‘Tis the season. Outdoor cooking season, that is. Normally that’s a year-round activity in California, but many backyard grill masters and pitmasters may feel the need to make up for lost time, if our recent months of cold, blustery weather kept them inside. The publishing world is happy to oblige with a fresh crop of inspirational cookbooks. There are recipes and advice for everyone here, whether you are a casual griller or smoking like a pit pro.
Asada: The Art of Mexican-Style Grilling
Considering how crazy Californians are for carne asada, this cookbook may become the season’s bestseller. Los Angeles chef-restaurateur Bricia Lopez and food blogger Javier Cabral, who co-wrote the 2019 bestselling cookbook, “Oaxaca,” have now turned their attention to SoCal’s backyard barbecue scene, where asada isn’t just the meat you cook but the get-together you hold.
You’ll find yourself salivating over “Asada” (Abrams, $40), with its 100 recipes supplemented by sizzling photos. Should you start off with the Carne Asada Clásica or try the spiced Michelada Carne Asada or the chimichurri-inspired Arrachera Verde? Other meats and seafood get their share of attention too, with recipes for Salsa Borracha Ribs, Pollo Yucateco Asado and Four-Chile Snapper.
“Las aguas” and “las salsas” are also reimagined by Lopez and Cabral. Check out their innovative Toasted Corn Horchata, Watermelon and Lime Zest Agua Fresca and Bone Marrow Salsa. And even if you think your pico de gallo recipe is the best, who isn’t always looking for what the authors call A Better Pico?
These experts also share a few old-school secrets. For example, they write, your “tio” (uncle) was onto something when he cleaned the barbecue grill with an onion. Turns out “onions contain a surprisingly high amount of an antimicrobial compound named allicin.” And savvy cooks in Mexico add a little orange soda to the Cóctel de Camarón Asado (shrimp cocktail) marinade for a sweet-tart kick.
Ed Mitchell’s Barbeque: Celebrating the Eastern North Carolina Whole Hog Barbeque of My African American Ancestors
Heralded as North Carolina’s most famous pitmaster, Ed Mitchell has been practicing the art of smoking meat for more than 30 years, so you know he has plenty of wisdom to impart in this, his first book. Although he starting smoking meat as a teenager, he traces his official history to 1991, when he went down to the Piggly Wiggly to buy a hog to cook at his family’s market, and the irresistible aroma drew onlookers. Whole-hog cooking is Mitchell’s specialty, as it was for generations before him, and he sings the praises of heritage pork.
Part memoir, part cookbook, the eponymous “Ed Mitchell’s Barbeque” (Ecco, $35), written with son Ryan, will drop on June 6, just in time for Juneteenth and Father’s Day. Its pages are full of heartfelt history, vintage photos and easy-to-follow recipes. The book starts with the how-to’s for crunchy Cracklin’ Hush Puppies and Smoked Collard Greens Dip (developed for the Carolina Panthers’ first Super Bowl appearance) and other appetizers, then delves deep into pork and beef. Featured is the recipe for Ed’s Mouthwatering Baby Back Ribs brushed with Ed’s Eastern North Carolina Vinegar BBQ Sauce, the dish he used to beat chef Bobby Flay in a throwdown.
Rounding out the book are stories and recipes about everything from biscuits and potato salad to banana pudding and sweet tea. You know how picky Southern cooks can be about that one particular side dish, right? The shared recipe, from the Mitchell family matriarch, is aptly titled “I Don’t Eat Everybody’s Potato Salad!”
BBQ for All: Year-Round Outdoor Cooking for Meat-Eaters, Vegetarians and Pescatarians
Barbecue advice from a Brit? Sure, when it comes from Marcus Bawdon, an expert devoted to transforming the United Kingdom’s traditionally dismal backyard barbecue — “poor-quality supermarket meats, cremated on the outside and raw on the inside,” he writes — into palatable meals.
After schooling thousands of outdoor cooks via his UK BBQ School in Devon, the UK BBQ magazine and his CountryWoodSmoke.com blog, he reports great progress: “There’s a vibrant BBQ scene developing in the UK.”
This year, Bawdon, who previously wrote “Food & Fire” and “Skewered,” is out with his third cookbook, “BBQ for All: Year-Round Outdoor Cooking for Meat-Eaters, Vegetarians and Pescatarians” (Dog n Bone, $30). A former vegetarian for 14 years (until he craved a well-prepared steak one day), he offers a tempting lineup in the “Veg” chapter — Ember-Cooked Baba Ganoush, Celery Root Steaks with Barbecue Sauce, Cauliflower Mustard Crumble and Chimichurri Roasties among them. Pescatarians will find 19 recipes for the grill and smoker, including Sea Bass Wrapped in Leek and decadent Duck Fat Garlic Scallops (He notes, “You can get duck fat hotter than butter without it burning, thus improving the sear and caramelization on the scallops.”).
By the way, If you’re an outdoor cook with an adventurous palate, you might want to try assembling and smoking Bawdon’s signature dish, the Dirty Meatenburg, a massive log of pork sausage and black pudding wrapped entirely in strips of bacon. The recipe’s not in this cookbook but you’ll find it at CountryWoodSmoke.com.
America’s Test Kitchen: The Outdoor Cook
This encyclopedic volume comes from the experts at America’s Test Kitchen, the respected Boston-based operation that tests and tests recipes, and then tests them again, making it invaluable for folks just getting started with grilling or those moving up from grilling to smoking (or as a summer wedding present).
Appropriately subtitled “How to Cook Anything Outside Using Your Grill, Fire Pit, Flat-Top Grill and More,” the book (ATK, $29.99) covers equipment, fuel, fire and safety before getting into meals to whet your appetite.
A whopping 150 recipes are smartly curated: “10 Unexpected Outdoor Recipes” (Grilled French Toast, Smoked Nachos); “5 Dishes to Feed a Crowd” (Hot-Smoked Whole Side of Salmon); “5 Must-Cook Open-Fire Dishes” (Fireside Chili); “5 Showstoppers” (Rotisserie Leg of Lamb with Cauliflower, Grape and Arugula Salad); “Both Hands Needed” (Grilled Green Chile and Chorizo Cheeseburgers); and more.
And every recipe starts off with the famously informative America’s Test Kitchen blurb, “Why This Recipe Works.” The Charred Guacamole recipe, for example, “employs heat strategically by grilling the aromatics until well charred, grilling the avocados lightly, and leaving the lime off the grill entirely so that its fresh juice brightens the smoky flavors.” And if you’re not normally a fan of turkey burgers, consider this: “The smoky, flame-kissed flavor imparted by the grill transforms mild-mannered turkey burgers into a welcome alternative to beef. But for superlative burgers, you’ve got to give the patties a little boost with some flavorful add-ins before they hit the heat.”
The BBQ Companion: 50 Recipe Cards for Grilling Perfection
This hand-size “barbecue in a box” is designed for the backyard or campground griller who wants some fresh ideas and wants them fast — save the long reads for another time.
We broke the seal on “The BBQ Companion” box ($24.95, Smith Street Gift, a division of Penguin Random House Canada) and pulled three recipe cards out of the deck: The first one, a card from the middle and the last one. Barbecued Peri Peri Chicken, Grilled Cabbage Salad and Rum-Spiked Barbecue Banana Boats — sounds like a winning meal!
This collection comes from Oscar Smith, an Australia-based food writer and fan of beer and travel. Yes, barbecue experts from the UK seem to be a publishing trend this year, and we rather like the perspectives from abroad. Besides the African-Portuguese peri peri recipe, Smith’s global array includes Brazilian Cachaca Chicken Skewers, Japanese Seven-Spice Calamari, Thai Chili-Coconut Surf & Turf Skewers, Greek-Style Slow-Cooked Lamb Roast and Edamame Burgers with Red Onion Jam.
And if you think an Australian grilling collection should include a shrimp recipe, it’s here. Only it’s a Louisiana Prawn Po-Boy, made with spiced grilled shrimp and topped with remoulade.