Friday, February 8, 2019

Review: Project Smoke by Steven Raichlen

Project Smoke
by Steven Raichlen [641.578 Rai] 

Smoked foods are my culinary passion, and the libraries have a large number of books dealing with the art of smoke cooking — slow cooking over a low heat source with various types of smoke to flavor the food being cooked. Steven Raichlen is one of the gurus of BBQ and smoke cooking, having put out such well-known cookbooks as The Barbecue! Bible, How to Grill, Beer-Can Chicken, BBQ USA, and Planet Barbecue prior to this volume. Those earlier volumes dealt with the art of cooking on a grill, and some of them included information about “smoke cooking” but it wasn’t the focus of any of those titles. Project Smoke is all about the smoke, and how best to incorporate it into the cooking process.

In this 293-page tome, the first 55 pages and the last 30 pages are highly-detailed guides to the mechanics and technical details of smoke cooking — looks at the many different types of smokers on the market, explorations of the differences between lump charcoal and briquettes as your base burning fuel, the differences between forms (logs, chunks, chips, sawdust) and types of wood, and their difference flavor profiles — do you know your Hickory from your Mesquite, your Apple from your Mulberry — and do you know which foods are best complimented by which wood smokes? He includes detailed looks at the tools and accessories necessary for successful smoke cooking, and he explores how to start and effectively maintain a fire at the proper burn level. The section at the back of the book compares and contrasts the features and drawbacks of each type of smoker on the market — from upright barrel/drum smokers (the type I personally use), to off-set barrels, ceramic/Kamado cookers, gas/box smokers, pellet grills, stovetop smokers (for indoor cooking), and even handheld smokers for introducing smoke flavors into cocktails.

As always, with Raichlen books, the majority of the content is recipes — broken into ten categories: Starters, Beef, Pork, Lamb, Burgers – Sausages -and More, Poultry, Seafood, Vegetables – Side Dishes – and Meatless Smoking, Desserts, and Cocktails. Some of the more intriguing recipes in this volume make me think I’m going to have to buy a copy for myself. They include: “Deviled Smoked Eggs”, “Hay-Smoked Mozzarella”, “Bacon-Crab Poppers”, “Home-Smoked Pastrami”, “Honey-Cured Ham Ribs”, “Made-From-Scratch Bacon”, “Double Whisky-Smoked Turkey”, “Smoked Shrimp Cocktail (with Chipotle-Orange Cocktail Sauce)”, “Salmon Candy”, “Creamed Smoked Corn”, “Smoked Chocolate Bread Pudding”, “Dragon’s Breath” (a bourbon cocktail that is served with smoke in the glass), and “Bacon Bourbon” (bourbon infused with the flavor of smoked bacon). Raichlen scatters sidebar articles throughout the entire book, filled with fascinating and helpful factoids — things such as lists of ingredients that can impart a smoke flavor when you don’t have the equipment to actually smoke cook, or “You Can Smoke What? 28 Foods You Never Dreamed You Could Smoke”.

My only complaint is that the use of photos is somewhat limited — those photos that are included are gorgeous and very helpful in showing what finished dishes should look like. But less than half the recipes have corresponding photos. Still, this is a minor complaint in the overall scheme of things, and I otherwise highly recommend this volume to anyone who likes to cook with smoke.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Barbecue! Bible and Planet Barbecue, also by Steven Raichlen, or Smoke & Spice, by Cheryl Alters Jamison.]

[ official Steven Raichlen web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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