As testament to the rapidly growing popularity of American barbecue practiced as an art form, witness the cookbook section of your local bookstore.
There’s a forest worth of barbecue books, some offering guidance on ultimate barbecue, championship-caliber stuff like a painstaking 17-step procedure that promises prizewinning brisket in only 24 hours. Others are dizzyingly metropolitan, pitched to the dedicated home cook who can reliably secure fresh skate wing and banana leaves for that kicky little Malaysian steamed curry dish.
As an antidote to the highfalutin’ and the obsessive, consider “America’s Best BBQ Homestyle,” a barbecue cookbook that the average home cook can actually use.
It’s a collection of barbecue competitors’ recipes, put together by Ardie Davis and Paul Kirk, two veteran figures of the nation’s competitive barbecue community. As they write in the introduction: “We built this entire book on one simple question: What do championship barbecuers cook at home in their own backyards, when there are no rules but the simple laws of physics and basic chemistry?”
The collection that resulted includes some of the expected classics, including barbecued beef brisket and pork spare ribs. But its strength is the other stuff, the weird stuff, the dishes the champions cook for themselves when no one’s looking.
Here’s spicy lamb meatballs flavored with cumin, coriander and cardamom, served with an Afghan cilantro yogurt sauce, from the military veterans of the Pepper Monkey BBQ team, who encountered those flavors on deployment. (Find the recipe for Lamb Meatballs with Green Afghan Sauce at the Hungry for More blog.
How about a Vidalia onion bread pudding that can be cooked on your grill in a cast iron skillet? Frozen bourbon slush, an adult Slurpee of sorts? Steak and shiitake mushroom yakitori skewers?
You might even try the smoked pecan squares or blueberry cream cheese wontons for dessert.
There is a noticeable streak of proprietary spice blends running through the recipes. The pictures are sometimes not as clear or detailed as ones your cook friends might publish to Facebook. Yet the book’s overall utility is high enough to overcome those annoyances.
If you’re looking to cadge some tried-and-true backyard barbecue classics, “BBQ Homestyle” will take you straight to the source.
America’s Best BBQ Homestyle
By Ardie Davis and Paul Kirk
Andrew McMeel 192 pages softcover, $19.99.