Inspired Recipes for Backyard Barbecues ($21.95, Figure 1 Publishing, 200 pp.) is so well done for a first-time author. I generally always enjoy books from those “in the family” of competition barbecue because of how their love of ‘cue shines through in the pages and Misko’s book stood out in that quality. I’m looking forward to what might come from him as a follow-up.

So now we get to this year’s award, which also comes from an acclaimed restauranteur and first-time author (albeit paired with an experienced co-author). The restaurant itself has already won so many awards and reached such a high level of reputation that it seems like lately I read more written disdainfully about it than praising it, but then again such slings and arrows are often the result of one’s success. Nonetheless, Franklin Barbecue has certainly earned its place in barbecue lore. If you believe the old adage that even bad publicity is good publicity, then it can’t hurt at all that one of the most widely circulated barbecue stories of the year was about how a young entrepreneur had launched a business holding spots in a hours-long queue outside of Franklin Barbecue’s door. So for those who’ve never had the privilege of actually tasting the fine wares of this Austin, establishment, owner Aaron Franklin and co-author Jordan Mackay have thoughtfully offered to provide a richly detailed primer that probably didn’t give up all of the secrets but enough to help us improve our Texas-style ‘cue.Within minutes of first turning the pages of Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto ($29.99, Ten Speed Press, 224 pp.), the book became one of my all-time favorites. I’ve enjoyed cooking from it all year and look forward to it becoming one of my standbys for many years to come. So congratulations to Aaron Franklin, Jordan Mackay and publisher Ten Speed Press; you are our 2015 honoree for the National Barbecue News Barbecue Book of the Year.

And with that happy pronouncement, we’ll bring 2015 to a close. Thanks again for reading this column each month, and special thanks to my kind editor, Kell, and the always wonderful Melissa Lott. Enjoy the holidays, ring in 2016  in style (and safely) ,and I look forward to another upcoming year of privilege to tell you about more books on barbecue.

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