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The Prophets of Smoked Meat: A Journey Through Texas Barbecue Hardcover – May 14, 2013

3.9 out of 5 stars 115 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Stomachs will ache at the thought of cabeza de vaca (cow’s head), beef clod (beef shoulder), or barbecue brisket (among other delicacies). Undeterred, architect and barbecue fanatic Vaughn, along with photographer Nicholas McWhirter and occasional sidekicks, did a hunting, gathering, and tasting journey throughout Texas to find the best barbecue. Out of the 186 places sampled, only 5 made his best list; the journey to him, though, is worth it. Beginning with the universal definition of barbecue as simply seasoned meat cooked to tenderness over hardwood smoke, the author not only delivers a running commentary on the goodness (or lack thereof) of the proteins, sides, and desserts, he also gives an almost-native’s perspective on the culture. Joints close when they run out of meat, often at 2 p.m., sometimes earlier. Fat counts: The value of well-smoked fat cannot be understated. So do desserts; there’s nothing better, Vaughn states, to counteract protein overload than a bit of something sweet. At the end, 20-ish pit masters are singled out for the specialties (mutton ribs, anyone?), providing quasi-recipes (details on meat, rub, wood, pit, fire, cooking time, it’s done when . . . suggestions, resting, and other pro tips) with the assumption that you’ll know how to interpret this shorthand. The first in a series of Anthony Bourdain–branded books. --Barbara Jacobs

From the Back Cover

The comprehensive, must-have guide to Texas barbecue, including pitmasters' recipes, tales of the road—from country meat markets to roadside stands—and a panoramic look at the Lone Star State, where smoked meat is sacred

Brisket. Spareribs. Beef sausage. Pulled pork. From the science of heat to the alchemy of rubs, from the hill country to the badlands, The Prophets of Smoked Meat takes readers on a pilgrimage to discover the heart and soul of Texas barbecue.

Join Daniel "BBQ Snob" Vaughn—host of the popular blog Full Custom Gospel BBQ and acknowledged barbecue expert—and photographer Nicholas McWhirter as they trek across more than 10,000 miles to sample the wood-smoking traditions of the Lone Star State's four distinct barbecue styles:

  • East Texas style, essentially the hickory-smoked, sauce-coated barbecue with which most Americans are familiar.
  • Central Texas "meat market" style, in which spice-rubbed meat is cooked over indirect heat from pecan or oak wood, a method that originated in the butcher shops of German and Czech immigrants.
  • Hill Country "cowboy style," which involves direct heat cooking over mesquite coals and uses goat and mutton as well as beef and pork.
  • South Texas barbacoa, in which whole beef heads are traditionally cooked in pits dug into the earth.

Including recipes from longtime pitmasters and new barbecue stars, The Prophets of Smoked Meat encompasses the entire panorama of Texas barbecue. Illustrated throughout with lush, full-color photographs of the food, the people, and the stunning landscapes of the Lone Star State, The Prophets of Smoked Meat is the new gospel of Texas barbecue, essential for neophytes and seasoned experts alike.

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Best of the Month
Amazon's editors selected this title as a Best Book of the Month. See more about The Prophets of Smoked Meat on the Amazon Books blog, where Anthony Bourdain interviews author Daniel Vaughn.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Anthony Bourdain/Ecco; 1 edition (May 14, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062202928
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062202925
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 1.4 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (115 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #203,289 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
OK, here's the book in a nutshell: The author and a friend or two jump in the car each weekend and drive to as many different Texas barbecue joints as they can reach in the time they have, take a lot of pictures, and eat pretty much the same thing (brisket, hot links, and ribs) at each place. Then he writes about what they did or didn't like. Mostly what they didn't, because they seldom find anything that measures up to their standards. Apparently most BBQ places in Texas these days make good onion rings and peach cobbler, and that's about it. That's not an insult to Texas BBQ, but an observation that according to Mr. Vaughn, almost nobody does it right anymore. Of course that can be said about almost anything, anywhere. (As a personal aside, I love all kinds of barbecue, but how anyone could eat five excellent combo plates, let alone five *mediocre* combo plates in a twelve hour period is unfathomable to me.)

I expected a lot of interviews with pitmasters, old-timers and the like but it seems that at most places the guy who knew what he was doing is long dead and the current owners are relatively hapless. There is little here in the way of secrets, recipes, behind the scenes knowledge, or classic stories and legends. And apparently a shocking number of the places they stopped closed down shortly thereafter.

The writing is fairly straightforward and quite amusing at times. The photography is excellent, although the author appears in most of the photos, so you kind of get to feeling like you're watching Uncle Harry's vacation slides after a while.

This is not a bad book if you understand what to expect. That said, I can say I enjoyed reading it once (from the local public library) but it won't find a place in my permanent collection.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was a bit different from what I expected. Most of the books on BBQ have been dry and straight forward. This book trully chronicles an experience that I would love to have. The duo set there journey going all over the state and tasting the mediocre to the amazing. Texas is really an amazing place when it comes to the BBQ culture. Traveling just one-hundred miles can give you very different results. The photos help tell the story and this book is a very easy read. This is not necessarily a recipe book but the author gives a good idea what goes into most of the food. This book has helped inspire me even further to continue improving my meat smoking methods. I would recommend this book to anyone who is passionate about barbecue.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My review....1 star for finishing the book, having been in the writing profession in the past I know its difficult work writing and finishing a book. 1 star for the photos. That's it! If you are looking for something that goes into the culture of Texas BBQ....keep looking. I make my living as a caterer specializing in cowboy cooking and Texas style BBQ. I have read MANY books about BBQ that go beyond standard cookbooks. Nothing in this book will tell you anything about what Texas BBQ is, only what it is not. Texas BBQ is the most difficult of all regions and styles of BBQ. Why? because its all about the meat and smoke.. not rubs or sauces. Instead of profiling cooks and the methods they use and BBQ history... the book from the start is an never ending snobbish rant on the failures of Texas BBQ. I kept thinking that it would get better, however I suffered through page after page of negativism, forcing myself to keep reading. Unfortunately, it does not. BBQ has deep cultural roots in America, this book does its best to ignore that.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
But it seems like 95% of the reviews are negative. Reminds me of a lot of highly critical internet reviews that I see on Yelp and elsewhere. I know that there is a lot of mediocre BBQ out there but he needs to dial back the negativity a little. I am a BBQ Judge and we have a term for it on the judging circuit, the "super judge." Nothing is ever good enough. The brisket is always dry or overdone, the sauce is always too sweet, there is too much smoke or not enough smoke.

If they don't have BBQ that hasn't been sitting around for a day or two, he shouldn't even bother sampling it, he should just find a place that does have something cooked that day.
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Format: Hardcover
As soon as you flip through the first few pages and see the beautiful images of small town BBQ spots around the great state of Texas, your stomach will start to growl. Dig into Daniel's words about the various styles of BBQ and the stories behind these local joints and you'll be ready to board a plane and hit the BBQ trail. This is a can't miss book to get a deep understanding of Texas BBQ and why it is so important to the history of the state.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In no way do our tastes agree. His hurried tastings and flippant reviews turn me off. Strangely, the WSJ story leading to my purchase was a much better guide to our Texas treasure. This book a waste of money.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I learned some valuable lessons: stay away from east Texas hot links; understand the difference between direct heat cooking and indirect heat cooking; respect the elegance of a salt and cracked pepper dry rub; and keep that cooker closed!

Texas barbecue is an art. This is a fine introduction to that art, and to the artists who create it. My favorite part of the book is the pit master profiles at the end: great portraits and wonderful insights on their process! The photographs are beautiful; with the exception of the chapter focusing on Houston and Dallas, there simply aren't enough of them. I would have enjoyed a little less "I'm from Ohio, but I love Texas Barbecue!" (Dude, you've just described eating at 30 BBQ joints in 36 hours - you don't need to tell us you like 'cue) and more of those lovely photos.

I'm still trying to figure out how these guys don't weigh 450 pounds, have dodged diabetes, hypertension, and gout, and remain married.

A very entertaining trip through the heart of Brisket, Rib, and Sausage Shangri-la.
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