Picking up a BBQ cookbook to learn how to smoke meat is one of the best decisions a BBQ enthusiast can make. There are thousands of videos and articles available, but these smoker cookbooks are incredible sources of years of expertise and award-winning recipes from renowned and highly regarded pitmasters.
BBQ is very subjective. What you like, others might not. Competitions are judged by different people with different tastes, and there are hundreds of different styles, techniques, and flavor profiles. My point is, to find recipes you enjoy, and to do so, in this article we included books from various award-winning pitmasters, all with different styles. We will talk about what you should consider before picking up one of these cookbooks.
Here are the best meat smoking cookbooks
1. Franklin Barbecue: A Meat Smoking Manifesto (New York Times Bestseller)
Aaron Franklin is the owner of Franklin’s Barbecue, a barbecue restaurant in Austin, Texas, and an extremely popular barbecue destination in America. Aaron is one of my favorite people in the BBQ world. The guy is an expert and among the best at what he does, but more than that, I like his personality. Aaron comes across as the happy friend we all have around us.
One thing that made me appreciate Aaron’s style more is his obsession with details and his attitude towards the fact that there isn’t just one way to BBQ. There is just “good BBQ”, but that does not imply that one style, flavor, or preparation method is superior to others. He does things his way and achieves success. His restaurant is one of the most well-known in the United States, attracting celebrities and even presidents.
His book, The Meat Smoking Manifesto, goes deep into Aaron’s beginnings and how he started. The book covers wood selection, types of cookers, and goes into meat selection and cooking. The book does not go deep into BBQ recipes, but it does into techniques.
Aaron is a hardcore “stick burner” offset smoker mad man, so if you want to learn the roots and master one of the most authentic methods of smoking meat, I highly recommend you learn a thing or two from Aaron.
2. Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling
Perhaps one of the most popular names in BBQ and grilling, Meathead is known for its deep dives into the science behind good BBQ. First, this book addresses two very different topics: BBQ and grilling.
For most, BBQ is authentic low and slow ribs, pork, brisket, and grilling is cooking high and fast, well faster. The two methods are covered and explained in this book, which makes it a more complete source of information for most.
Meathead covers nearly every aspect of barbecue, including smoking and grilling, in an innovative, scientifically driven approach to thwart popular myths. This book is very detailed and well researched using the mind of physicist and food scientist professor Greg Blonder, Ph.D., of Boston University. Yes, that’s how detailed this book is.
This BBQ cookbook was written by Meathead Goldwyn, founder of AmazingRibs.com. Meathead aims to make cooking easier and teach simple methods. This is a great book for anyone who wants to learn real methods and dispel many BBQ myths.
I highly recommend this book if you are looking for a comprehensive guide to the fundamentals as well as advanced techniques.
3. Project Smoke – Most Innovative Recipes
This book includes 100 innovative recipes. So, if you are a BBQ lover looking to learn techniques but also a few mouth-watering recipes, this could be a great BBQ cookbook.
Steven Raichlen breaks from the norm in Project Smoke and brings you an ounce of unique and smoking-based recipes that are supported by his extensive experience and expertise.
From the classic brisket to the fresh seafood, and even desserts, Project Smoke offers something for everybody. Starting from the basics, such as different kinds of wood, to cooking equipment and several recipes, all can be found in this book.
Steven breaks down the barbecue techniques into easy-to-use steps to help you go from beginner to tried and true. This BBQ cookbook is great for those looking for something different and wanting to break out of the same, pork, brisket, and rib recipes.
If brisket is your thing and you want to learn numerous techniques, recipes, and methods to cook brisket, the Brisket Chronicles is a great book. When I was reading this book I was pretty impressed by the author’s techniques and the number of creative recipes included in this book.
This book covers so many different ways to cook brisket. Smoked meat is great, but some might appreciate other methods of cooking briskets.
I recommend this book to beef lovers wanting to learn different ways of smoking brisket using different equipment including electric smokers or who want to learn a new cooking style.
5. Pitmaster – Great for beginners
This smoking cookbook, Pitmaster, gives you not only good techniques but also contains tips from 10 respected chefs and restaurateurs. The Pitmaster book teaches you the basics of using common grills and smokers and then continues your journey into more advanced recipes and techniques.
What makes this a good cookbook for those with smokers is that it dives into different regional barbecue styles, including Texas-style, Memphis, and the Carolinas.
While reading this book I enjoyed the different perspectives of different chefs who participated in this book bring. I like that different styles don’t necessarily mean better, but just different. However, different can certainly bring better results.
6. Smoking with Myron Mixon – Best Keep It Simple
Smokin’ with Myron Mixon is a great smoking cookbook. Myron has righteously earned his spot among the top pitmasters in the US. Before writing this book, Myron Mixon won three world championships and won over 180 Grand Championships.
What I like most about this book is that Myron starts right off the bat by dismissing common myths in the BBQ scene.
You hear a lot of people tell you that you need a charcoal smoker or an expensive smoker, the list goes on. In his book, Myron starts the first few pages by answering questions like, “Can I smoke food on a gas grill, or do I need an expensive cooker?” By the way, he answers “yes” to the first question and “no” to the second!
This book goes over smoking woods, picking the right wood, sauces and rubs recipes, and plenty of techniques.
Things to consider before choosing BBQ Smoking Cookbooks
Everybody should grab at least one of these books. These books are all great and contain decades of BBQ hall experience, recipes, and amazing techniques. However, if you only want to grab one book or are looking for something specific here is how to narrow down your search.
Decide what you want to learn
If you want to learn authentic, backwood, raw BBQ, then the Meat Smoking Manifesto fits that style. If you want more techniques and theory, The MeatHead leads in that category. My point is that each one of these books brings its own angles, techniques, and styles.
There are many barbecue books, many. I have come across books from drama novel writers! ( slap me ) The books on this list are from actual pitmasters with vast experience in BBQ and the restaurant industry.
The authors of these books are qualified to teach the smoking process and offer easy to follow recipes to help you improve your smoking game. Barbecue books are all different and all authors have their own way to cook the best BBQ, so a good way to separate mediocre authors from award-winning pitmasters is to look at their credentials.
Some books are written by BBQ enthusiasts and others are written by completion-winning pitmasters. Again, BBQ and food is very subjective, what you might like others might not but if you want to learn real barbecue and want good, practical advice plus proven cooking techniques with actual recipes, I suggest learning from real pitmasters.
Your cooking equipment
Before you buy a cookbook, consider the type of equipment you have and the equipment being used and referenced by the author of the book. Most cookbooks use a variety of cooker types, but if you own, for example, a George Forman, the instructions in these books might be hard to follow.
OK, that was sarcasm, but the point here is that smoking meat opened the door to many methods, techniques, and creativity. There are hundreds of different ways to achieve great smoked meat, and yes, that includes using an electric smoker, a wood pellet smoker, or an offset smoker.
Some books will focus on a specific type of cooker, like a wood pellet smoker, and other textbooks are a complete grilling guide.
It is important to at least have an idea of the type of cooker used by the author because the process may vary a bit depending on the type of smoker.
A variety of recipes
BBQ cookbooks, like most recipe books, have dozens of recipe ideas. A smoking cookbook can focus solely on a particular meat or only offer a handful of recipes.
I enjoy books with a variety of recipes, I like to learn and add a few recipes to my smoking meats bag of tricks.
Some cookbooks will show you 10 different ways to make pulled pork, while others will stick to traditional ways.
Also, some books are just a grilling cookbook full of simple made-up recipes, and others are full of real hardcore authentic smoked meats, the best of the barbecue world’s greatest classic dishes.
Cooking Styles and Regional Flavors
This is something to consider, but in my opinion, you should try to learn as much as possible and from as many different experts as possible. That’s how you learn different styles. However, it is important to point out that some BBQ cookbooks will focus on different cooking styles and flavors.
For example, Aaron Franklin likes to barbecue a meat cut as simple as possible, and since he is from Texas people, yes, salt and pepper for this guy all day long. But then you have Smokin with Myron Mixon, where you see more southern, Georgia flavors. I recommend learning from both because you win by learning more and broadening your knowledge.
A professional chef will lean more towards detailed recipes and how to cook delicious food, whereas a pitmaster will teach how advanced smoker techniques, how to smoke various meats, and how to light and manage the perfect fire.
Finding a great BBQ meat smoking cookbook is something I did years ago to learn not only about smoking meat but also to meet the best BBQ masters out there. Just like BBQ rubs, I recommend you try a few of these books and learn from various people from around the barbecue world.
If you want to get acquainted with the best, I recommend you pick up a grill cookbook from Aaron Franklin and MeatHead. Those two are real BBQ people, and their knowledge, thankfully, has been preserved in books. Myron also has a lot of expertise and great material.
Lastly, if you want a book that can teach you all kinds of crazy recipes like smoked duck and teach you more than how to cook ribs, then Project Smoker is a great barbecue cookbook to read.