First, 1,001 recipes? Really, is there a need for that many recipes? I figure slow cooked pork butt, pork shoulder or whole hog pretty much covers it and saves 998 recipes. Second, the books cover features a quote from Regis Philbin: “Rick Browne is one of America’s leading barbecue experts.” Until proven otherwise, I would assume Regis Philbin knows about as much about barbecue as Al Roker knows about 13th century Italian poetry. Third, and most important, I noticed the word “grilling” in the title and the word “barbecue” used in Philbin’s quote.
In my opinion, grilling and barbecue are two different things, like sauteing and pan-frying: related techniques but not the same. Whereas grilling is cooking for a relatively short time over high heat, barbecuing is cooking for a relatively long time over lower heat. Plus, real barbecuing requires wood or charcoal, whereas you can grill over gas, electric or anything else you can dream up. Browne takes on my holier-than-thou attitude before he even gets to page one.
In his Introduction, Browne writes, “This book is a collection of recipes I’ve gathered over ten years of roaming… an endless pursuit of the world’s best barbecue and grilling recipes–terms, by the way, that I use interchangeably, much to the chagrin of some barbecue purists. But to me, if you cook food outdoors using wood, charcoal, natural gas, propane or just about any other combustible materials, you’re barbecuing.” Well, I won’t concede this point, especially knowing that Browne is a Canadian by birth and therefore should be viewed with suspicion, but I give Browne credit for addressing it right off the bat. Plus, the man knows more about barbecue (and grilling) than most anyone on the planet.
Rick Browne’s TV show, “Barbecue America”, aired on PBS for seven years. He has published several cookbooks, including The Best Barbecue on Earth, The Barbecue America Cookbook, and Barbecue America: A Pilgrimage in Search of America’s Best Barbecue. He has traveled to dozens of countries across the globe and sampled the local fare straight from the grill. In short, Browne has a barbecue resume that makes my North Carolina take on barbecue look downright provincial.
Indeed, Browne’s 1,001 Best Grilling Recipes is not a cookbook for the provincial barbecuer, whether from North Carolina, Texas or parts in between. Sure, Browne includes some American standbys like Memphis Dry Ribs, but far more common are creative (sacreligious?) twists on classics, such as Pulled Pork with Root Beer Barbecue Sauce. Many other recipes stray from the barbecue canon entirely, such as: Breast of Wild Goose with Lingonberry Sauce, Asian Barbecued Leg of Lamb, Grilled Mozzy Tomatoes, and Thai Maple-Soy Pork Patties. (If it sounds like I randomly flipped through the book and put my finger down on those recipes, that is exactly what I did.)
Without pictures of the recipes, the book is densely packed with recipes, which is a good strategy when you have 1,001 to share. Honestly, even without photos the vast majority of Browne’s recipes look terrific. 1,001 Best Grilling Recipes is not the best cookbook to buy if you want to focus on mastering traditional American barbecue dishes. If you want a thorough introduction to the wide world of, ahem, grilling AND barbecuing, then Browne’s book fits the bill.