"Barbecue! Bible: Sauces Rubs and Marinades," by Steven Raichlen

Pros: Stupendous variety of rubs, sauces, marinades, etc.; directions for coming up with your own
Cons: None that I can think of!
Rating: 5 out of 5

First posted 3/6/2006

I’m not a barbecue fiend, but I definitely love marinated and spice-rubbed meats. I am a fiend, after all, for high-intensity flavor, and since I started on the South Beach Diet I’m always looking for new ways to add flavor to lean meats without adding sugar or saturated fats. Obviously a number of the recipes in here do call for some form of sugar, and I absolutely loved the flavors of them before switching dietary habits, but the unsweetened spice mixes in here are far more versatile than even the title of the book–“Barbecue! Bible: Sauces Rubs and Marinades, Bastes Butters & Glazes, over 200 Recipes”–would seem to indicate.

There are so many more uses for these seasoning mixes than just barbecuing meats. I like to keep at least three different spice mixes in airtight containers in the cupboard at any given time. I sprinkle them on meats, add them to omelets and fried eggs, mix them into grains and rice, use them to give zing to casseroles, soups and beans, and more. No longer do you have to juggle a dozen spices, not sure how to get the balance of flavors just right–simply pick a mix you believe will complement the flavor of what you’re making and add a pinch or a teaspoon.

If you truly want to go crazy, however, you don’t have to stick to the wonderful mixes Mr. Raichlen provides here. He includes instructions for building your own barbecue sauce, going over all the different categories of ingredients and the possible flavorings you might use.

As if this weren’t enough, Mr. Raichlen also includes plenty of instructional material to go with his recipes–equipment suggestions, barbecuing guidelines, food safety tips, and more. If you’ve never barbecued before, or only have a minimal background, you’ll find quite a bit of value in this book. Even if you don’t barbecue, however, see past the title to the greater usefulness of this book. There’s no reason you can’t spice-rub a piece of meat and pan-sear it in cast iron, for example. Certainly the sauces and relishes are useful no matter what type of cooking you prefer.

The flavors, however, are the best part. One of my favorite spice mixes involves, of all things, lemonade drink mix. I never would have thought to try something like that on my own, and yet it’s absolutely fantastic. You’ll find everything from the tried and true to the wildly outlandish (blueberry barbecue sauce!). Even those recipes I haven’t been wowed by have struck me as being of the not-my-taste variety, rather than in any way “bad”.

There are no photos, but then I think we all know what barbecue looks like at this point. The recipes are fairly simple, since most of what you’re doing is combining spices. I find the recipes make a bit much for my uses, but if you have a big family gathering to cook for you’ll welcome the amounts, and it’s easy to halve recipes for smaller uses. The layout is simple and fairly easy-to-read–not the most beautiful I’ve seen, but it doesn’t in any way detract from the utility of the cookbook.

In short, if you enjoy barbecue or even just flavorful meat dishes, then you owe it to yourself to get a copy of this cookbook. You might just find a great number of uses for it beyond the obvious!

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