Author Topic: Book Review: "Smoking Meat: The Essential Guide for Real BBQ" by Jeff Phillips  (Read 9256 times)

UWFSAE

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Many of us here have probably spent some time on Smoking-Meat.com ... if so, the name "Jeff Phillips" should ring a bell.  Still a bit fuzzy?  Then perhaps you're a poster or lurker over at http://www.smokingmeatforums.com ... run by Phillips as well.

Phillips has created a cottage industry for archiving smoking recipes, techniques, tutorials, and resources and, truth be told, does a good job at most aspects (Smoking-Meat.com, sadly, has a TON of dead links as of late) of this endeavor.  If there's one frustrating element of these two websites it's that the Smokin-It family gets short shrift in favor of MES or other less awesome smokers.  These shortcomings aside, Phillips does credit to the title of "pitmaster" and has helped encourage a nation of avid recreational and competition smokers.

Phillips put together "Smoking Meat: The Essential Guide for Real Barbecue" as an encyclopedic tome for the beginner, as well as a handy reference for the advanced smoker as well.  While not without its faults, I think that this book is a solid addition to the smoker's library but with a few necessary caveats.

PROS:
1.  The book is gorgeous ... the photos help provide a warmth that many cookbooks lack and help convey the scope of not just the finished product but the practices and equipment needed to become an effective smoker of meat.
2.  The lengthy introduction to the book, "Smokeology" covers the history of smoking meat, a comparative overview of different smoking techniques and equipment, and even a glossary of smoking/bbq'ing jargon.
3.  Organization is key here.  Chapters on each meat group, rubs and sauces, sides, etc. are clearly delineated and the index is clear and easy to use.
4.  The instructional content is clear and to the point for even novice smokers and grillers with tried and true methods like 3-2-1 spareribs.
5.  A nice conversion chart in the appendix will come in handy for smokers of all levels.
6.  The sheer breadth of content, literally hundreds of recipes, is worth the price alone.

CONS:
1.  That same breadth of content that makes it useful for an intermediate or advanced smoker could easily prove daunting to a novice.  Moreover, the "standards" are often arbitrarily enhanced (ex:  no "brisket" but instead you'll find "garlic & onion brisket" or a "pan smoked brisket") which may cause a few stumbles in the learning process ... crawling before walking before running.
2.  The narrative thread breaks down a bit in both the preface to the recipes and in the context clues that help someone who may not have an experienced palate visualize what these spice mixtures or wood choices will yield.
3.  The book feels like an extension of the website, yet lacks the synchronous feedback a user on the internet would have should they click through the links.  I think that this book (much like many college textbooks) would benefit from an online resource or free access to his original Smoking-Meat.com site; as it is, I think much of the content feels oddly flat.
4.  Ultimately, I'm not certain that the author really knew what he wanted this to be ... for example, is it a teaching tool for those new to smoking?  Is it a recipe-driven compendium showing the breadth and depth of the smoking hobby?  Are the more unusual recipes accessible for beginning and intermediate smokers?
5.  Like the Mixon book, it lacks step-by-step photos that would be invaluable to someone doing a preparation for the first time.

FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS:
On some level, this book feels like the proverbial "jack of all trades, master of none".  For someone with experience with cookbooks, or smoking, this is a great recipe resource.  While it contains clear instructions, written in an almost journalistic prose, I think it lacks "heart" at times and doesn't convey the emotional component that feeding well smoked meat to family and friends offers smokers of all levels of proficiency.

It is a resource I refer to on a regular basis; especially for some of the more obscure preparations (ex: "Bacon Wrapped, Boudin-Stuffed Jalapenos", "Smoked Apple Pie" or "Pulled Pork Shepherd's Pie") it is a wonderful resource but these recipes deviate from a smoking reference and enter into the realm of traditional cookbook.

Overall, this is a solid addition to your library but not one that I'd use to learn this hobby from the ground up but instead to refine a skill set and broaden the variety of recipes.  It's slick, pretty, and very "corporate" ... and if you're able to conceptualize without an author's assistance it's a great tool overall.

VENDOR RECOMMENDATION:
http://www.amazon.com/Smoking-Meat-Essential-Guide-Barbecue/dp/1770500383/ref=pd_sim_b_1
« Last Edit: July 12, 2013, 08:17:56 PM by UWFSAE »
Joe from Houston, TX
Proud owner of a Smokin-It #3!

es1025

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Its a solid cookbook and how to guide. If you use the book and jeff's web site smoking-meat.com have a good foundation. I enjoyed reading the book, gave me some helpful hints. The Cole slaw recipe is really good. Btw, the web site is up and running.
Ed from Northern NJ
Proud owner Smokin-it #3, Bypassed and Auber
Has anyone seen my Weber Genesis Gold?

bigboy74

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The forum to me seemed to try and force this book on people. For example the big secret on his "rub and recipes" If you have a good rub share it! Don't make me buy a book or course to see if I like it. Just my 2 cents. I no longer visit that forum. A forum to me is a place to share info. Not try to with hold info to try and get a dollar.

es1025

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Bigboy, I bought the rub and sauce recipe, I think its a darn good recipe.  I can certainly understanding your feelings.  I really did enjoy the book and the website but its a bit over the top.  He does have some good step by step recipes both in the book and the web site for cooking any meat product.  I typically go to multiple web sites and forum to gain knowledge. 

The book is a good reference tool for $20 or so.

Ed from Northern NJ
Proud owner Smokin-it #3, Bypassed and Auber
Has anyone seen my Weber Genesis Gold?

DivotMaker

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The forum to me seemed to try and force this book on people. For example the big secret on his "rub and recipes" If you have a good rub share it! Don't make me buy a book or course to see if I like it. Just my 2 cents. I no longer visit that forum. A forum to me is a place to share info. Not try to with hold info to try and get a dollar.

I'm with ya', Big.  I fell for it, and dropped 19 bucks on his "secret" recipes...heh.  While his rub and sauce recipes are good, they certainly weren't worth the money, in my opinion.  There wasn't really anything there remarkably different from a lot of the really good recipes here, and on other forums.  Pretty standard ingredients, and nothing earth-shattering.  Quite frankly, I felt a little fleeced by the whole thing.  I'll give him credit for his knowledge, but I wish I hadn't been suckered into buying his recipes. 

I haven't seen the book, but am pretty sure I wouldn't buy it after the recipe incident.  Just my 2-cents.
Tony from NW Arkansas
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Smokin-It Model 1, 2D conversion, and 3D
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Spresso

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Good review Joe,

I agree with most of the things you wrote..
I can't fault him for not really having a clear direction for the book. He is a smoker after all not a writer. There are some interesting recipes in there,
I use it mainly to ask my wife to pick something she likes so I can make it...
Some of the uses for pulled pork are interesting. Like the shepherd pie...
I made that.  (added some traditional veggies)   nice...

another PRO in my opinion is that he book is the perfect size.  not too small, not too big....
for me anyways....
Zed from Southern Ontario
Smokin-It-all on the #3
Grillin-the-rest on the Weber

UWFSAE

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Yeah, I didn't intend it to be a negative review ... I just felt that there wasn't much in the way of truly novel approaches to the science/art of smoking and barbecuing, but it stands as a pretty solid cookbook.  Most of the recipes in there are pretty standard and I think that Phillips could have had a good editor give them some life with anecdotes or pictorial flow charts.

For beginners, I think Raichlen's "The Barbecue Bible" is probably best (I still need to write up a review for that) and for advanced smokers I think some of the stuff by Chris Lilly, Myron Mixon, or even Michael Ruhlman are superior.

Joe from Houston, TX
Proud owner of a Smokin-It #3!

Spresso

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You are right , the book is a mix bag!

The only thing I don't like is some of the tone used .
" My rub",  " Jeff's this and Jeff's that "    is mentioned too many times.  same as on the website. 
I get it you made a rub  now stop rubbing it in my face every minute  ;D >:( :o

And no I'm not bitter for getting duped into buying the recipe, honest  ::)
Zed from Southern Ontario
Smokin-It-all on the #3
Grillin-the-rest on the Weber

Spresso

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Oh yeah and Mixon rubs me the wrong way too.
I heard he said he won't eat that shit he cooks up for competition.  Not sure if it's true.....
Zed from Southern Ontario
Smokin-It-all on the #3
Grillin-the-rest on the Weber

DivotMaker

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Here's an interesting article by Meathead over at amazingribs.com about why you don't want to imitate the pros from PitMasters when you're cooking at home.  Makes sense, and this is not the first time I've heard this...

http://amazingribs.com/tips_and_technique/stop_watching_bbq_pitmasters.html

In a nutshell - pro competitors know the judge is going to get one, maybe two, bites of their entry, so it better stand-out!  That means bold, boisterous, outrageous flavors, which tend to be over-powering if you eat more than a bite or two.  While we're not competing with our Smokin-Its, I believe the end result of what we produce can run circles around a lot of competition cooks, as far as moistness, tenderness, subtlety, consistency, etc..
Tony from NW Arkansas
"Official Smokin-It Test Pilot"
Smokin-It Model 1, 2D conversion, and 3D
Auber PID, NexGrill 896 6-burner, CharBroil Big Easy, Anova Precision Cooker w/WiFi
Wife, Son and One REALLY Big Dog!

jdiver

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I, probably like many, started over in the Smoking Meat forum before even deciding to really get into smoking let alone decide on Smokin-it. I did purchase Jeff's book via iBooks. It is a help, nice to have recipes there handy. I'm not a big follower of recipes. I look at techniques and basics, times and temps, and maybe change ingredients.

For example the stuffed jalapeņos in the book, say cut them lengthwise. I like cutting them from the stem end. But both are good. Like how the bacon is wrapped on his with the toothpicks standing up for folks to grab. Looks nice.
-JD-
Big Green Egg and SI2
Love Pork

kelvinator

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The book has worked decent for me so far. The meatloaf recipe I tried I was not a fan of. The smoked salmon came out great after brining it. I am currently smoking a pork butt using his big bald bbq rub and going to use the potato salad and coleslaw recipe from the book tonight.

I definitely think Amazingribs.com might be a better place to go. I love all his articles explaining the science behind the different aspects of smoking. After I read those it makes smoking a lot easier imo
Smokin-it #2
Kelvin from Bellevue, WA
New to smoking but worked as a cook for 4 years