Looking for a barbecue and grilling cookbook that has it all? Consider the latest book from the Virgil's Real Barbecue enterprise, Virgil's Barbecue Road Trip Cookbook (St. Martin's Press, $30) which allows home cooks to recreate some of the restaurant's most popular dishes, along with some great additions that aren't found on the menu.
Like the restaurant, the cookbook captures the different styles of barbecue from around the country, paying homage to Memphis (see the spareribs recipe below), the Carolinas, Kansas City, and, of course, Texas. This is true to the spirit of the restaurant that Artie Cutler founded in 1994 at the original location in Times Square. Cutler traveled to all these locales before opening to discover what separated good 'cue from bad, and it has made a meaningful impact.
With nearly 100 recipes, there's plenty to keep the budding barbecue enthusiast busy, happy, and sated. Along with the essential barbecue mains — beef, pork, chicken, and yes, seafood — there are all the classic sides one would expect (the corn muffins, a cookout essential, are very good), creative starters like "trash ribs" (a tasty way to repurpose leftover spareribs after a party), the restaurant's marinades and sauces, boozy libations, and dessert. While the authors have taken care to organize a number of these dishes into larger-format suggested menus, there are certainly enough recipes in the book that home cooks can mix and match within a shorter timeframe during the course of the week — for example, quicker-cooking grilled fish, steak, and burger recipes (there's just no getting around the fact that good barbecue takes time) paired with sides like collard greens (see recipe below) and baked beans.
Perhaps the most useful aspect of the book, though, is the basic guide to grilling and smoking techniques and equipment found in the beginning, as well as relevant advice that's scattered throughout the book. Readers will learn about how to fry food properly, barbecue and beer pairings, and when to pull meat off the grill, and gain skills to help them become more confident in the kitchen and out on the grill.
With grilling season around the corner, this cookbook would be a fine addition to the shelf for any home cook interested in barbecue.