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The Cook's Illustrated Guide To Grilling And Barbecue
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182 of 183 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
`The Cook's Illustrated Guide to Grilling and Barbecue' by the editors of `Cook's Illustrated' magazine may be the very first book you should get on the title subject. Unlike the charcoal only coverage of the excellent `The Thrill of the Grill' by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby, this book gives equal coverage to charcoal and gas, although it does not address grilling with raw hardwood.

The first thing which impressed me about this book is that early in editor in chief Christopher Kimball's introduction, the point is made in no uncertain terms that good grilling and barbecue is hard to do. Doing it right requires both book learning and experience. The second thing that impressed me about the book was that I found lots of very good general information on techniques. I was expecting not much more than an anthology of grilling and barbecue recipe articles from the magazine as I see in many other `Cook's Illustrated' books. I was not surprised with the quality of this information, as `Cook's Illustrated' always provides reliable, albeit somewhat uninspired advice.

One thing I find true of the `Cook's Illustrated' books is that they are fun to read. Every other page seems to have a sidebar of interesting opinions about everything from Santoku knives to catsup (Heinz is the best). I suggest you take opinions on ingredients such as vinegars or olive oils with a grain of salt, as there is a good chance that a minority of available brands were tested and their testers tend to play it safe. When they say they were surprised by their results, it's time to sit up and take notice! The best thing about their opinions is that they give the reasons behind their recommendations and when the reasons are sound, there is little room for argument, as when they describe their experiments with the heat distribution in a kettle grill measured from five different points in a comparison of two different methods of creating a high heat zone and a low heat zone in the same grill.

A second big distinction between this book and `The Thrill of the Grill' is that `Cook's Illustrated' gives us recipes for all the standard dishes that appear on 90% of America's grills. It may be great to find out how to grill octopus, but it's a lot better to exercise one's grilling technique with hamburgers, steaks, and chops until you have the basic techniques down pat. As with most `Cook's Illustrated' recipes, I have a bit of a problem with the ones in this book. While I totally trust their opinions and findings on general grilling technique, I will probably adapt their recipes with a certain caution. Their recipes for hamburgers and London Broil have lots of good information about shaping the patties and choosing the meat, but the actual recipes are, I believe, not as good as my favorite methods acquired from Julia Child and James Beard respectively. I would be inclined to read what they have to say about the recipes, but use my own experience in seasoning or marinading. The other side of the coin is that many recipes give separate instructions for how to handle the same recipe on gas and on charcoal. My best suggestion is that if you have a favorite saute recipe you wish to move to the grill, look up a comparable recipe in this book and transpose your favorite recipe to the grill with these authors' grilling recommendations.

Part of what makes this book so good as armchair reading is that it does an excellent job of explaining the differences between cooking methods for tender versus tough forms of meat. This dichotomy is especially interesting when lined up with the differences between grilling and barbecuing. The former is a high heat method very similar to sauteeing while the latter is a low heat method very similar to braising. It explains the seeming paradox of a piece or beef loin going tough if cooked too long while a piece of chuck becomes tenderer under the right long cooking circumstances.

For those who are not familiar with the `Cook's Illustrated' style of presentation, I have to give a good word about their line drawing demonstrations of techniques. I have always preferred the skillful drawing to photographs as the former illustration highlights what is important and leaves out any extraneous information. On the other hand, when the subject is produce as when you are looking at good versus bad racks of ribs, a series of well cropped photographs is better than the drawing. Here, you don't want to chance hiding any detail of the product being shown. In any case, the illustrations are a lot better than what you get from Schlesinger and Willoughby or Bobby Flay. I will say that in a few cases, the black and white photos are a little weak in that the definition of detail doesn't do justice to the point being made in the text.

This oversize volume has two introductory sections on basic outdoor cooking techniques and outdoor cooking tools. This is followed with seven chapters of all your basic grilled or barbecued proteins, including beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey (and other birds), fish, and shellfish. Vegetables give us an eighth chapter on grilling. The tenth chapter covers grilling breads, especially pizza. If you are pretty expert at pizza making, this is probably really a good thing to try, as your kitchen oven can barely make it above 500 degrees Fahrenheit, while a charcoal grill can easily reach over 750 degrees Fahrenheit, much closer to your favorite pizza shop oven. The last chapters are on side dishes and rubs and sauces.

If I were editing the book, I would have put barbecue techniques and recipes in separate chapters, especially for those who specialize in one or the other, but a little extra reading never hurt anyone, and I am all in favor of the value of serendipity.

Highly recommended first book on grilling and barbecue!
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79 of 81 people found the following review helpful
on August 8, 2005
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
"The Cook's Illustrated Guide to Grilling and Barbeque" is in my opinion a "must have" book for anyone wanting to learn or improve his/her outdoor cooking skills. This book, copyrighted in 2005, appears to me to be an updated and revised version of the similar "The Best Recipe Grilling & Barbeque" book copyrighted in 2001 (which I bought at the same time). After reading through both books, I do not see any reason for purchasing the 2001 book.

The "Illustrated Guide" contains over 450 recipes, but those recipes are only one part of the great information this book presents. The book opens with the basics of "grilling" versus "barbequing" and discusses the differences between charcoal cooking and gas cooking. There is a lot of information and recommendations on products (cooking equipment and tools) needed for successful outdoor cooking. In the cooking chapters (beef, pork, chicken, turkey, vegetables, etc.), the "Illustrated Guide" gives much more than just recipes. The book describes how to choose the food (e.g. which cut of beef, what size chicken, etc.) and how to prepare it before cooking, including seasoning. Then, the book describes a step-by-step procedure for cooking the item; the book gives separate instructions for charcoal cooking and gas cooking.

The book's "claim to fame" is that the authors/cooks perfected each instruction/recipe through extensive trial and error, and that the reader can benefit from the writers' experience and their detailed instructions.

On my gas grill, I recently grill-roasted the book's "Beer Can Chicken" (for which I used lemonade- the recommended alternate to beer) and my family all agreed it was the best chicken we had ever eaten. I also recently followed the book's instuctions to select, buy, season and grill strip steaks. My family (and guest) also raved about those steaks. My steak tasted better than one I recently ate at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse.

Each time I've followed the book's instructions, the results have been outstanding. This book quickly pays for itself.
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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on September 8, 2005
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I gave this book to my brother for his birthday. He is a BBQ addict - once flew to Memphis for a week, just to do BBQ research. He rarely finds anything of interest in most books or magazines. He loves this book and within the first 20 minutes of reading it (while we finished assembling his birthday cake) he announced, twice, that he had "found something". Having found the perfect gift, I couldn't be more pleased.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on December 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
While one can not truly barbeque on a grill, this guide gets you as close as possible. Good grilling is not rocket science but this book explains what many have learned only through trial-and-error. When trying a new receipe, I always compare it with this guide. While I may prefer sauces and rubs found in my other six grilling books, this is my Bible on how to apply them. Buy this book first and use it as your standard when reviewing others. Of course, like all receipe books, you must use your own good judgement. For example, one receipe says start your salmon fillets skin side down while another says skin side up. (I think skin side up is the right way to go to get better marking and to make it easier to see how cooking is progressing.) I use this book and I give it to my friends. Enjoy!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The number one thing you need to know is that this book is exactly what you've come to expect from a Best Recipe book -- a self-contained guide to its subject with a mix of content for this book and content from other books. It's certainly worth buying if you're in need of a reference for live fire cooking; though rather less exciting than The Barbecue! Bible, it does an expert job of filling in the technique and science things that Raichlen leaves out. And the book covers not only meat, but vegetables, an increasingly important aspect of outdoor cooking. An immense number of variations and side dishes -- maybe I'm missing something, but it seems like slightly more than the usual CI book -- makes it an excellent browsing book as well, but it doesn't compromise its typical get-it-done function.

That said, it's got a few flaws. First off, there's vanishingly little effort spared on grilled desserts; maybe that's a little much to expect from Cook's (which in general doesn't tend to try to be particularly tricky or avant-garde) but there's only a few scattered grilled fruit recipes. Second, and this is more a factor of it being a second edition of a relatively old book, there's quite a few recipes that CI has since superseded, the most glaring being their somewhat unusual approach to grilled pizza (essentially an herbed flatbread with pizza toppings; it has since been replaced with a more traditional Providence-style crust from the America's Test Kitchen TV show). Neither of those are really a reason to not recommend it, since there's always people who want the older recipes.

As it happens, this was sort of an emergency purchase when I needed to know how to grill-roast a prime rib; this is where the infamous CI overlap problem comes in handy, as having all of this material gathered in one book, exactly where you expect it to be, is a convenience worth paying for. I think it's worth it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on September 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I switched from gas to charcoal to get better flavor. I ruined everything I tried to grill the whole first summer. I received this book for Christmas and it has changed everything. It covers every possible aspect of grilling, from the charcoal to the methods for lighting the charcoal, ventilation, wood chips, marinades, rubs, texture, color, moisture retention, flipping the food, etc. Each food type has it's own chapter, with details galore and recipes for reference. I simply follow the instructions to a tee and I've made "Grillmaster" level food ever since receiving the book. I am still shocked at the outcome every time I grill. The book is like a science of grilling format, with a massive test kitchen and many variables and control groups for each food and each method. The writers of the book already tried everything, and they lay it right out for you with regard to what works and what doesn't. I could go on and on. If you are buying a grilling book to grill better, buy this book without a doubt. You couldn't possibly be disappointed.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I purchased this book after reading a review and sample recipe in a local newspaper - this is one of the best cookbooks I've purchased. I am an avid CHARCOAL griller and this book has all the best tips (they do include separate instructions for gas grillers). I've made several of the recipes in the book and they have all received rave reviews - especially the brisket. The best part of this book (and other Cooks Illustrated books) is that they don't just hand you a bunch of recipes - they actually walk you through their testing methodology and explain how they came up with the final prep and cooking methods. Highly recommended!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is, without a doubt, the best cookbook I have ever purchased. It literally gives you every step, and explains the reasons for each step, without making you feel like an idiot. I always felt that most recipes give very vague instructions on grilling; not so with this book.

If you enjoy details and want to get it exactly right, buy this book, or any from Cook's Illustrated for that matter - but this one if my favorite. Best of all, there are mouthwatering pictures in color in the center of the book.

Enjoy!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 21, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I looked at dozens of books before settling on this one. I was good at gas grilling but now am in to charcoal. It's different and I hate to waste good food because I prepared it improperly. This practical guide gives me detailed technique instructions. Most other publications focus on recipes, and this one has recipes, but it focuses on the cooking process. There are also comparisons of gas vs. charcoal which was very useful for me.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 15, 2009
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This book was recommended to me by a friend who performs magically on her grill...she is humble in accepting praise and attributes her abilities completely to this book. She has so many post-its on wonderful recipes, that the pages look fringed! I gave it as a gift and, once again, it was accepted and read like a novel...not a cookbook. Without a doubt, this book is the bible of grilling how-to references!
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