Review (and giveaway!) of BBQ 25 by Adam Perry Lang
*See the bottom of the review for the giveaway information
BBQ 25 is Adam Perry Lang's (hereafter, APL) take on essential grilling recipes. He set out to perfect the 25 recipes people cook the most when they grill. The book is a fascinating look at the techniques a professional chef uses to build layers of flavor into his barbecue.
I was expecting BBQ 25 to be a simplified version of Serious Barbecue, APL's previous book, and a magnum opus on grilling. BBQ 25, with its 25 essential recipes theme, sounded like a book you give to a beginner. Oh boy, was I wrong about that. It is Serious Barbecue distilled to its essence, but not simplified. APL has a set of basic techniques he uses: marinate or brine, then season, then grill (while basting with butter and a herb brush), then glaze with sauce, then cut on a cutting board seasoned with board dressing.
*When I grill, I have a two step process; marinate or brine or pre-salt, then grill. When I want to get fancy, I add a third step, usually a glaze or a butter baste. APL says he "has no more than ten steps" in these recipes. Where I tend to use the word "or" (as in, brine OR season OR glaze), APL uses the word "and" (brine AND season AND butter baste AND glaze...)
One other surprise in the book is APL's love of using cookware on the grill. Most of the recipes involve a butter baste, applied with a brush made out of a bundle of herbs. A lot of the recipes also involve a griddle or a pan on half of the grill, with the food moving back and forth between the grill and the pan. *APLs ingenious use of cookware on the grill makes me want to run out and get a cast iron skillet; for now, I used my disposable foil pans to try out his recipes.
What do I think of this book? I have to admit, at first glance I had mixed feelings. My idea of perfect grilling is the art of simplicity: excellent meat, salt, and fire. This book is about squeezing every extra layer of flavor into a recipe. For a good steak, I think this is overkill. But some cuts of meat work very well with this approach. Very lean meat (chicken breasts and pork loin) need all the help they can get. Bombing them with flavor, as APL puts it, is a good thing to do.
Each of his flavor building techniques are good steps to know. I plan on using a lot of them, but not in the massed combinations he does. (For example, his butter baste with an herb brush was the final touch to my award winning grilled steak.)
*If your goal is to awe your guests, or you're in a cooking competition, then APL's "More is more" approach is what you want to use. There is a reason he has been so successful on the competition barbecue circuit.
While I may prefer simple recipes, Adam's overkill approach is the biggest strength of BBQ 25. He didn't dumb this book down for a casual audience; he just removed the distractions. APL shows the reader how a professional chef applies a similar set of techniques across a range of recipes. The reader gets to see how a professional chef uses flavor combinations with that set of techniques, to build layer after layer of flavor. I'm a big fan of basic techniques in cooking, and APL shows you exactly what his techniques are, and how he uses them.
This book is an excellent resource for experienced grillers who want to step up to the next level of cooking. I highly recommend it.
*PS: Stay tuned; later this week, I take on two of the recipes in BBQ 25.
BBQ 25 Giveaway
So...after all that, do you think you've got what it takes to handle this book? It's giveaway time!
I've got an extra copy for one of my readers. Leave a comment with your top 3 to 5 essential grilling recipes. One entry per person, and please make sure there is some way I can get in touch with you through the comment. (In other words...no anonymous comments, unless you identify yourself in the text of the comment.) Entries will be closed at 9PM EST on
Thursday, May 20th, Sunday, May 23rd and I will randomly select a lucky winner at that point. The winner will be announced Sunday. Good luck!
[Update 5/23/2010]: We have a winner for the giveaway - random.org picked commenter #4 - Congratulations, Cheryl! I'll be in touch to get you the book.
[FCC Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book to review, and a second copy for my giveaway.]
Adam Perry Lang: BBQ 25
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