For me, the Bible of backyard barbecue books remains Weber’s Big Book of Grilling, published in 2001. My battered copy is littered with yellow, blue and pink sticky notes marking dishes I’ve cooked over the years.
In a quick search of my home library, I found a half-dozen Weber-related books. No surprise. I’ve been a devoted Weber Kettle user for nearly half a century. More recently, I’ve become a fan of the Weber Smokey Mountain.
The latest addition to my book collection is The Secrets to Great Charcoal Grilling on the Weber by competition champ Bill Gillespie, published this month.
In its short review, Publisher’s Weekly called the book “reliable if sometimes uninspired” and questioned whether an experienced griller/smoker, like me, would find much useful information.
My quick answer is yes. There is lots of useful information, especially when Gillespie explains some of his competition techniques for chicken, ribs, and brisket.
Competitions are different from backyard cooking. In competitions, you’re trying to produce one spectacular bite for each judge, instead of a full meal for a few friends.
For competitions, Gillespie cooks chicken thighs, bone in, skin on. The dark meat has more flavor and retains moisture better, he says.
Before cooking, he peels back the skin on each thigh, applies a simple rub directly on the meat, and then reattaches the skin. He refrigerates the thighs at least four hours, or overnight. The recipes for a couple different rubs, a simple sauce, and a brisket marinade and injection are included in the book.
When he’s ready to cook the chicken, Bill Gillespie injects each thigh with chicken broth, sprinkles rub on top, and sets each thigh on a pad of butter in an aluminum pan.
Gourmet cooks, thanks to the French and Julia Child, have long known the importance of butter.
“Because you can never have too much butter,” director Norah Ephron told NPR in an interview about her 2009 movie, Julie and Julia. Similar words were also uttered by one of the lead characters.
The Posse has long known one secret of butter and barbecue. It’s our preferred method for reheating leftover brisket and ribs from great joints like Snow’s and Franklin. Loosely wrap the leftovers in foil and put lots of butter on top. Then slowly warm in the oven.
Now, though, we’re going to start looking for more ways to use butter on the front end of our cooks, too.
Gillespie also has good advice for the simplest of grilling fare, hot dogs. Keep them moving every 30 seconds so they don’t burn.
Common sense? Certainly. But it’s one of those fundamental practices that’s easy to lose track of when you have friends over for a cookout, or even at competitions.
Years ago at the Blues, Bandits & BBQ festival in Dallas, I managed to burn all but one of Bryan Gooding’s homemade sausages that we cooked for judges. That one, by default, became our entry. Even though we won first place, I still get plenty of razzing from my Posse mates for that lapse.
Perhaps the best advice in Gillespie’s book pertains to an overall approach to grilling and barbecue. He says that because everyone’s taste preferences and palates are different, “you can always cook with the chef’s tasting preference in mind!”
I like that.
So, if you don’t have any grilling/barbecue books, Bill Gillespie’s new book is a good place to start. His last book, Secrets to Smoking on Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker and other Smokers, has more than 100,000 copies in print, according to the publisher, so he has lots of fans.
Even if you do have many books and are an experienced cook, Gillespie still reveals a few tricks for us old dogs.
The Secrets to Great Charcoal Grilling on the Weber
By Bill Gillespie, with Tim O’Keefe
Page Street Publishing Co.