This week’s guest post is compliments of Casey Barber, editor of online food magazine Good. Food. Stories. Casey is just as in love with cookbooks as I am, so I’m always excited to hear her picks!
I’m not trying to sell out my own gender, but the first thing that popped into my head upon picking up Julie Reinhardt’s She-Smoke: A Backyard Barbecue Book was: “So why would girls need their own book on grilling?”
See, we have a nontraditional relationship with the grill in my house. When our behemoth stainless-steel grill was first installed, I thought my husband would feel the primal stirrings of fat against flame, tie on his “Real Men Don’t Use Recipes” apron, and get to work flipping patties. I could relax, knock back a few cold ones, and let him do the cooking for a change.
No such luck. The hubs had no need to assert his masculinity by standing in front of a wall of heat on a 90˚ day to gently coax hunks of meat into submission, and so I took on grilling duties as I do all other culinary responsibilities under our roof.
But apparently that’s not the case elsewhere, as I’ve discovered from reading this book and doing an informal poll amongst friends – if someone has a male S.O. around the house, chances are he’s the one “manning” the grill (oh, bad pun, I know). So I applaud Reinhardt for breaking it down for those who might be afraid of a propane tank, a charcoal chimney, or the idea of cooking a 12-pound piece of meat for 18 hours over hot coals.
A grilling primer to devour before you preheat the grill
She-Smoke aims for a comprehensive overview of all barbecue styles, sauces, rubs, techniques, and cooking tools. Yes, there are female-centric sidebars, but a dude reading this would get just as much out of the book as I did. Charts on cooking methods, times, and temperatures for all proteins are extremely helpful. Even if you don’t want to slow-smoke ribs or entire Thanksgiving turkeys, there’s enough basic info in here to get you going with steaks, burgers, fish, shrimp skewers—and even smoked veggies and tofu, which sound very intriguing to this lapsed vegetarian.
Not to mention that Reinhardt has taught me what might possibly be the greatest grilling tip of all time: if your grill doesn’t have an external temperature gauge (or if it does, but you don’t trust it), stab your digital thermometer probe the whole way through a potato so the tip sticks out. Place the potato on your grill grates as your food cooks to accurately monitor the interior temperature. Genius.
One drawback to She-Smoke is that the illustrations could be a bit more… illustrative. They’re cute, but why not spring for a few well-shot photos when you’re explaining how to book-cut a salmon or carve a brisket? Though I know how to spatchcock a chicken, I wonder how the drawing below might help someone attempting the procedure for the first time.
The other problem—which isn’t Reinhardt’s fault, it’s mine—is that I’m working exclusively on a gas grill, not a charcoal one. It’s so freaking easy to light in inclement weather (the grill hooks up directly to our home gas line), but because it is gas-powered, we’re always missing out on the infused smoky flavor that comes from the old-timey charcoal kettles.
So as a beginner to the world of smoked meats and low-and-slow authentic barbecue, this book offers an inspiring foundation for me to do more. Reinhardt frankly states that she doesn’t think real barbecue can be approximated that successfully on a gas grill, and after a few initial experiments with a smoker box and hickory chips, I have to agree with her. The Thai Marinade (page 96) and the marinade for the Kalbi Short Ribs (page 61) for smoked—lightly, in my case—chicken were phenomenal, but now I want bigger, better, more.
Sigh. Hello, summer project—it looks like I’ll be laying down some cash for a second outdoor cooking apparatus soon. The question is, Weber Smokey Mountain or Big Green Egg?
- She-Smoke contains comprehensive explanation of various grills, smoking equipment, and accessories that make this a smart read for the newbie bbq queen who has yet to buy her grilling equipment. You could fend off some bad buys (and look like a total expert at the local hardware depot) just by reading the first few sections.
- Charts of cooking times, methods, and temperatures for all proteins (beef, lamb, chicken, pork, fish, and shellfish) make this book something you’ll want to keep beside the grill for all your summer parties. Maybe you’ll want to laminate those pages for easy reference.
- The diversity of recipes and preparations, including copious recipes for sauces, marinades, and side dishes, makes this more than just a smoker’s cookbook—and a lifesaver for when you’ve got a vegetarian coming to your cookout.
- Although Reinhardt includes modifications for smoking on a gas grill, your results won’t be as flavorfully smoky if that’s the only piece of equipment in your backyard—potentially setting you up for a pricey purchase of a second grill.
- The book would benefit greatly from photography instead of illustrations to fully explain cuts of meat and carving methods. The black-and-white doodles included just don’t cut it. (Pun intended.)
- The cramped black-and-white design of the book rushes you through each chapter without letting the text breathe—allowing each recipe to stand on its own would lengthen the page count, sure, but breaking up the flow with some color and headers would allow for more intuitive indexing and cross-referencing.
- ¼ cup sesame oil
- ½ cup soy sauce or tamari
- ½ cup rice wine vinegar
- ½ cup packed brown sugar
- 1 tsp powdered ground ginger
- 2 tbsp fresh grated ginger
- 2 tbsp red pepper flakes
- 4 boneless beef short ribs
- Whisk all ingredients except the short ribs together in a large bowl, then pour into a large zip-top bag. Add the short ribs and marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
- An hour before you plan to serve the ribs, remove them from the fridge and preheat the grill to medium-high, with a zone reserved for indirect heat.
- Remove the ribs from the marinade and shake off the excess. Place over direct heat to sear the meat, turning every 1-2 minutes so each side gets grill marks.
- Move the ribs to the indirect heat zone and cook for 10 minutes, turning once, until the internal meat temperature reaches 140˚.
- Transfer the ribs to a platter, cover with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes.
- Slice very thinly against the grain before serving. This preparation also makes great meat for fajitas or works well accompanied by rice, stir-fry noodles, or atop some leafy greens for an Asian steak salad.