I was recently given the opportunity to review She-Smoke: A Backyard Barbecue Book. It's written by Julie Reinhardt. Julie and her husband own and operate Smokin' Petes BBQ in Seattle, so she certainly knows her way around a smoker.
Barbecue is largely the domain of men, so the title of this book was immediately intriguing. I've never really thought of barbecue and grilling as having a gender bias, it just seems that men naturally gravitate to it. I think it's one of the last vestiges of true old-school masculinity, but I digress. Bias or not, in the book Julie tries to help the ladies feel comfortable at the grill.
Here's how the book is described on the site dedicated to it:
Julie Reinhardt, empowers women to take their place back at the fire. In She-Smoke, Reinhardt gives step-by-step instructions on a variety of barbecue topics, from buying local, sustainable meats, to building the perfect slow and low fire, and smoking a holiday barbecue feast. She includes a host of delicious recipes aimed to teach women technique, with more in-depth instruction than that of a conventional cookbook. Women will learn the elusive history of ‘cue, the difference between true barbecue and grilling, and all about the world of barbecue competition. Featuring interviews with other “smokin’” women and stories about Reinhardt’s family, She-Smoke brings women into the greater community of barbecue.The book is full of the typical barbecue recipes, and Julie brings some new things to the table. I especially found her "Pacific Northwest Salmon Bake" very interesting. That was certainly unexpected, but it certainly fits given her Seattle roots.
Where I found this book to really shine is in her in-depth explanations of the basics of barbecue and grilling. She covers all of the fundamentals, from meat cuts, to skinning ribs, to carving brisket, to fire tending and cooking times. She offers clear directions and step-by-step instructions throughout.
My only complaint about the book is its lack of photos. Instead, it contains hand-drawn illustrations. They get the job done, but sometimes you just need to see the real thing. One thing that people generally need in a cookbook is to know how the final product is supposed to look. In this case you'll have to lean heavily on your imagination.
The bottom line? If you have wanted to learn your way around the grill or smoker, this is an excellent place to start. Julie does an outstanding job of flattening the learning curve and providing solid instructions. However, this book isn't just for novices. It's also worthwhile for intermediate and even experienced cooks. I recommend it.