The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke

Smoke It LIKE A PRO-Cookbook

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I have been looking forward to this Kamado grill cookbook since I heard about it over a year ago. The title is: Smoke It LIKE A PRO which is subtitled: On the Big Green Egg & Other Ceramic Cookers. It is further described on the cover as: An Independent Guide with Master Recipes from a Competition Barbecue Team. It is written by Eric Mitchell who is a New England based competition barbecue cook. He and his wife Cindi use Big Green Eggs to compete under the banner of Yabba Dabba Que. I have eaten food cooked by this pair fresh off the Egg on 6 different occasions and I can’t tell you how excited I am to finally have this book. While this book is written from the perspective of cooking the food on a Big Green Egg, it would be a similar experience on other Kamado cookers. But even if you don’t own a Kamado cooker, this book is well worth buying for the recipes alone.

I already knew Eric Mitchell had been competing on the BBQ circuit for about the last 8 years and had been president of the local KCBS chapter, the New England BBQ Society, for several years. I also knew he did food demonstrations in New England and New York for Tarantin Industries who is the distributor in the Northeast for the Big Green Egg. The introduction to the book filled in some additional information such as the fact he became a KCBS certified BBQ judge before going onto the competitive BBQ circuit. It also mentioned he has competed in the Jack Daniel’s Invitational and the American Royal Invitational. So he has some serious chops. I have had the pleasure of meeting talking to, and sampling food cooked by Eric Mitchell and his wife Cindi a half dozen times now. My BGE dealer, Oasis Hot Tub & Sauna, has two Customer Appreciation Days per year and they have Eric & Cindi cook and evangelize the Egg at them. They also appear at Tarantin’s NewEGGlandfest a regional Eggfest. Eric Mitchell’s food really opened my eyes to the virtually unlimited possibilities of the Egg. I knew the Egg was a versatile tool, but I never dreamed of some of the possibilities I discovered attending these events.

DISCLAIMER: I normally actually make some recipes from a cookbook before writing a review. I am making an exception this time around because I have eaten at least 8 of the recipes in this book. They were cooked by Eric and his wife Cindi under pressure filled conditions where they were trying to both cook and talk to visitors to their booth. Even under these less than ideal situations, the food was excellent. I looked at those recipes, as written in this cookbook, and found they are well written and I know I will have no trouble reproducing them myself. Therefor I feel I can write this review in good conscience and get the word out right away.

This cookbook is going to be very hard to write a concise review of. The recipes in it are wonderfully eclectic and it will be hard to try to give a quick overview of the book. The book is also not your typical cookbook in many ways and what I have decided to do is just hit some of the highlights.

One of the things that sets this book apart from many others is the specificity and level of detail of the introductory materials in Chapter 1. Part of this comes from the cookbook being specific to one grill-the Big Green Egg. Many general grilling cookbooks cover some of this same material too. The difference is because they are trying to cover a wide variety of grills, the information is way to general bordering on a waste of paper (or electrons). There are also many books or articles written about using the BGE that don’t get as specific. Sadly many other Egg related cookbooks are vague and gloss over some of the topics this book covers in great detail. You get step by step instructions on the startup procedure. But it doesn’t start with lighting the Egg, it begins with properly cleaning the Egg which is a key first step. The setup and lighting procedure is covered in great detail. You are given a big picture view of the process of lighting the Egg and getting it up to temperature. Later in the introduction in the section on Temperature Control you are given specific top and bottom damper settings used for achieving and holding specific temperature ranges. Learning where to set the dampers was the biggest learning curve item for me when I got my first Egg, The charts in this book will be invaluable to new users. It should be noted that throughout the book Mr. Mitchell mentions some products by brand where he feels it is best of class. He mentions his lump of choice is Wicked Good Weekend Warrior, which is the lump I currently use myself. Once again this brand specific type of recommendation is not always found in most cookbooks. This will also help new users achieve good results right from the start. For a new BGE user (or owners of other Kamado grills) the introductory material is worth the price of the book alone.

Several pages in the introduction are devoted to grill safety and food safety. Many cookbooks gloss over these topics or don’t mention them at all. The section on safety here is short but very complete. Kamado grills, with their tight seals, have their own specific issues such as Flashbacks and reverse drafts. Many Kamado cookbooks gloss over these topics, perhaps because it is “inconvenient” when you are trying to extoll the virtues of a ceramic grill. Smoke It LIKE A PRO goes into all of the various issues you may run into using a Kamado grill. Once again great stuff for beginners. They are also helpful for long time users who may have been unaware of some of these issues and have been living a charmed life. I learned a few things here myself. I had seen reverse draft before, where the Egg spurts out puffs of flames from the bottom damper, but I never knew the specific cause. Now I know when to look out for it. There are several paragraphs on food safety that cover a lot of ground without getting bogged down in minutia.

This chapter (Chapter 8) is at the end of the book. I am covering it here because it just as easily could have been placed at the beginning of the book. This chapter covers the construction of the Big Green Egg and how the various component work together to form a system. You are also told how the basic parts are assembled and maintained. The gasket is discussed in terms of why it is needed and how to care for your gasket. There is a very brief discussion of Eggcessories including the Adjustable Rig and Wok Spider from the Ceramic Grill Store. Once again this discussion is invaluable to a new BGE user and I learned a few tips too. The chapter ends with a discussion of sauces and rubs with some recipes. I find the pairing of BGE components and sauces and rubs a bit odd, but it doesn’t offend me in the least and doesn’t detract from your enjoyment of the book.

Another short chapter (Chapter 9) found at the end of the book covers cleaning your Egg, moving it around and taking it off-site, a brief discussion of tables and covers and then ends in a discussion of how to care for the various cast iron grilling and cooking components. Although the chapter is short, it is concise and there is some good information to be found here too.

Rather than jump back to these last couple sections at the end of this review, let me cover a few last sections found at the end of the book. The Resources section is a list of hyperlinked resources for Egg related equipment, some food items and some BBQ and BGE related associations and forums. There is also an Acknowledgements section and an Index section. The Index for me is the one slightly disappointing area in the book. Let me first explain that I bought the ebook version, as I usually do these days. I don’t buy it for economic reasons, I like the idea of not having a physical version taking up space. I like having the book available on my iPhone, iPad or computer where ever I am. One of the other things I like about ebooks is the instant access provided by hyperlinking. I understand this index cannot be paginated because an ebook’s page sizes are determined by the size of the screen you are viewing it on. But the indexes of ebooks are typically hyperlinked, allowing you to go straight to that page. This ebook’s index is NOT hyperlinked. They suggest using the search function, but to me that seems rather clunky and will often bring up more than one search result. Not a deal-breaker for me, but slightly disappointing in an otherwise excellent book.

I have saved the best for last. This book is so eclectic in nature it would be nearly impossible to try to cover all of the types of recipes. So what I am going to do is briefly discuss the recipes and organization of the book in general terms and then discuss some of the recipes that were of particular interest to me. I would suggest going to a book store or an eBook store and checking out the book yourself. There is something in there for everyone.

The Recipes: General - This book has a wide variety of recipes covering Appetizers to Desserts and everything in between. There are foods appropriate for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner as well as Party Foods or Snacks. You will find the usual suspects such as Brisket, Pulled Pork and Ribs as well as recipes for foods I have never seen in any other grill cookbook. There is literally something here for everyone.

The Recipes: Organization - The recipes are organized into 6 chapters, reflecting the type of cooking methods used. Chapter 1 was already discussed above. Chapter 2 marks the beginning of the recipes. Each chapter begins with how to set up your Big Green Egg for the type of cooking found in that chapter. The recipes themselves get even more specific about setup details, times and settings. The recipes are given in both Imperial and Metric units. Ingredients used for baking are given by weight, not volume for the most precise measurements. The recipe chapters are titled as follows:
  • Chapter 2: Low & Slow Barbecuing and Smoking on the Big Green Egg
  • Chapter 3: Roasting From All That Walks, Flies, Swims and Grows Above and Below the Ground
  • Chapter 4: The Big Sear: Grilling on the Big Green Egg
  • Chapter 5: One in the Oven: Using Your Big Green Egg as an Amazing Ceramic Oven
  • Chapter 6: Wet and Dry Curing Meat and Smoking on the Big Green Egg
  • Chapter 7: Deep Frying, Griddling and Wok-ing Around. Other Great Ways to Cook on the Big Green Egg

The Recipes: Some Picks to Try - While just about every recipe in this cookbook looks interesting, I had to limit what I described for this blog entry. Here are some recipes that interested me and are on my short list of things to try:
  • Competition Beef Brisket, Pork Butt and Pork Ribs (Chapter 1) - Three separate recipes for making competition class versions of the holy trinity of BBQ.
  • Lo’-N-Slo’ BBQ Roasted Turkey (Chapter 2) - This recipe was contributed by another competition BBQ team the author knows. This will be one of the first turkey recipes I have made that was written for use on the BGE.
  • Maryland-Style Pit Beef (Chapter 2) - Baltimore Pit Beef is one of my favorite sandwiches ever. Normally this recipe has the beef direct grilling over high heat. This recipe cooks the beef direct/indirect and at a lower heat. I will be very interested to see the differences.
  • Big Green Egg Pastrami (Chapter 2) - This recipe is complete from A-Z including the brine and rub recipes. I don’t recall seeing pastrami recipes in too many other BBQ cookbooks.
  • Grill-Roasted Pork Braciole (Chapter 3) - I had never heard of this recipe where pork shoulder is butterflied and stuffed with meat and other fillings and then roasted. Sounds and looks amazing.
  • Spicy Chicken Wings (Chapter 3) - What can I say, I am a sucker for chicken wing recipes.
  • Cedar-Planked Salmon (Chapter 3) - I have been wanting to do this on my Egg for a while and what better way to start than a recipe with specific instructions for the BGE.
  • Bourbon Moxie Meatballs (Chapter 3) - Soft, spicy meatballs with a hint of smoke flavor.
  • Pulled Pork Egg Rolls (Chapter 3) - A great use for left over pulled pork.
  • Grilled Garlic Asparagus (Chapter 3) - Looks very easy to make and sounds tasty.
  • Bourbon-Glazed Carrots (Chapter 3) - Just looking at the ingredients, these sound amazing.
  • Award-Winning Coffee-Encrusted Pork Tenderloin (Chapter 4) - The title says it all.
  • Cider Brined Pork Chops with Peach Salsa (Chapter 4) - I love thick pork chops and this recipe sound delicious.
  • Spicy Apple Pork Burgers (Chapter 4) - Same as above: The recipe sounds delicious.
  • Italian Cold Cut Stromboli (Chapter 5) - Italian cold cuts in a pizza dough wrapper. I have had this at several of Mr. Mitchell’s cooking demos and it is delicious.
  • Maple Skillet Cornbread (Chapter 5) - Sounds intriguing.
  • Smokin’ Aces Pizza (Chapter 5) - This was contributed by the Smoking’ Aces Competition BBQ team. I have had this at NewEGGlandfest and I am excited to try it at home.
  • Maple Creme Brulee (Chapter 5) - Creme Brule and Big Green Egg are words I never expected to see used in the same sentence. I guess I will be needing a torch now.
  • Hermits (Chapter 5) - One of my favorite desserts. Need I say more.
  • Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies (Chapter 5) - Oatmeal raisin cookies are one of my favorite desserts. Substituting cranberries for the raisins sounds interesting.
  • Homemade Bacon (Chapter 6) - I have always wanted to try this and now that I have a recipe written for the BGE, I have no excuse.
  • Homemade Canadian Bacon (Chapter 6) - I have never seen a recipe for this before and the whole concept intrigues me.
  • Scotch Eggs (Chapter 7) - I have made a low and slow smoked version of Scotch Eggs. It will be interesting to try a deep fried version.
  • Spicy Fried Chicken (Chapter 7) - I have always wanted to try this, but was a bit afraid of doing it indoors. Now I have no excuse.
  • Deep-Fried Brisket Empanadas (Chapter 7) - I have had Eric Mitchell’s version several times and I can’t wait to make them myself.
  • Stir-Fry Summer Succotash (Chapter 8) - A great use of summer veggies.

It probably took a while to get through all of the recipes if you read the entire list, Believe me I left out more recipes than I included. This is my first cookbook of 2015 and I really think it will be the best of 2015 for me. I see myself making things from it for a long, long time to come. So who should by this book? Short answer: Everybody. The longer version is:
  • I think this should be the first cookbook a newbie Egger should own. The setup and temperature control information is invaluable.
  • Any BGE user who wants to up their game and try a wide variety of new and different dishes should buy this book.
  • Owner’s of other Kamado grills. Your setup will be very, very similar.
  • Lastly I truly feel there are recipes in there that would also be useful to owners of other grills. About 50 percent of the information in this book is about the proper setup on a Big Green Egg and you will have to adapt the cooking method to your type of grill. Even if you take out the 50 percent of the content that doesn’t apply to your specific use case, you are left with 50 percent of the content that are great recipes.
So take a look at the book in a book store or online. See if the recipes are something you would like to try and don’t be put off off by the fact they were made on a Big Green Egg. Some of the best recipes I have made were written for the Weber Smokey Mountain. I have had great results cooking them on a gas grill, my offset smoker and lately my Egg. Let me end by saying it has been a while since I have been this excited about a new cookbook.

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