Monday, August 04, 2014

Fire & Smoke: A Pitmaster's Secrets by Chris Lilly - Book Review

When an opportunity came to review a book on BBQ recipes, you know I jumped at it!  Below are my thoughts on Fire & Smoke:  A Pitmaster's Secrets by Chris Lilly - available on if you'd like a copy.

Synopsis from the publisher:
Grill like a pro with the expert recipes and tips in Fire and Smoke.
 World champion pitmaster Chris Lilly combines the speed of grilling with the smoky flavors of low-and-slow barbecue for great meals any night of the week, no fancy equipment required. Cook trout in a cast-iron skillet nestled right in smoldering coals for a crispy yet tender and flaky finish. Roast chicken halves in a pan on a hot grill, charring the skin while capturing every bit of delicious juice. Infuse delicious smoke flavors into fruits and vegetables, even cocktails and desserts. Fire and Smoke gives you 100 great reasons to fire up your grill or smoker tonight.

I got this book at the beginning of the summer and have been slowly paging through it collecting ideas, drooling over the exceptional photos from the hunger they inspire!  I'm not a big cookbook guy, generally wanting a recipe so I can get to work, no fluff needed kind of guy.  But this book is magnificent!  The images are so great that I find myself wanting to eat things I know I'd never eat!!  Really great work done there.

Then in the area that really matters, the food itself, this book is spot on.  Chris Lilly is vice president, executive chef, and partner of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q, and he brings the good stuff.  If he is holding back anything I'd be amazed (no "secret sauce" recipes, though he does give rub and sauce recipes).  In the world of BBQ, Lilly has the pedigree needed to be immediately accepted as an expert in the field.  Then reading through the book, it quickly becomes apparent that he knows his stuff in a way that makes it fun to cook and eat.  Some of the recipes are quite involved, but many are things that a true novice in the kitchen and behind the grill could readily reproduce.

How great is this book?  So great that I gave a copy to my buddy Brenton Balvin who regularly fills in preaching for me when I need a week off.  I love this book so much that I was excited to bless him with a copy of it as well.

I've read a handful of BBQ books over the years, and I would readily say that this one doesn't cover a whole lot of new territory when it comes to foods to cook, or even ways to prepare that food.  It's all been said and done somewhere else by someone else.  But that in no way disqualifies this book.  You find in its pages excellent recipes for beef, pork, chicken, fish, vegetables - just about anything you can put over fire there is something in that category.  There are also cocktail recipes, how to cook a pizza on a grill details, and much, much more.  In a fairly small book it covers a lot of ground giving you something that you could use to wow friends and families off your grill for years to come.

Will this book replace Steven Raichlen's The Barbecue Bible?  No, it isn't as comprehensive as Raichlen.  But it doesn't have to either.  This book offers a little something from nearly every category imaginable for grilling, and doesn't get bogged down being what it isn't.  There is room on your shelf for both, and both will serve you well.  It has a very readable introduction to the tools of the trade, and then gets right down to business with what to make and how to make it, with exceptional photographs of it all throughout.  This book makes me want to grill.  This book makes me want to eat.  That is the measure, for me at least, of whether it is worth owning.  It is.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.  I was under no obligation to leave a positive review, but was happy to do so for this great book!