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Better Homes and Gardens Barbecue Book (1965)

by Better Homes and Gardens

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This review reports my comparison of four barbecue cookbooks. As a convenience, the review is repeated in its entirety for each book so readers do not need to look up all four books.

I've been using an old BBQ cookbook (Better Homes and Gardens Barbecue Book, © 1965) for decades and decided it was time to look at some newer entries. The BH&G book is crammed full of recipes but it predates the extensive use of gas grills. My primary objective was to find a good book that provides instructions tailored to the use of a gas grill.

The BH&G Barbecue Book served as a baseline for my search since I have been satisfied with it over the years. It offers 17 pages of general instruction tucked at the back of the book instead of the beginning that appears to be more common now. The book is organized into five additional chapters. That turns out to be a shortcoming. The first chapter, for example covers meat, poultry, and fish. An important feature of BBQ cookbooks is the general coverage of the type of food to be grilled. Chapter 1 of the BH&G book begins with a two-page overview of beef cuts. The sections on pork and lamb begin with similar overviews but they are imbedded in Chapter 1. This organization is neither user friendly or adequate. I found over the years that I needed to supplement the overview material with newspaper clippings.

Grillin' With Gas (© 2009) by Fred Thompson is the smallest of the cookbooks I reviewed, but it features the best introductory summary. As the title implies, the instructions are tailored to gas grills but it also provides a brief three-page overview of smoking. Grillin' With Gas begins with an 18-page overview of grilling and follows that with 150 recipes organized into nine additional chapters.

The breakdown into multiple chapters allows separate chapters for beef, pork, lamb, and poultry and game birds, all of which are covered in a single chapter in BH&G. Each chapter is preceded with a detailed index that lists the recipes included in the chapter. The first section of most chapters begins with a brief tutorial that covers buying the food, cooking time, and other details. The tutorial feature tabular presentations of technical details that users like me will want to consult repeatedly. Most recipes receive a two-page spread; some provide two pages of text while others provide one page of text and an attractive picture. Informative sidebars also appear at some points.

Some readers may regard the small number of recipes as a drawback but I do not find that to be a negative. The Internet has thousands of recipes but most typical home grillers need only a few basic recipes for each type of food they prepare. The only chapter I wished had provided more recipes was the chapter on vegetables. We are not vegetarians but we eat a variety of vegetables and I always appreciate suggestions for new ways to prepare vegetables.

For the most part the recipes are simple, avoiding the need for arcane ingredients, and they are quick and easy to prepare. For example, Thompson's Cornbread To Die For requires only six ingredients and his recipes for "perfect steaks" and rack of lamb only four and three ingredients, respectively, plus the meat.

I appreciated the focus on gas grilling, as that is what I wanted. However, most of the recipes require little grilling time and the techniques are pretty basic so I was confident I could prepare them using a charcoal grill if I desired.

Better Homes and Gardens New Grilling Book (© 2005) includes many of the attractive features included in Grillin' With Gas. The book provides more than 700 recipes divided into 14 chapters. Each chapter begins with a detailed index and eight of the chapters provide one or summary tables. These tables provide details about grilling temperatures and times but the information in many chapters is quite basic and limited.

New Grilling covers both grilling with charcoal and gas, and it includes chapters on smoking, indoor grilling, and using a turkey fryer. This book may be the best of those I reviewed if you are interested in a variety of grilling methods and want a book that features a large number of recipes.

Serious Barbecue (© 2009) by Adam Perry Lang. This 400-page volume by an acclaimed barbecue chef provides a stark contrast to the first three books I reviewed. I think it will be of interest only to readers who are interested in a more intricate approach to barbecue cooking and have time to spare and a well-stocked pantry.

Most of the recipes in the book actually require the preparation of several recipes. For example, his approach to grilling a boneless rib eye requires the preparation of a marinade, seasoning blend, glaze, and finishing dressing. Prime rib requires that you first make a flavor paste, glaze, and finishing dressing. Other recipes require the preparation of a BBQ sauce, herb bundle, compound butter, dried breadcrumbs, blue cheese dressing, yogurt sauce and numerous others.
Serious Barbecue lacks detailed indexes at the beginning of each chapter that increase the usability of a cookbook but it does provide information about different types of grills and smoking woods. Although I enjoy barbecuing and love to eat good barbecue, the approach taken in this book requires far too much time and advanced planning, and too many ingredients to be practical for me. ( )
  Tatoosh | Apr 5, 2017 |
Good recipe's for salads, especially cole slaws. ( )
  RGKronschnabel | Jun 25, 2010 |
A classic keepsake. It reminds me of simpler times. Mostly black & white photos, clip-art that would now be categorized as retro but was modern for the times. Descriptions are in paragraph style. Bet if you are reading this, you know someone who used to have this book or collection. ( )
  readit2 | Aug 15, 2008 |
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In planning a meal, think first of the meat.
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