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Best Overall: Meathead, The Science of Great Barbecue at Amazon
"Puts together the best methods for barbecue and grilling."
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Franklin Barbecue at Amazon
"A must-have for anyone serious about real Texas BBQ."
Best for Smoking: Project Smoke at Amazon
"This is his first cookbook completely focused on smoke."
Runner-Up, Best for Smoking: Smoke, New Firewood Cooking at Amazon
"This is an amazing book that inspires and teaches."
Best for Beginners: Diva Q's Barbecue at Amazon
"The instruction is clear and easy to follow."
Runner-Up, Best for Beginners: Smoke & Spice at Amazon
"If you want to learn to cook barbecue, this is the book to start with."
Best for Technique: Slow Fire at Amazon
"The content is straightforward and simple enough."
Best for History: Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book at Amazon
"This book is part cookbook, part history."
Best for Texas BBQ: The Prophets of Smoked Meat at Amazon
"Daniel has compiled a list of the best barbecue joints Texas has to offer."
Best for Memphis BBQ: Peace, Love, & Barbecue at Amazon
"The recipes are great, but the storytelling is better."
Best Overall: Meathead, The Science of Great Barbecue & Grilling
Craig "Meathead" Goldwyn combines years of research for his award-winning website, a healthy dose of science, and his usual wit to expose (and hopefully end) some of the most common myths in the world about outdoor cooking. This book takes it all apart and puts together the best methods for barbecue and grilling you will find. This is a remarkable achievement and a book that needs to be on your shelf. Oh, and there are recipes too. Lots of them.
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Franklin Barbecue, A Meat-Smoking Manifesto
When Aaron Franklin opened his BBQ joint in Austin, Texas, he started a revolution. Certainly, barbecue has always been big in Texas, but as a proprietor of what just might be the most famous barbecue restaurant in America, he has garnered global acclaim. This book is a cross between his personal journey and a hardcore text on traditional smoking. This is a must-have for anyone serious about real Texas BBQ.
Best for Smoking: Project Smoke
When Steven Raichlen wrote The Barbecue Bible 20 years ago, he revolutionized backyard cooking and came up with one of history's most successful grilling books. While Steven has always known his way around the smoker, this is his first cookbook completely focused on smoke. This book takes you through cold smoking to hardcore barbecue in Steven's uniquely global approach. This is one book that has it all.
Runner-Up, Best for Smoking: Smoke, New Firewood Cooking
Strictly speaking, this is not specifically a barbecue book. Barbecue, traditional Southern barbecue, is a big part of it, but there is so much more. Tim Byres takes everything—barbecue, grilling, camp cooking—back to the beginning. Back to the fire. Tim was once a top-level chef working in restaurants that topped dishes with shards of vegetables and sprigs of herbs on small portions on artistic plates. He turned away from that to go back to the simplest methods of cooking and in that exploration found an art form of cooking that has run continuously through human civilization. This is an amazing book that inspires and teaches. Of the hundreds of cookbooks on my shelf, this is the only one I have read cover to cover twice. Anyone serious about barbecue, about food, must have this book.
Best for Beginners: Diva Q's Barbecue, 195 Recipes for Cooking with Family, Friends & Fire
Danielle "Diva Q" Bennett is a fierce competitor on the barbecue circuit and a serious cook. This book is her take on everything from simple grilling to complex smoking and loads of bacon. The recipes are inventive and many are downright fantastic. The instruction is clear and easy to follow, making this the perfect book for the experienced barbecue smoker, or the beginner griller.
Runner-Up, Best for Beginners: Smoke & Spice, Cooking With Smoke
This is The Book. When the Jamison's put this book together they created the real Bible of Barbecue, the one book most modern barbecue cooks start with (and keeps going with). This is a great cookbook that puts barbecue in the hands of real people with hundreds of fantastic recipes for pretty much everything you can put in a smoker. If you want to learn to cook barbecue, this is the book to start with.
Best for Technique: Slow Fire, The Beginner's Guide to Lip-Smacking Barbecue
Twenty years ago Ray Lampe, aka Dr. BBQ, entered a small barbecue competition just to see if he was any good. Turns out he was, and still is. From award-winning competitor to award-winning author, Ray has become a mainstay in the barbecue world and one of the most well known and well liked. Taking his years of experience, Ray has written half a dozen books, starting with the modern classic, Dr BBQ's Big-Time Barbecue Cookbook. Then he came out with Slow Fire: The Beginner's Guide to Lip-Smacking Barbecue. Not only is it produced very well, but the content is straightforward and simple enough for any novice of barbecue, yet thorough enough to give you great barbecue with little experience. Whether you are new to barbecue or not, this is a great book.
Best for History: Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book
If you were to make a list of the most important, influential, and best barbecue joints in America, somewhere towards the top of that list would be Big Bob Gibson's in Decatur, AL. For 85 years, this restaurant has served up some of the best barbecue in the country. Famous for barbecue chicken served in a white barbecue sauce, aficionados continue to flock here to take their bite of history. These days Big Bob's Gibson's is in the hands of Chris Lilly who married into the family and worked his way from the bottom to the top of the barbecue world. This book—part cookbook, part history—is the legacy of the Gibson dream.
Best for Texas BBQ: The Prophets of Smoked Meat
When Daniel Vaughn moved to Texas he didn't just embrace its barbecue traditions, he devoured them. As blogger and barbecue writer for Texas Monthly, Daniel has compiled the only road map of Texas worth owning: the list of the best barbecue joints Texas has to offer. Note, this is not a cookbook, but a travelogue of the back roads of barbecue. This book won't teach anyone how to make great barbecue, but it will certainly make them hungry for it.
Best for Memphis BBQ: Peace, Love, & Barbecue
Mike Mills is a legend in barbecue. He is the only man to win Grand Master and the Memphis in May barbecue competition. This book is as much a biography of this, as told by himself and his daughter, as it is a cookbook. The recipes are great, but the storytelling is better. This book will give you the recipes that won the Memphis in May competition and launched seven restaurants from New York to Las Vegas.