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America's Best BBQ:
100 Recipes from America's Best Smokehouses, Pits, Shacks, Rib Joints, Roadhouses, and Restaurants
By Ardie A. Davis and Paul Kirk
ISBN: 0740778110
Publisher: Andrews McMeel
Publication date: May 2009
Format: Paperback
Number of recipes: 100
List price: $19.99
Type: Entertaining: Barbecue
Sample recipe: Slaughterhouse Five Ribs
Intended audience: novice advanced beginner good home cook gourmet professional
Apparent goal: stocking stuffer sampler comprehensive encyclopedia coffee-table
Meal part: all breakfast/brunch lunch dinner dessert
Competition: outclassed a bit behind in the pack strong challenger likely champ
Variety: too little too much unusual nice mix just right
Practical recipes: <20% <40% <60% <80% ≥80%
# of ingredients: ≤4 ≤7 ≤10 ≤12 >12
Ingredient hunt: airfare required online specialty store supermarket pantry
Recipe complexity: too hard simple medium challenging professional
Instructions: inadequate verbose minimal complete educational
Time conscious: not conscious bald lies white lies realistic scout's honor
Cooking time: weekend project takes all day takes time ≥30 minutes <30 minutes
Added info: zip overwhelming scant ample generous
Photos/drawings: none drawings b&w photos occasional color all/most color
Art contribution: disappointing distracting decorative beautiful glorious
Recipe results: ≤dorm food casual food family meals fancy food fit for royalty
Nutritional info: none overwhelming hit or miss adequate comprehensive
Format/Ease of Use
Layout: ugh cluttered fine kind work of art
Legibility: unpleasant challenging ok clear brilliant
Production quality: cheesy delicate years of service gift quality stunning
Page numbers: hard-to-find spotty sufficient most pages every page
Table of contents: missing frustrating minimal helpful excellent
Index: none confusing adequate nice a treasure
Page flipping: upsetting tedious acceptable rare never
Writing history: beginner writer/journalist food writer writing cook personality
Cooking heritage: unknown self-taught teacher chef celebrity
Fulfills ambitions: falls short satisfactory successful exceeds home run
Flavor delivered: sad inconsistent tasty delicious exceptional
Overall tone: sterile trying too hard straightforward good friend mom
Value: ouch! a little pricey worth splurging on the money a deal
Overall rating: skip it good very good excellent Ochef Top 100

Comments: We just haven't been able to figure this book out. There are recipes from the best barbecue houses in the country, for starters, main courses, side dishes, and desserts, for every kind of meat and other ingredient you can name, but we don't really think you'll try many.

This book radiates flavor – as well as history, traditions, the many generations of owners involved in each restaurant, barbecue rituals and trivia – but a huge number of recipes call for the restaurants' own special sauce or rub. Occasionally the book will allow "your favorite rub," but if a recipe calls for Atkinson's Flowering Onion Breader or Head Country All-Purpose Championship Seasoning, are you going to know what to use in it's place?

There are also some problems with scale. The recipe for Fried Cheese-Stick Grits, for example, wants you to smoke a pound of garlic cloves and then use five of them in the recipe. Five of them! What in blazes do you do with the other 150+ smoked cloves of garlic? Oh, "use [them] in a variety of dishes" – after all they keep in the refrigerator for a whole week!

And then there were times when the restaurant cooks wouldn't share their recipes, so the writers made them up as closely as possible. Did they succeed? Who knows?

The recipes run the gamut – everything you'd expect, as well as Buffalo Bratwurst with Cheese and Jalapeños, Barbecued Baloney (requires 1 ingredient), Tamales and Beans, Rib Gumbo, Barbecued Mutton Ribs, Red's Barbecued 'Coon, Seafood Stuffed Lobster, Fried Okra, Rocky Mountain Oysters, Fried Green Tomatoes, Peach Cobbler, Root Beer Cake, Deep-Fried Oreos, and much more.

The authors give tons of practical information, but take something as contentious as barbecue (just mention grilling to serious barbecuers and see where that gets you, or aluminum foil) and then make the very milquetoast assertion that "there's no right and no wrong." For heaven's sake, even these two writers don't agree all the time!

It's a charming book, in the cards-on-the-table way of the barbecue world, but – unless you've got one foot firmly planted in that world (and are prepared to buy a lot of sauces online) – it may be more useful for reading, thinking about, and picturing food than the actual cooking.


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