Memorial Day officially kicks off grilling season in America as backyard chefs eagerly pull the covers off their grills, smokers and egg-shaped cookers.
With dancing flames and plenty of showmanship involved, cooking outside has become a spectator sport.
But before you ignite that fire, peruse these recipes from four newly released cookbooks that have earned a spot in our backyard kitchens.
We thumbed through each and found not only several menu items worthy of a summer cookout, but blueprints for entertaining, crash courses on culinary literacy, historical anecdotes, step-by-step instruction on building outdoor cookers, plus lots of lush photography so we can envision the end result.
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Let the flames begin!
By Tom Mylan
A former vegetarian turned meat maven, Tom Mylan became a carnivore after tasting meat raised by local family farms in New York. Now he’s the executive chef and co-owner of a sustainable butcher shop in Brooklyn that shares the same name as his first cookbook.
The Meat Hook Meat Book: Buy, Butcher and Cook Your Way to Better Meat demystifies meat not only for aspiring butchers and gourmands, but for the average home cook. With recipes categorized by meat type — beef, pork, lamb, duck, rabbit and so on — the book also educates the reader on farming, breeding and slaughter practices as well as buying sustainable, humanely raised meat.
Expect two-page spreads of butchered raw carcasses with detailed labeling identifying each cut. (If you’ve never cut up a whole animal, start with a chicken, which Mylan calls the gateway meat for a budding butcher.) Try his straightforward recipe for pork spareribs shown here, dubbed “rooftop” for his days smoking meats atop his Brooklyn apartment building.
By Paula Marcoux
Storey Publishing, $19.95
Food historian Paula Marcoux worked professionally as an archaeologist in a past life and regularly gives workshops on historical baking, natural leavening and wood-fire cooking.
In her first cookbook, Cooking With Fire, the food editor of Edible South Shore magazine leads readers through an examination of live-fire cooking across cultures and throughout the ages. The book is as much a DIY guide to building heat-harnessing structures as it is a food history lesson with recipes.
Learn how to spit roast, bake bread under ashes, sear with a hot iron and make a hot bed of hardwood coals for Marcoux’s flavorful and tender beef, red pepper, and mushroom skewers. She recommends serving them with flatbread or a grain side dish.
By Ben Ford with Carolynn Carreno
Atria Books, $34.99
His handcrafted feasts of enormous proportions are known to wow crowds in his home state of California, where Ben Ford, chef and owner of Ford’s Filling Station and son of respected actor Harrison Ford, will whole-roast a pig, prep paella for 80 or dole out burgers for an entire block.
Readers can do the same by using Ford’s first cookbook , Taming the Feast: Ben Ford’s Field Guide to Adventurous Cooking, as a guide. Touted as a “culinary MacGyver,” Ford also provides illustrated instructions for constructing a cinder block oven, smoking shed, baking barrel and roasting box. Contents are broken out by feasts — a lakehouse fish fry, Hill Country barbecue and Sunday roast are a few.
Each feast starts with a helpful timeline of to-dos. Last on the list for these grilled beer-braised brats with semi-homemade sauerkraut, which come from the book’s Burger and Bratwurst Block Party chapter, is “Grab a beer and start grilling.”
By Steven Raichlen
Workman Publishing, $24.95
Man cannot live by grill alone, says barbecue guru Steven Raichlen in his newest cookbook, Man Made Meals: The Essential Cookbook for Guys, which aims to teach the guys how to navigate the kitchen with confidence using knife talk, cast iron-skillet cuisine, and recipes like rum and Coke floats and candied bacon sundaes to draw them inside.
There are also interviews with fellow “food dudes” like Andrew Zimmern, Thomas Keller, Jose Andres and others on technique, favorite foods and philosophies. But the master griller, who brought us the Barbecue! Bible cookbook series and TV shows Primal Grill and Barbecue University, provides plenty of opportunity to play with fire with recipes like this planked salmon, which can go on the grill or in the oven if it rains come cookout time.
The wooden plank and three-ingredient glaze makes the meal simple enough for a weeknight yet spectacular enough for a party.