Every year, cookbooks on the age-old art of grilling arrive in the spring. This year, more than half a dozen landed on my desk.
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 three 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 has churned out on grilling and barbecue. “Project Fire” is 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.
Best advice: Raichlen offers nine ways to oil your grill grates, including using a skewered onion or lemon.
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: 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. 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.
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: 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.
Best advice: Gillespie 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: Jalapeño, Bacon and Cheddar Stuffed Burgers.
JALAPEÑO, BACON AND CHEDDAR STUFFED BURGER
Makes: 3 burgers
1 pound ground chuck (80/20 blend)
1 jalapeño, thinly diced
¾ cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
¾ 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 1½ minutes. Your buns are now lightly toasted.
Assemble the burger with lettuce and tomato and serve immediately.
MAPLE-SRIRACHA CHICKEN DRUMSTICKS
Serves: 4 to 6
Vegetable oil for the grill grate
12 large chicken drumsticks, about 3 to 4 pounds
1 tablespoon coarse kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon hot red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter
5 tablespoons pure maple syrup
¼ 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.
MABEL’S PORK RIBS
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 recipe)
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. 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 1½ 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.
½ cup kosher salt
½ cup freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons part celery seed
2 tablespoons part ground coriander
¼ cup sweet paprika
Mix together all rub ingredients and store in an airtight container.
CLEVELAND BBQ SAUCE
Makes: 3 cups
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
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
1 cup brown mustard
½ cup yellow mustard
¼ cup pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1½ 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.