425 Fiery Recipes from All Across America


By Steven Raichlen

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Steven Raichlen, a national barbecue treasure and author of The Barbecue! Bible, How to Grill, and other books in the Barbecue! Bible series, embarks on a quest to find the soul of American barbecue, from barbecue-belt classics-Lone Star Brisket, Lexington Pulled Pork, K.C. Pepper Rub, Tennessee Mop Sauce-to the grilling genius of backyards, tailgate parties, competitions, and local restaurants.In 450 recipes covering every state as well as Canada and Puerto Rico, BBQ USA celebrates the best of regional live-fire cooking. Finger-lickin’ or highfalutin; smoked, rubbed, mopped, or pulled; cooked in minutes or slaved over all through the night, American barbecue is where fire meets obsession. There’s grill-crazy California, where everything gets fired up – dates, Caesar salad, lamb shanks, mussels. Latin-influenced Florida, with its Chimichurri Game Hens and Mojo-Marinated Pork on Sugar Cane. Maple syrup flavors the grilled fare of Vermont; Wisconsin throws its kielbasa over the coals; Georgia barbecues Vidalias; and Hawaii makes its pineapples sing. Accompanying the recipes are hundreds of tips, techniques, sidebars, and pit stops. It’s a coast-to-coast extravaganza, from soup (grilled, chilled, and served in shooters) to nuts (yes, barbecued peanuts, from Kentucky).


Pit Master’s Hymn

Great barbecue, like a wonderful dream, is best left undisturbed. Please don’t open the pit. Memories in progress.

Ethan Hileman, Pit master at The Greenbrier resort, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia

To Barbara, a.k.a. Mrs. Raichlen, who lights my fire, bastes my briskets, tickles my ribs, and keeps me honest.

Table of Contents

Introduction: What Is Barbecue?

A Brief History of Barbecue in America

GETTING STARTED: A Concise Primer on Grilling & Barbecuing

A short course in choosing a grill, setting it up, getting it lit, and knowing when the food is cooked.


Begin the meal with pizzazz. Flame cook Prosciutto-Wrapped Peaches like they do in Virginia, chicken wings the Louisville way, Mojo-Marinated Pork Florida style, and Tiki Beef Kebabs with California flare. Dozens of choices, plus some drinks to serve alongside, including a Chimayo Cocktail.


Grilling brings out the best in a salad. Wait until you try the Grilled Caesar Salad or the Tomato and Hearts of Palm. Plus Calamari Salad with White Beans and Bitter Lettuce, and four kinds of slaw.


The grill makes the perfect toaster. There’s plenty of room for that Little Italy favorite, garlic bread. Or A New Corn Stick from the West Indies. Or pizzas the way they grill them in Rhode Island and New York. Bread takes to fire like smoke to the grill.


North America’s love affair with beef is celebrated in a luscious round-up of steaks from Tucson, San Antonio, New York, Miami, Dallas, Toronto, L.A., Indianapolis, and of course, Philadelphia (sizzling with cheese). Plus briskets from North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Ohio, and everything else big and beefy.


The icon of American barbecue, pork, couldn’t be more succulent than it is here—pulled and piled high on buns like they do in North Carolina, coffee-crusted and served Kentucky–style with Redeye Barbecue Sauce, roasted whole for a pig pickin’ à la West Virginia. Plus ribs from all over, including Missouri’s Sweet and Smoky Dry Rub version.


A favorite meat of our Founding Fathers, and it’s no wonder. Wait until you try Virginia’s Spit-Roasted Lamb with Butter & Salt, Illinois’ Smoked Lamb Shanks with Mint Barbecue Sauce, and Missouri’s BBQ Queens’ Parmesan Pepper Rack of Lamb. You’ll understand why.


Seeking a new way to grill a burger? Look no further than Connecticut’s Ultimate Hamburger. Or, how about a California sushi burger? Hot dogs? Try Cincinnati Chili Dogs. Or how about great Grilled Greek Sausage with Peppers and Onions, a top choice in Massachusetts. Plus plenty of other recipes for America’s barbecue favorites.


Brant’s Brined Beer Butt Bird from Alabama, New York’s Original Cornell Chicken, Missouri’s Powderpuff Barbecued Chicken Breasts, Huli Huli Chicken from Hawaii, and Vermont’s Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey. Plus duck, game hens, and quail. The best birds cooked the best ways—grilled, smoked, or spit-roasted.


Maple-Mustard Salmon from Vermont, New Jersey’s Grilled Swordfish with Summer Salsa, Spice-Crusted Tuna from California, Bacon-Grilled Trout from Montana, Big Apple Cod from New York, and Grouper Matacumbe from the Florida Keys—our country is rich with fish; here they are all fired up to perfection.


Soft-shell crabs grilled the Delaware way. A Canadian dill-grilled lobster. Five West Coast ways to grill oysters. Shellfish is more than shrimp on the barbie, but they’re here, too, grilled both Louisiana and Indiana style.


Portobello “Cheese steaks” from Pennsylvania, Hickory-Smoked Baked Bean Squash from Maine, and three different quesadillas from across the country are barbecued dishes so good, no one will beef!


There’s nothing like live fire to bring out a vegetable’s sweetness. Not to be missed are Louisiana’s Cajun Grilled Asparagus or Midwestern Grilled Corn with Maytag Blue Cheese. Or how about Hawaii’s Grilled Plantains, or Vermont’s Madeira Grilled Acorn Squash.


Grill up a New England “baked apple.” Prepare brown beans the West Virginia way. Serve spaghetti with a smoky sauce like they do in Tennessee or grilled macaroni and cheese New Mexico style. These side dishes are stand-out sensational.


Dozens of sauces to choose from, covering all the great barbecue regions. Try St. Louis Red and Nashville Sweet, Central Texas Barbecue Sauce, or a trio of sauces from Kentucky. There are also Liquid Fire from Florida and The Doctor’s Medicine from Tennessee. Plus slathers, salsas, and chutneys.


Make great barbecue even better with the pit master’s secret weapons—the rubs, marinades, mop sauces, and glazes used to add flavor and sheen to meat or fish. Try Tennessee’s versatile sweet-hot Cold Mountain Rub—it’s good on just about everything. If you’re looking for something more tongue-torturing, Missouri’s K.C. Pepper Rub fills the bill. No barbecue should leave the grill without a little something from this chapter.


Don’t let the fire die down until you’ve flame seared dessert: Smoke-Roasted Apple Crisp, Cinnamon Grilled Peaches, Smoked Alaska, and Grilled S’Mores are all worth keeping the coals aglow.







What is barbecue? I pose this question at the many cooking classes I teach each summer and at lectures, seminars, and book signings across the country. I ask it to take the pulse of my audience and to widen my knowledge. The answers I get are always fascinating and always different.

For some people, a barbecue is a piece of equipment—the barbecue grill. That, depending on who you are talking to and where he or she lives, will be charcoal fired or gas. The identification of barbecue with the grill goes back to the original meaning of barbecue, defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “a rude wooden framework, used in America … for supporting above a fire meat that is to be smoked or dried.”

For others, a barbecue is a cookout and, by extension, a festive or communal meal prepared and served outdoors. For still others, barbecue describes one of several ways of cooking using live fire. On the East and West Coasts barbecue is a catchall term for grilling—the process of quickly cooking thin pieces of food directly over a hot fire. In the South, Midwest, and Texas, to barbecue means to roast or smoke in a pit. The cuts of meat being cooked tend to be larger and tougher, the heat is usually lower, and the cooking time is measured in hours or half days, not minutes.

Elsewhere, descriptions of barbecue refer not to a cooking method but to the traditional condiment—barbecue sauce. For people who think of barbecue this way, the soul of barbecue is the sauce, much to the chagrin of the pit master.

Then there’s the question of what you are barbecuing. Ask someone from the Carolinas, and it will be pulled or chopped pork. Just which cut it’s made with (a pork shoulder or a whole hog), how it’s cooked (over a pit or in a smoker), and how it’s served (with the thin, fiery, vinegar-based sauce favored in eastern North Carolina; with the tomato-based vinegar sauce preferred in the western part of the state; or with the mustard barbecue sauce popular in South Carolina) depends on the location.

If you are in Memphis, ask for barbecue and you’ll get a plateful of ribs—either with a crust of dry spices in the style of the Rendezvous restaurant, or wet, in the style of Corky’s Bar-B-Q. That is, if you’re not offered some barbecued pork shoulder (either sliced or chopped), most likely served on a hamburger bun with a big mound of mustardy coleslaw. Then there are the mahogany-hued barbecued game hens served at Memphis’s beloved Cozy Corner and the three other inimitable local delicacies: barbecued baloney, barbecue pizza, and barbecue spaghetti.

Jack “Dr. McQue” Davidson and his son Jason grill a whole hog.


The answer is not any more straightforward in Kansas City, where barbecue may refer to beef, pork, or chicken. The beef will most likely be brisket or “burnt edges” (brisket trimmings); the pork could be shoulder or ribs; and everything will probably come with the thick, sweet red sauce typified by KC Masterpiece—unless you’re eating at the landmark “grease house,” Arthur Bryant’s, where the sauce is a peppery amalgam of spice and vinegar that’s not in the least bit sweet.

You’d think Texans at least could agree on the definition of barbecue. In the Lone Star State it’s synonymous with beef, and that means a brisket, right? Well, maybe when you’re at Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse in Dallas, but what about the clod (crusty smoke-roasted beef shoulder) at the Kreuz Market in Lockhart or the “hot guts” (spicy smoked beef sausage) at the Southside Market and BBQ in Elgin? If you think that barbecue in Texas begins and ends with beef, you haven’t tried the cabrito (roast goat) at Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que in Llano or the barbecued duck at Houston’s Goode Co. Texas Bar-B-Q.

And in California? The sign “Barbecue Today” prompted me to stop at a restaurant in a farmhouse in the town of Olema, a couple hours north of San Francisco. The waitress there brought me a plate of grilled oysters bubbling with butter, wine, and garlic. Another time, I was driving in the San Fernando Valley when I saw a similar sign. This time, I was rewarded with a heaping plate of tri-tip—spit-roasted bottom sirloin, crusty on the outside, rare and juicy inside, thinly sliced and dished up with garlic bread, pinquito beans, and a Mexican–style salsa by way of a sauce. In the last twenty years, tri-tips have become the meat of choice for barbecue throughout southern California.

Texas—a major stop on the American barbecue trail.


Or has it? My travels on the barbecue trail have also taken me to Walt’s Wharf in Seal Harbor, California, where the house specialty is grilled artichokes with a Worcestershire-flavored cream sauce. In Los Angeles’s Koreatown, restaurants have charcoal-burning braziers built right into the tables for grilling bool kogi (sweet soy and sesame marinated shell steaks).

In Connecticut, barbecue means planked shad (fillets nailed to a board and roasted in front of a campfire), while in Washington State and British Columbia, the ultimate outdoor cooking experience is a salmon bake or, more precisely, split whole fish roasted on cedar stakes in front of a blazing alder fire. Rhode Island’s contribution to the world of barbecue is grilled pizza, which got its start at a restaurant called Al Forno.

There’s nothing offbeat about barbecued chicken—except in upstate New York, where Cornell chicken is grilled with a mixture of eggs, oil, cider vinegar, and poultry seasoning. Down in my neck of the woods, Miami, the sauce of choice for grilled chicken (not to mention such popular Cuban American barbecue fare as palomilla, cumin-scented top round steak, and lechon asado, pit-roasted pork) is mojo, a thin, pungent condiment made with garlic, cumin, and sour orange juice.

Every autumn, the streets of Santa Fe, New Mexico, fill with the perfume of green chiles roasting over flaming heavy metal drums. For almost two centuries, once a year the streets of Owensboro, Kentucky, have been lined with barbecue pits cooking the local specialty, barbecued mutton. Markets in Vancouver sell ready-to-grill Filipino tocino, pork marinated in a pungent blend of paprika, pepper, garlic, and sugar.

Owensboro, Kentucky’s Main Street during the annual barbecue festival.


So what is barbecue? Well, it’s all these things and then some. My personal definition of barbecue is expansive enough to include a grill, a pit, a meal, a party, and every possible food I can imagine being cooked by live fire. I don’t discriminate, and you can’t accuse me of favoritism. This book is about American barbecue in all its magnificent variations—from Memphis ribs to California’s grilled oysters to the reindeer sausage of Alaska. The book was written to reveal the mysterious ways of smoke and fire—and to celebrate America’s most distinctive culinary tradition.

Steven Raichlen
March 11 (my birthday!)
Miami, Florida

A Brief History of


On April 11, 1514, a young adventurer named Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdes left Spain with a twenty-ship armada bound for the city of Santa María del Antigua, in what is now Colombia. His mission was to supervise the smelting of local gold into ingots to enrich the Spanish treasury. En route the fleet stopped at the island of Dominica, in the Caribbean. Unlike some of the more avaricious of his compatriots. Oviedo was a curious. passionate observer of his surroundings, an equitable administrator, and a writer of no small talent (he even wrote a popular novel).

Oviedo was also what today we’d call a foodie, fascinated by the cuisine of Spain’s new Caribbean territories. His writings provide some of the first records of how people ate in the New World in the sixteenth century. He chronicled many native foods and how they were prepared, including such popular tubers as yucca and boniato (“roasted in the hot embers of the fire”), avocados (“the juice and flesh taste much like butter”), and pineapples (which he pronounced “one of the best fruits in the world”). He noted with keen interest how bread was made from ground corn and cassava, wrapped in leaves, and roasted in the coals of a campfire.

A communal hunt preceded the barbecues of Caribbean Indians.

But the reason we remember this author and adventurer today is that he was the first European to report on a method of cooking unique to the New World—barbecue.

They trap deer and pigs with branches and traps made of nets, into which the animals fall. At times they hunt and beat them out, and with a great number of people they attack them and take those that they can kill with arrows and spears. After they have killed the animals, since they do not have knives with which to skin them, they quarter them and cut them into pieces with stones and flints. They roast the flesh on sticks which they place in the ground, like a grating or trivet, over a pit. They call these barbacoas, and place fire beneath, and in this manner they roast fish also. Since this land is naturally hot, even though it is tempered by Divine Providence, fish and meat soon spoil if they are not roasted on the same day that they are killed or caught.

The passage comes from Oviedo’s Natural History of the West Indies, published in Toledo, Spain, in 1526, and it’s the first written account of barbecue. It tells us a lot about the origins of this New World style of cooking. For starters, even back then barbecue was a social activity, involving “a great number of people.” And the preparation involved considerable meat-cutting skills (as anyone who has tried to trim a rack of spareribs will appreciate), especially when the “knife” was a shard of flint.

The Taino Indian word for a piece of equipment—a framework of sticks—gives us the word barbecue. (It’s clear the Tainos knew how to live well. They also gave us the words canoe, hammock, and tobacco.) Curiously, the high wooden frames could also be used as a sleeping platform: You reposed on a barbacoa while waiting for your meat to cook. The practice of smoke grilling meats on wooden sticks survives in Jamaica, where jerk is made by cooking spiced pork on a grate made of allspice wood sticks laid over blazing allspice embers.

Spice and smoke were essential to early barbecue, we learn from Captain John Gabriel Stedman, who explored the Surinam coast in the 1770s: “… every thing they eat, is so highly Seasoned with Cayenne Pepper, that only the tasting of their victuals excoriates the mouth of an European, they use little or no Salt, but barbacue [sic] their Game and fish in the Smoak [sic], which equally preserves it from Putrefaction.” We’ll never know exactly how the early Caribbean barbecue tasted, but with its fiery seasoning and intense smoke flavor, I bet it resembled Jamaican jerk.

Thomas Hariot’s A Brief and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia, published in London in 1588, has an engraving showing a Native American fish barbecue. Two fish cook on a wooden frame that is several feet above the fire, an example of what I call modified direct grilling—grilling directly over the fire but at a distance so the food doesn’t burn (the same setup is used today at the popular Rendezvous restaurant in Memphis). Two more fish grill in an upright position on stakes next to the fire.

That second grilling technique is not unique to Virginia. The Indians of the Pacific Northwest smoke-roasted salmon next to blazing alder, splitting the fish through the belly, securing it to cedar stakes, and grilling it by the fire. Lewis and Clark encountered this in the Clatsop and Chinook Indian villages on their journey down the Columbia River. Two centuries later, you can feast on the delicious result at Tillicum Village in Puget Sound (see page 454 for a fuller description). The process is a forerunner of what has become the Connecticut shad bake (see page 518).

So did barbecue really originate in the Americas? Well, yes and no. Humans have made use of fire for at least 400,000 years and cooked over it for at least 250,000 years. The practice of roasting meat or fish on a stick or stone in front of a flame is so elemental, it came into use wherever human beings congregated. Europeans have spit roasted beef and lamb since the time of Homer.

But early American barbecue had several unique aspects. One was the deliberate and controlled use of smoke (in addition to spice) as a flavoring. Equally characteristic was the use of a pit and raised grill grate.

Barbecue takes its name from the barbacoa, a wooden grate upon which Taino Indians smoke grilled fish and meat.


American barbecue assumed heroic proportions during the nineteenth century. It took real muscle to spit roast a whole ox.

Even though as early as the 1600s, Virginia had laws banning the discharge of firearms at barbecues, we know from numerous accounts that the Old Dominion remained the epicenter of American cookouts. “The ladies of Virginia … are immoderately fond of dancing,… and now and then [venture] into the woods to partake of a barbacue [sic],” decried the Reverend Andrew Burnaby when he visited from England in 1759. In 1784, Lawrence Butler would write to friends there, “I am continually at Balls & Barbecues.”

The Englishman Isaac Weld observed at the end of the eighteenth century:

The people in this part of the country, bordering upon James River, are extremely fond of an entertainment which they call a barbacue [sic]. It consists in a large party meeting together, either under some trees, or in a house, to partake of a sturgeon or pig roasted in the open air, on a sort of hurdle over a slow fire; this, however, is an entertainment chiefly confined to the lower ranks, and, like most others of the same nature, it generally ends in intoxication.

Weld’s observations were only partially correct, for like the fledgling nation, barbecue was democratic in nature, enjoyed by high-born and low. rich and poor, freemen and slaves alike. Nor were all barbecues drunken affairs, although then, as now, most would be thought incomplete without some sort of alcoholic beverage.

George Washington loved “barbicue,” and attended as many as he could. His diary records one particularly festive cookout in Alexandria, Virginia, that lasted three full days. One biographer speculates that Washington lost the first election in which he ran—for a seat in the House of Burgesses—because he neglected to stage a barbecue for potential voters, refusing “to provide the customary refreshments at the polls.”

Years later, when a triumphant Washington accepted the surrender of the British General Charles Cornwallis in 1781, spontaneous barbecues sprung up all over the country to celebrate the United States’ independence. Here’s how one such event was described in Philip Henry Smith’s General History of Duchess County, from 1609 to 1876, Inclusive.

When a herald passed through the country announcing the surrender … the tidings met with a hearty response from every patriot. Bonfires, illuminations, and the thunder of artillery everywhere demonstrated the joy that was felt throughout the land. The people of Pawling Precinct instituted a barbecue in commemoration of the event. A hole was dug in the bank near the site of the residence of Richard Chapman, Esq., a fire was built therein, and a fine, full-grown bullock was spitted before it. The cooking was not a pronounced success, but Pawling charged upon it with all her chivalry. Patriotic speeches were made, patriotic songs sung, and patriotic toasts drank in profusion; and nothing prevented the thundering of cannon, but the want of cannon and powder.

Independence Day and other civic occasions were celebrated with barbecues. The laying of the cornerstone of the Capitol in 1793 was the occasion for a particularly splendid ceremony. Following an impressive parade, President Washington placed the cornerstone. Then the assembled company feasted on a barbecued five-hundred-pound ox.

Even matrimony was an excuse for a barbecue, as Abraham Lincoln undoubtedly knew: His parents, Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks, feted their vows at a barbecue. Here’s how Christopher Graham, one of the guests, recalled the event, as quoted by Doug Worgul in The Grand Barbecue: “We had bear meat, venison, wild turkey and ducks, eggs wild and tame, maple sugar lumps tied on a string to bite off for coffee or whisky, syrup in big gourds, peach and honey, a sheep barbecued whole over coals of wood burned in a pit, and covered with green boughs to keep the juices in; and a race for the whisky bottle.”

It can’t have hurt that William Henry Harrison staged enormous barbecues during his successful 1840 campaign for the presidency. One such event took place in Wheeling, West Virginia. Thirty thousand voters were wooed with 20 calves, 25 sheep, 360 hams, 1,500 pounds of beef, 8,000 pounds of bread, and 4,500 pies for dessert.

Charles Lanman wrote the best description of an early-nineteenth-century American barbecue in Adventures in the Wilds of the United States and British American Provinces, which was published in 1856.

They first dig a pit, four feet wide, two or three deep, and as long as they require, into which they throw a quantity of wood, for the purpose of obtaining there-from a bed of burning coals. This done, the more expert kitchen [help] proceed to roast (by laying them upon sticks across the fires) the various animals prepared for the occasion. In the meantime, all the other arrangements are progressing, such as spreading the white cloths upon the temporary board tables, and clearing a place for dancing.

One of the first recipes for barbecue appeared in a book published in 1732.

Frontiersman and war hero William Henry Harrison staged elaborate barbecues during his 1840 election campaign.


What did the barbecue of early Virginia taste like? Numerous recipes have survived in eighteenth-century American and British cookbooks. One of the first, published in London in 1732, is found in R. Bradley’s The Country Housewife and Lady’s Director in the Management of a House, and the Delights and Profits of a Farm. Here it is with its original punctuation and spelling:

Take an Hog of five or six Months old, kill it, and take out the Inwards … Then stretch out the Ribs, and open the Belly, as wide as may be; then strew into it what Pepper and Salt you please.

After this, take a large Grid-Iron, and set it upon a stand of Iron, about three Foot and a half high, and upon that, lay your Hog, open’d as above, with the Belly-side downwards, and with a good clear Fire of Charcoal under. Broil [grill] that side till it is enough, flouring the Back at the same time often. Memorandum. This should be done in a Yard, or Garden, with a Covering like a Tent over it.

When the Belly-part of the Hog is enough, and turn’d upwards, and well fix’d, to be steady upon the Grid-Iron, or Barbacue, pour into the Belly of the Hog, three or four Quarts of Water, and half as much White-Wine, and as much Salt as you will, with some Sage cut small; adding the Peels of six or eight Lemons, and an Ounce of fresh Cloves whole.

Then let it broil [grill] till it is enough, which will be, from the beginning to the end, about seven or eight Hours; and when you serve it, pour out the Sauce, and lay it in a Dish, with the Back upwards. Memorandum, The Skin must not be cut before you lay it on the Gridiron, to keep in the Gravey.



On Sale
Apr 22, 2003
Page Count
784 pages


Steven Raichlen

About the Author

Steven Raichlen is the author of the New York Times bestselling Barbecue! Bible® cookbook series, which includes the new Brisket Chronicles; Project Fire; Barbecue Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades; Project Smoke; The Barbecue Bible; and How to Grill. Winners of 5 James Beard awards and 3 IACP awards, his books have been translated into 17 languages. His TV shows include the public television series Steven Raichlen’s Project Fire, Project Smoke; Primal Grill; and Barbecue University; the French language series Le Maitre du Grill, and the Italian series Steven Raichlen Grills Italy. Raichlen has written for the New York Times, Esquire, and all the food magazines; and is the founder and dean of Barbecue University. In 2015, he was inducted into the Barbecue Hall of Fame. His website is

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