The Barbecue! Bible by Steven Raichlen – A Review

The Barbecue! Bible
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It’s summertime, and nothing quite captures the essence of that long, lazy season like a good old-fashioned barbecue. Now, any backyard chef worth his tongs knows that there are as many recipes and individual styles underlying barbecue as there are people who enjoy it, which means that for many people, a book of go-to dishes, techniques, and so forth is the ideal option when it comes to quick, stress-free grilling. People want a “barbecue Bible, if you will, and it just so happens that Steven Raichlen’s new book offers that very thing.


Steven Raichlen, award-winning cook, author, and writer of The Barbecue! Bible, might best be thought of as the Alan Quartermain of barbecue. In order to compile his latest book, he traveled to nearly every place on the planet that employs it, with the exception of blatantly unsafe areas like Syria, Iraq, and so on, gathering over 500 recipes along the way.


First, it may be wise to alert potential buyers to what this book is not. The Barbecue! Bible is not some sort of “frou-frou” guide to theoretical cooking you might find in the Barnes & Noble culinary section. That means there aren’t a whole lot of full-page glossies of plates so pristine you wonder if they’re paintings, rather than food. No, this book is designed by and for people who love food, and who love to prepare their favorite dishes for other people to enjoy. Your grill and your dishes will be dirty if you follow its precepts, but you won’t care, because your tastebuds will be singing.

As mentioned above, this book contains more than 500 recipes for everything from drinks and starters to deserts, and of course, a sizable entrĂ©e section. In addition, this book is further distanced from other cookbooks in how it presents its content. Every recipe is presented in light of where it came from, regionally speaking, and by embracing the culture that birthed it. That means that in addition to getting tons of new great meal ideas, you’re going to get a lesson (taught in pictures and anecdotes) in the people and culture that spawned them. For instance, a Jamaican jerk chicken recipe might be accompanied by a history of that particular cooking style and some photos of a Jamaican night market. The Barbecue! Bible isn’t just a cookbook, it’s an atlas and a travel journal, too.

As far as individual recipes are concerned, you’ll have to buy the book to get them all, but a typical meal might be started with a pairing of grilled snails and a martini flavored with a hint of smoke flavor, followed by kebobs or an all-American burger, and finished with, of all things, coconut ice cream. Clearly, this is a book for people who want to be able to entertain with meals that go from start to finish, and with more awesome meal combinations than you can shake a spatula at, that won’t be a problem.


At this point, it is worth noting that vegetarians or other folks who may want a less meat-intensive plate are just as poised to profit from this book as anyone else. It’s true that a large portion of the content in The Barbecue! Bible focuses on lamb, chicken, beef, pork, and just about any other meat you can think of, but there are some greener options, too. Entire sections are devoted to making the best grilled (and yes, even un-grilled, in some cases) salads, breads, vegetables, and fruits you’ve ever tasted. Grilled pineapple, for example, is particularly good. Deserts and drinks feature prominently as well, and so does fish, which might serve as a handy go-between for the veg-heads and carnivores in your group. Of course no book on barbecuing would be complete without sections for sauces, rubs, and other accents, so The Barbecue! Bible has those, too.


It’s simple: If you love to grill, whether for yourself or for lots of other people as well, this is the book for you. Nothing is left out, even to the point of exhaustive appendices which list many mail-order sources for all the ingredients you’ll need to make your next barbecue a hit. Food, lessons in history and cultural anthropology, and the potential to make a lifetime of great memories – what more could a person want? Just make sure you don’t drool on the pages! Happy grilling!