Are you looking to learn how to BBQ like a pro? If so, check out this guide to discover the best cookbooks for grilling.
Did you know that 75% of adults in the United States own a grill or smoker? That is a vast number, indicating three-quarters of our population! If you’ve landed on this article, chances are you’re one of them.
There are a few favored holidays for outdoor grilling—Mother’s and Father’s Day, Fourth of July, Memorial Day, and Labor Day. But 63% of grill owners use their cooking machine year-round.
The top reason for cooking outdoors? To improve flavor.
The numbers don’t lie—Americans love barbecue.
So when you pull out the grill, what are the best cookbooks to have by your side? Which ones will help you grow in your grilling game, impressing friends and family, and even yourself? Which teach techniques, tricks, and methods for producing the best barbecue you possibly can?
We’ve curated a list of the ten best BBQ cookbooks out there.
Forget the phone—with cookbooks, you can dog-ear pages, make your own edits, and keep them around for years to come. You can even pass them down to your children one day or gift them to a fellow BBQ lover.
Let’s get grilling!
1. Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto
This cookbook is written by Aaron Franklin, owner of the acclaimed Franklin Barbecue, and coauthor Jordan Mackay.
Franklin owns the BBQ joint by the same name, which is lauded over nationwide. In 2009, Franklin and his wife, Stacy, opened up a barbecue trailer on this side of the interstate in Austin, Texas. A decade later, and they’ve earned a reputation that precedes them.
Franklin has won nearly every BBQ award there is—for a good reason. And in 2015, he decided to share some of the secrets to his success. His book covers it all—how to find and cure the perfect wood; how to tend a fire; and of course, how to cook top-quality meat in the best way possible.
2. Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling
Thank you, Greg Blonder and Meathead Goldwyn, for producing a great cookbook that’s arguably one of the most popular barbecue cookbooks out there. And with a name like Meathead, you can guarantee he’s got some knowledge to impart.
Owner of the renowned website AmazingRibs.com, Meathead shares not only how to cook great BBQ, but the science behind it. Coauthor Greg Blonder is a food scientist himself. Together, they’ve written a cookbook that applies science to everything barbecue—fire, smoke, heat, food.
Check out this cookbook for over 100 thoroughly-tested recipes and the complex concepts behind them.
3. Smoke and Spice by Bill and Cheryl Jamison
The tagline of this cookbook says it all: Cooking with Smoke, the Real Way to Barbecue. This book, which features 450 recipes, was the first BBQ cookbook ever published! To this day, it remains a staple in many home cooks’ kitchens.
Check it out for mouth-watering imagery, a plethora of unique recipes, and information on all the perfect barbecue accompaniments. It’s an ideal beginner’s guide, too, for those who are less experienced on the grill.
4. The Barbecue! Bible by Steven Raichlen
You’ll see the name Steven Raichlen three times on this list because Raichlen is a barbecue boss. He’s published 31 cookbooks under his name—Planet Barbecue; How to Grill; Project Fire, and more. He also founded the Barbecue University in Colorado Springs.
Additionally, he’s an award-winning journalist. On top of his barbecue expertise, he knows how to write a book that captivates audiences.
This cookbook, or bible, if you wish, is the biggest collection of recipes out there. It features over 500, and they’re all delicious and easy-to-make. Raichlen has a way of explaining methods in an understandable way, making greatness possible for anyone and everyone.
5. Project Smoke by Steven Raichlen
Raichlen strikes again! This cookbook teaches you how to reach “smoked food nirvana.”
If you have a love of smoking, then this is the book for you. Raichlen teaches you how to choose the perfect smoker, how to use and understand the variety of tools, and how to master the techniques. He also explains the different methods of smoking: hot-smoking, cold-smoking, rotisserie-smoking, and more.
Additionally, you have 100 brand-new recipes that are all amazing in their own right.
6. Taming the Flame: Secrets for Hot-And-Quick Grilling and Low-And-Slow BBQ
This book is proof that BBQing isn’t limited to males! Elizabeth Karmel has curated a beautiful cookbook that’s informative and scannable.
It’s also a great beginner’s guide, as it features anything from techniques and tools to what you should keep in your pantry. Each recipe offers a “guide to cuts” as well as a cooking timetable, allowing you to create something slow-and-juicy or quick-and-scrumptious.
7. Cool Smoke: The Art of Great Barbecue by Tuffy Stone
Who better to take barbecue advice from than five-time World Champion Pitmaster, co-host of Destination America’s BBQ Pitmasters, and co-owner of the acclaimed Q Barbecue restaurants? We’re talking about the pit boss himself, Tuffy Stone. And he’s awarded us civilians with a cookbook to end all cookbooks.
He tells us how to do it all:
- Cut your meat for optimal flavor
- Choose the best cooker for you
- Make brines, sauces, marinades, rubs, and more
Then, he offers over 100 recipes to try your new (or refined) skills on—including how to make a whole hog. He also tells you the perfect things to pair your meats with, like collard greens and corn pudding, as well as dessert.
8. Weber’s Big Book of Barbecue by Jamie Purviance
Jamie Purviance knows what he’s talking about. He also knows how to teach it. Turning his love of education and his extensive knowledge into a cookbook, we’ve got a big cookbook of barbecue to show for it.
He first fell in love with outdoor cooking in Asia, after stints of teaching in California and Indonesia. This brought him to the Culinary Institute of America, of which he graduated with honors. And since then, he’s published a plethora of award-winning cookbooks—this one’s no different.
This cookbook features over 200 brand-new, mouthwatering recipes, accompanied with step-by-step instructions on how to perfect them. It’s hard to produce anything but great results when following Purviuance’s instructions.
9. Peace, Love, and Barbecue: Recipes, Secrets, Tall Tales, and Outright Lies from the Legends of Barbecue
Would you appreciate a little storytelling with your dinner? In this cookbook by Amy Mills Tunnicliffe and Mike Mills, that’s exactly what you’ll get.
The authors are passionate pitmasters, Mike Mills being one of the top BBQ producers out there right now.
He was inducted into the Barbecue Hall of Fame in 2010, owns multiple BBQ joints throughout the states. His award-winning sauce recipe was passed down from his grandmother, and he learned to barbecue from his father. It’s safe to say that barbecue runs in Mills’ blood.
His James Beard Award-nominated cookbook brings us a little bit of everything—myths, instruction, travel destinations, recipes, photos. He introduces some friends and fellow BBQ lovers along the way. And complements it all with black-and-white photos that show a long and storied history of barbecue.
10. Barbecue! Bible Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades, Bastes, Butters, and Glazes
This cookbook is written by—you guessed it— Steven Raichlen. Here he is again, offering us yet another specific take on the world of barbecue. You’ll need this one on your bookshelf to teach you how to pair your meat with some of the best glazes and sauces out there.
There’s even a second edition out there—aptly named Barbecue Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades, Bastes, Butters and Glazes, Too.
He teaches you how to make a variety of sauces depending on your unique tastebuds:
- Tomato-Based American Sweet
- Bold Moroccan Charmoula
- Tex-Mex Tequila-Jalapeno Wet Rub
- Lawnside Spicy Apple Barbecue Sauce
- Coconut Curry Baste
Barbecue isn’t one-size-fits-all, and Raichlen knows that. That’s why he’s curated over 200 fantastic recipes that run the gamut. Whether you like it traditional and classic, or edgy and adventurous, there’s a recipe for you in here.
The Best Cookbooks for the Best Barbecue
All right, grill masters and BBQ bosses. It’s time to heat the grill or fire up the smoker. Get to cooking some of the fantastic recipes found in these pages.
These cookbooks range from step-by-step instructions to visual imagery to get your stomach growling. Whether you want to create an insane presentation, like a whole hog, or just want to create a unique sauce for a party, you’ll find the answers here.
With some of the best cookbooks come some of the best barbecue. Who knows—with enough practice, you may even write your own someday.
What other tools and accessories should you keep on hand for your next outdoor party? Check out this article that teaches you how to get everything you need, from a meat thermometer to that perfect saucepot.