Every year, cookbooks on the age-old art of grilling arrive in the spring. This year, more half a dozen landed on my desk.
The lineup includes books from seasoned pros like Steven Raichlen, Michael Symon and Mark Bittman. Though some are more in-depth than others, all include the basics of grilling: starting the fire, checking for doneness, tools to have, timing and temperature. They also may inspire you to try new techniques like grilling directly on hot coals and learning how to arrange coals to maintain a steady temperature longer. Here’s a look at five new books and a recipe from each.
“Project Fire: Cutting-edge Techniques and Sizzling Recipes from the Caveman Porterhouse to Salt Slab Brownie S’Mores” by Steven Raichlen (Workman, $22.95).
What: This is the sixth volume Raichlen, author of more than 30 books, has churned out on the grilling and barbecue. “Project Fire” is typical Raichlen and loaded with fully explained tips and techniques for successful grilling. In its more than 300 pages, Raichlen covers every inch of grilling from choosing your grill to selecting your tools to choosing your method of grilling. He also covers some specialized methods of grilling like plank, salt slab and even grilling using hay, straw, pine and spruce needles. A bonus throughout are the “Grilling Hack” boxes that offer tips like how to pour injector sauces through a coffee filter or strainer to remove any pieces that may clog the injector needle. There are 13 chapters that cover subjects like breakfast on the grill, breads and pizzas as well as standard topics like pork, beef and lamb.
Best advice: Raichlen offers nine ways to oil your grill grates, including using a skewered onion or lemon, and has some advice regarding caveman grilling, which involves grilling food directly on hot coals.
Recipe to try: Maple-Sriracha Chicken Drumsticks.
“Michael Symon’s Playing with Fire: BBQ and More from the Grill, Smoker, and Fireplace (Clarkson Potter, $30.)
What: Michael Symon is a cohost of ABC’s “The Chew” and Food Network’s “Iron Chef America” and “Burgers, Brew & ’Que.” He also owns several restaurants, including a B Spot Burger in Royal Oak, Mich. This is Symon’s fifth book, and it’s inspired by Mabel’s BBQ restaurant in Cleveland, which opened in 2016. It’s a compilation of Symon’s travels across the country to sample and research barbecue in preparation for the opening of Mabel’s. The recipes cover beef, chicken, pork, seafood, lamb, vegetables and sides. There’s also a section on sauces, relishes and rubs. Symon offers recipes for smoking foods as well as direct grilling. If you like to read about pit masters, Symon provides profiles of several.
Best advice: Use the snake method of arranging charcoal to maintain heat longer with a kettle-style grill. Instead of lighting a chimney starter full of briquettes, Symon places a low mound of three or four unlit briquettes in a snake-like fashion around the edge of the kettle. At the start of the snake, Symon places several lit coals that slowly light the remaining coals along the snake.
Recipe to try: Mabel’s Pork Ribs with Cleveland BBQ Sauce.
“The Secrets to Great Charcoal Grilling on the Weber” by Bill Gillespie (Page Street Publishing, $21.99.)
What: Bill Gillespie is pitmaster of Smokin’ Hoggz BBQ, an award-winning barbecue team. This is his third book on grilling and barbecue. With a focus on using a kettle-style grill, Gillespie provides the tips and techniques to know for everyday grilling and to master your kettle-style grill. His approach is thorough with easy instructions from knowing how to start the coals, determining doneness and getting the perfect bark. Chapters include those on chicken, beef, fish, pork and game meats. There’s a separate chapter on competition barbecue with step-by-step photos.
Best advice: Gillespie thoroughly provides several ways to set up charcoal for direct and indirect grilling. There are more than half a dozen full-color photos showing the configurations.
Recipe to try: Jalapeno, Bacon and Cheddar Stuffed Burgers.
“How to Grill Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Flame-cooked Food” by Mark Bittman (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30.)
What: Known for his “How to Cook Everything” series of cookbooks, Mark Bittman delivers another compendium filled with 1,000 recipes and variations on them. In the first few pages, there’s lots to read if you’re new to grilling. Bittman provides approachable recipes that are easy to understand. There are plenty of tips and techniques, including 10 ways to flavor store-bought ketchup. Though there are plenty of recipes for weeknight grilling, there are also more adventuresome ones (smoked brisket, whole turkey on the grill, quail with a dipping sauce). The book also includes plenty of suggestions for flavoring foods, mix-and-match ideas for burgers and ways to doctor up baked beans.
Best advice: Use the reverse method, which is typically done for steaks, with chicken. Don’t cook bone-in chicken skin-side first. Start it off on the cooler side until just done, then cook over the fire.
“Korean BBQ: Master Your Grill in Seven Sauces” by Bill Kim (Ten Speed Press, $28.)
What: Although it’s not Korean, kung fu is how Bill Kim likes to describe his cooking style. He also says he’s a Korean American who loves Bruce Lee movies. His book is all about grilling in your environment with the ingredients you have on hand, and it’s also about perfecting your skill set. Seven sauces and three spice mixtures are at the heart of the book. The sauces are easy to put together and can be made ahead. They also freeze well.
Best advice: If you don’t have a basting brush use a bundle of herbs to brush sauce on your food.
JALAPEÑO, BACON AND CHEDDAR STUFFED BURGER
Makes: 3 burgers / Prep time: 25 minutes / Total time: 45 minutes
1 pound ground chuck (80/20 blend)
1 jalapeño, thinly diced with seeds (remove seeds if you want less heat)
3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
3/4 cup cooked and chopped bacon
3 pretzel burger buns
3 tablespoon softened butter
3 pieces green leaf lettuce
3 slices tomato
Divide the ground chuck in to six equal portions. Take each portion and form into a patty. Divide the jalapeño, cheese and bacon into three equal portions. Place the portioned ingredients onto the center of three of the burger patties, top with the three remaining patties, pressing the edges completely to seal. Wrap each burger in plastic wrap and put in the fridge to help with setting up the burger.
Prepare or preheat the grill for a two-zone cooking (coals banked to one side or one or two gas burners on and the others off) so you have a hot side and cool side. You are looking for a heat of about 400 degrees.
Remove the burgers from the refrigerator and unwrap. Place burgers on the hot side of the grill first and sear. Close the cover to the grill, adjusting the vents (if using charcoal) toward the cool side and cook for 2 minutes. Flip the burgers, cover and cook another 2 minutes.
Take the burgers and put them on the cool side of the grill (cover the grill and don’t peek) to finish cooking an additional 10 minutes.
Remove from the grill and let rest for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, spread the softened butter onto both the top and bottom buns. Place the buns cut-side down on the hot side of the grill, close the cover and wait about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Your buns are now lightly toasted.
Assemble the burger with lettuce and tomato and serve immediately.
From “The Secrets to Great Charcoal Grilling on the Weber” by Bill Gillespie (Page Street Publishing, $21.99).
Tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.
MAPLE-SRIRACHA CHICKEN DRUMSTICKS
Serves: 4 to 6 / Prep time: 10 minutes / Total time: 1 hour
This recipe can be cooked over a charcoal or gas grill. You also need 2 hardwood chunks or 1 1/2 cups wood chips. (If using the latter, soak in water for 30 minutes, then drain.) In “Project Fire,” Raichlen writes: “These crisp, smoky drumsticks call for a technique I call smoke-roasting. You indirect grill them at a high temperature (to crisp the skin), while adding hardwood to generate a smoke flavor.”
Vegetable oil for the grill grate
12 large chicken drumsticks, about 3 to 4 pounds
1 tablespoon coarse kosher or sea salt (sea or kosher)
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon hot red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
5 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/4 cup sriracha, or more to taste
3 tablespoons single malt Scotch whiskey
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro, chives, or scallion greens, for serving
Set up your grill for indirect grilling and heat to medium-high. Just before cooking, brush or scrape the grill grate clean and oil it well. Place the drumsticks in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle with the salt, pepper, and hot red pepper flakes, stirring to coat well with the seasonings. Drizzle with olive oil. Arrange the drumsticks rounded side up in a single layer in the center of the grill – away from the heat source. Add the wood to the coals. If working on a gas grill, you can place the wood chips in a foil packet, poke holes in it and place it on the grill grate.
Close the grill lid. Indirect grill the drumsticks until the skin is crisp and well browned and the chicken is cooked through, 40 to 50 minutes. For maximum tenderness, cook the drumsticks to an internal temperature of 170 degrees.
Meanwhile, make the glaze: In small saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Stir in the maple syrup, sriracha and whiskey and boil until the mixture is syrupy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside and keep warm.
About 5 minutes before the chicken is done, brush each drumstick on all sides with the glaze. Repeat just before removing the drumsticks from the grill. Arrange the drumsticks on a platter and pour the remaining glaze over them. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.
From “Project Fire: Cutting-Edge Techniques and Sizzling Recipes from the Caveman Porterhouse to Salt Slab Brownie S’Mores by Steven Raichlen (Workman, $22.95).
MABEL’S PORK RIBS
Serves: 4 / Prep time: 20 minutes / Total time: 3 hours
2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 cup strained dill pickle juice or sweet/hot pickle juice
2 (3- to 4-pound) slabs pork spareribs
1 cup Pork Rub (see note)
2 cups Cleveland BBQ Sauce (see recipe)
Prepare and preheat your smoker or kettle style grill to 300 degrees.
In a large saucepan, whisk together the brown sugar and pickle juice. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring, until the sugar has completely dissolved, about 5 minutes. Then remove the pan from the heat to cool.
Remove the thin white membrane on the bone side of the spareribs to free it from the meat. Using a paper towel to grip it, peel off the entire membrane and discard it. Pat the ribs dry with paper towels and season on both sides with the pork rub.
When the temperature in the smoker reaches 300 degrees and the smoke is running clear, add the ribs bone-side down. After 11/2 hours, test the ribs for doneness by flipping a rack and pressing the meat between the bones. If the meat pulls away from the bones, it’s done. If not, continue smoking until it does, about 30 minutes more.
When the ribs are done, gently brush them with the glaze, being careful not to remove the beautiful bark that forms on the exterior of the meat. Cut between the bones and serve with a side of sauce.
From “Michael Symon’s Playing with Fire: BBQ and More from the Grill, Smoker, and Fireplace (Clarkson Potter, $30.) Tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons part celery seed
2 tablespoons part ground coriander
1/4 cup sweet paprika
Mix together all rub ingredients and store in an airtight container.
From “Michael Symon’s Playing with Fire: BBQ and More from the Grill, Smoker, and Fireplace (Clarkson Potter, $30.) Tested by susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.
CLEVELAND BBQ SAUCE
Makes: 3 cups / Prep time: 20 minutes / Total time: 35 minutes
In “Playing with Fire,” Symon writes: “Like our signature barbecue sauce, which stars local legend Bertman Ball Park Mustard. Baste grilled foods with sauce only during the final stages of grilling to prevent the sugars in the sauce from burning. “
2 cups cider vinegar
1 small red onion, peeled, quartered
1 large garlic clove, smashed
1 chipotle in adobo sauce, plus 1 tablespoon of sauce from the can, divided
3 tablespoons bourbon
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 cup Bertman Ball Park Mustard or other brown stadium-style mustard
1/2 cup yellow mustard
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
In a medium saucepan, combine the vinegar, onion, garlic, chipotle pepper, bourbon, coriander, and paprika. Bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the flavors come together, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the 1 tablespoon chipotle purée, brown and yellow mustards, maple syrup, soy sauce, salt, and pepper. Strain the vinegar mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into the mustard mixture (discard the solids) and whisk until smooth and combined.
Use immediately or store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 1 month.
From “Michael Symon’s Playing with Fire: BBQ and More from the Grill, Smoker, and Fireplace” (Clarkson Potter, $30.) Tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.
KO-RICAN PORK CHOPS
Serves: 6 / Prep time: 10 minutes (plus marinating time) / Total time: 20 minutes
Bill Kim calls his food Korican — half Korean, half Puerto Rican. The Korican Sauce used as a marinade for thin pork chips is like a chimichurri. Kim writes that he uses thin pork chops because they are “easy to cook and marinate in no time.”
6 thin (1/4-inch) bone-in pork chops, about 1/2 pound each
1 recipe Korican Sauce
1/4 cup Nuoc Cham Sauce (see recipe)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon sambal oelek
Makes: 1 1/2 cups / Prep time: 10 minutes / Total time: 10 minutes
Bill Kim says: “Once I married a Puerto Rican woman, my food became what we call a little Korican, and that’s what this sauce is all about.”
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons Madras curry powder
1/4 cup salt
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
26 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
In a small bowl or airtight container whisk together all the ingredients. Refrigerate for up 2 weeks or freeze for up to 2 months. This sauce won’t fully harden when frozen, so you can spoon out as much as you need whenever you want to use it.
NUOC CHAM SAUCE
Makes: 1 cup / Prep time: 10 minutes / Total time: 10 minutes
In “Korean BBQ by Bill Kim: Master your Grill in Seven Sauces,” author Bill Kim writes: “Nuoc cham is a Vietnamese dipping sauce with big, bright flavors; it’s tangy, funky, sour, and sweet all at once. I add green Thai chilies to give it some heat and use it not only as a dipping sauce but also as the base for marinades and dressings.
1/4 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/2 cup water
1 clove garlic, minced
2 green Thai chilies, minced, with seeds
In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, lime juice, fish sauce, water, garlic, and chilies in a small bowl and whisk until the sugar dissolves. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks or freeze for up to 2 months. Or freeze in standard ice-cube trays, then transfer the cubes (2 tablespoons each) to plastic freezer bags and freeze for up to 2 months.
From “Korean BBQ by Bill Kim: Master your Grill in Seven Sauces” (Ten Speed Press, $28.00.)
LEMON-ROSEMARY CAULIFLOWER STEAKS WITH MANCHEGO
Makes: 4 servings / Prep time: 20 minutes / Total time: 45 minutes
Large cauliflower forms dense heads that make fun “steaks” for grilling. They take to all sorts of seasonings and accompaniments, so it’s easy to build a satisfying meal around them.
1 large head cauliflower (about 2 pounds)
6 tablespoons good-quality olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup grated or crumbled Manchego cheese
Prepare or preheat the grill for medium direct cooking. Make sure the grates are clean.
Trim the bottom from the cauliflower so it lies flat. Cut downward, top to bottom, in 4 equally thick slices. Stir the oil and rosemary together in a small bowl with some salt and pepper; brush on the slices on both sides.
Put the slices on the grill directly over the fire. Close the lid and cook until the cauliflower is tender and a bit charred in places, 10 to 15 minutes per side; a skewer or thin knife inserted at the thickest point should go in with little resistance. If the slices start to brown too much, move them to a cooler part of the grill. Transfer to a platter, sprinkle with the lemon zest, then the Manchego, and serve.
Smoky Cauliflower Steaks with Orange and Manchego: Substitute 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (pimentón) for the rosemary and orange zest of the lemon zest.
Parmesan Cauliflower Steaks: Substitute oregano for the rosemary, omit the lemon zest, and add 1 tablespoon minced garlic to the oil. Substitute freshly grated Parmesan for the Manchego.
Curry-Coconut Cauliflower Steaks with Pistachios: Instead of the olive oil, use 1 cup coconut cream. (Don’t confuse it with cream of coconut. If you can’t find it, refrigerate two 14-ounce cans full-fat coconut milk without shaking them first. When they’re chilled, open the cans and skim the thick cream off the top; freeze and use the rest of the milk later.) Replace the rosemary and lemon zest with 1 tablespoon curry powder and some salt and pepper; marinate the cauliflower in this for a few minutes, or up to a couple of hours, before grilling. Substitute chopped pistachios for the Manchego.
From “How to Grill Everything: Simple Recipes for Flame-cooked Food” by Mark Bittman (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ($30.)
Tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.