Saturday, May 27, 2023

Books: Just In Time For Memorial Day, "Franklin Smoke: Wood. Fire. Food."


Franklin Smoke: Wood. Fire Food.

By Aaron Franklin and Jordan Mackay

Ten Speed Press; hardcover, 224 pages; $35.00

Aaron Franklin is one of the most recognized names in barbecue and the New York Times bestselling coauthor, with Jordan Mackay of Franklin Barbecue and Franklin Steak. His restaurant, Franklin Barbecue, is in Austin, Texas, and it has won every major barbecue award and been featured in magazines such as Bon Appetit and GQJordan Mackay is a James Beard Award-winning writer on food, wine, and spirits, whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Wine & Spirits, and Food & Wine.

Franklin Smoke: Wood. Fire. Food. is the ultimate guide to live-fire grilling and smoking at home, and it is out just in time for the unofficial start of summer and a holiday synonymous with grilling, Memorial Day.

This beauifully-produced book is a complete resource proves that lighting a backyard fire is not a big deal on a weeknight, and details strategies for executing meals over the full lifespan of a fire. There are ways you an employ low- and high-heat techniques, as well as indirect cooking and smoking. 

It is perfect for both those new to grilling, as well as seasoned pros who are looking for new tips. There are expert techniques for any type of backyard grill, from an inexpensive kettle-style grill or Big Green Egg, to an offset cooker or hand-built fire pit. 

There are detailed chapters on ingredients, equipment, and techniques, and recipes for grilling and smoking, meat, vegetables, fish, and more. Some of the recipes include ones for Redfish on the Half Shell; Grilled, Smoked, Whole Branzino; and Smoked Chicken.

In this excerpt, Franklin writes about the hardware needed for smokers, grills, and firepits: "Whether you're looking to smoke, grill, or do a little of both, you're going to need something to do it in. Given that myriad options exist in every category these days, selecting the right cooker is no easy task. The only question I probably get asked as often as 'How do you know when to wrap a brisket?' is 'What kind of smoker should I use?' And that question is almost unanswerable to me since I've cooked mostly on ones that I've built and used a few different styles here and there when I'm traveling. I've never tried too many of the hundreds of variations out there. That question is also one of the reasons - among others, as you'll see - that I decided to manufacture my own cookers. Now I have a surefire answer as to what I recommend. 

Remember, you can always make a smoker out of a pit in the ground or a bunch of cinder blocks, and it'll cost you almost nothing. If you want to build a contraption big enough to smoke a whole hog and spend money on only a few big hunks of metal - steel bars, a steel plate for a lid, and maybe a burn barrel - you can do this on the cheap with a little bit of elbow grease. No, that pit will not be mobile, but if, say, you need to move houses, you could pretty easily disassemble it and build it again somewhere else. (Don't expect your grass to ever grow back. Sorry, Stacy!) And yes, this will live as a rather bulky structure in your backyard but, when it's not in use, it makes a fine surface on which to put your drink.

Similarly, instead of buying a fancy grill, you could always dump charcoal in a metal hotel pan, cover it with a cheap grate from a hardware store, and call it a grill - as my dad often did when I was a kid. Now, that's not going to give you any smoke unless you throw some wood chips on top, but it works for generating sizzle.

Likewise, you could spend money on a firepit (not to be confused with a barbecue 'pit'), which I love, but remember that a firepit is just a convenient way to contain coals and fire, which could be made just as easily with a little indention in the ground surrounded by a circle of rocks.

You will not be surprised to learn that I believe the Texas-style offset smoker is the greatest device ever invented for cooking things with heat and smoke. While I am going to give some insight into how and why I developed my own smoker, your good use of this book is not at all contingent upon having one. And these techniques and recipes are certainly oriented toward offset cookers, but all the instructions can be applied or tailored to fit whatever type you have. And that includes the techniques of wood chopping and splitting, fire management, and cooking."

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