Man Made Meals

The Essential Cookbook for Guys


By Steven Raichlen

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Steven Raichlen really knows the pleasure men get from cooking, the joy they take in having the skills, the need to show off a little bit. His Barbecue! Bible books have over 4.7 million copies in print—and now he leads his readers from the grill into the kitchen. Like a Joy of Cooking for guys, Man Made Meals is everything a man needs to achieve confidence and competence in the kitchen.

Man Made Meals is about the tools and techniques (guess what, grillers, you still get to play with knives and fire.) It’s about adopting secrets from the pros—how to multitask, prep before you start cooking, clean as you go. It’s about understanding flavor and flavor boosters, like anchovies and miso, and it’s about essentials: how to shuck an oyster, truss a chicken, cook a steak to the desired doneness. It’s about having a repertoire of great recipes (there are 300 to choose from), breakfast to dessert, to dazzle a date, or be a hero to your family, or simply feed yourself with real pleasure. These are recipes with a decided guy appeal, like Blowtorch Oatmeal, Fire-Eater Chicken Wings, Black Kale Caesar, Down East Lobster Rolls, Skillet Rib Steak, Porchetta, Finger-Burner Lamb Chops, Yardbird’s Fried Chicken, Blackened Salmon, Mashed Potatoes Three Ways, and Ice Cream Floats for Grown-Ups.



This book came to life at a meeting with Peter Workman at the offices of Workman Publishing. Prophetically, my longtime editor, Suzanne Rafer, was away on jury duty. So it was just us guys. Having taught millions of men how to grill, Peter reasoned, we should do a book to teach them other forms of cooking. And being Peter Workman, he wanted a big book, full of big-flavored food and actionable information.

The idea struck a chord, for while most people know me for the Barbecue! Bible cookbook series, I have a background in classic French cuisine (and French literature, but that’s another story). And so Man Made Meals came to life.

Peter passed away before publication. I’ve tried to infuse the book with his big-hearted spirit. We miss him. No one will ever completely fill his shoes, but other longtime Workmanites are steering his ship to new horizons.

The most gratifying aspect of writing a book is thanking the people who helped make it possible. First, my extraordinary editor, Suzanne Rafer, who never met a manuscript she couldn’t improve. (This year marks two decades of working together.) Production editor Carol White, copy editor Barbara Mateer, and assistant editor Erin Klabunde made sure I dotted my i’s and crossed my t’s. Barbara Peragine and Julie Primavera herded the manuscript through production.

Art director Jean-Marc Troadec came up with the handsome cover and page design. Photo director Anne Kerman, photographer Lucy Schaeffer, food stylist Chris Lanier, and prop stylist Sara Abalan filled the book with hunger-inducing photos.

On the digital side, Andrea Fleck-Nisbet, Kate Travers, and Julia Langer Warren masterminded the website ( Selina Meere, Courtney Greenhalgh, and Jessica Wiener use publicity and marketing to help spread the gospel of guy cooking far and wide, as does international sales director Kristina Peterson. Walter Weintz, Page Edmunds, Jenny Mandel, Pat Upton, and a great sales team keep the sales engine humming.

My assistant and friend Nancy Loseke assisted in all matters editorial and culinary. Stepdaughter and dietician Betsy provided nutritional advice, while stepson Jake provided the perspective of a Brooklyn chef restaurateur. Son-in-law Gabriel rocked the bar shaker. Ella, Mia, and Julian reminded us of what really matters in life. Barbara kept me focused, organized, and on message, while juggling the challenging roles of being my in-house editor, consigliere, and wife. As always, all good that happens to me starts with her.

Finally, a big thanks to all you guys out there who expanded my world from the grill to the kitchen. It’s back to smoking and grilling in the next book—I promise.

Steven Raichlen
Miami, Florida


Call it culinary literacy for men. Or simply what every guy should know about cooking. There are certain tasks involving food a man should know how to do without hesitation: shuck an oyster and steam a lobster, for example; grill a steak; roast a rack of lamb; and cook up a pot of kick-ass chili. Every well-informed male should know the men proper way to stir a martini, carve a turkey, smoke ribs, make pancakes for his kids, and clinch a romantic dinner with a rich chocolate dessert. But, first and foremost, a guy should know how to get himself dinner (or any meal) on the table without having to rely on take-out.

You should know how to execute kitchen tasks with confidence, aplomb, and—I dare say—showmanship. The act should not only assuage your hunger and bring you respect but should give you satisfaction and pleasure.

This book will show you how. Step by step, I’m going to teach you everything you need to know about cooking: starting with the basics, like how to read a recipe, navigate the stove, and stock the fridge and pantry. I’m going to teach you how to prepare great meals for yourself, your buddies, your girlfriend or wife, your immediate or extended family, and how to throw a killer cocktail party.

I’m going to teach you how to stew, roast, braise, sauté, and flambé like a professional, and of course, how to fire up a grill and smoker. I’ll show you the proper way to choose and wield a knife, heat a wok, handle a cocktail shaker, and how to maximize the use of your kitchen no matter its size.

A quick word about what you won’t find in Man Made Meals. I’m not going to tell you how to cook a pot roast on your car engine or poach a whole salmon in your dishwasher. This book is about the cool, smart things guys can do to make really great-tasting food—without sensationalism or weirdness for the sake of shock value. Nor will you find in these pages doughnuts, sushi, or cupcakes. Sure, you can make doughnuts or sushi at home, but the pros do it better at bakeries and restaurants. As for cupcakes, they aren’t really guy food.

Whether you’re single or married, in college or retired, on a budget or on the board of directors, you have the right, need, and desire to eat well. This book will help you do it. Part cookbook, part textbook, part technical manual, and part guidebook to the world of male cooking, Man Made Meals is a gospel of great eats—filled with indispensable skills, cool tools, engaging stories, actionable information, and a terrific repertory of big-flavored, foolproof dishes. We’re going to have fun. We’re going to kick butt. And by the time we’re done, you’ll definitely know your way around the kitchen.


This book is based on ten simple principles.

1 | Knowledge is power. The best way to eat well is to cook well. And the more you know about ingredients and fundamental cooking techniques, the better you’ll perform in the kitchen. Knowledge coupled with practice brings competence, and competence in the kitchen brings pleasure.

2 | You live in the best time in history to cook and eat well. Never have there been better ingredients from more geographically diverse sources at your metaphorical fingertips—within a short walk or drive to your local food market or with a tap of the screen. This book tells you what you need to know: where to order the best prosciutto (hint: not necessarily from Italy); what to look for when buying lobsters; and whether Kobe-style beef is really worth the price. And of course, such essential basics as how to fry an egg, build a quesadilla, grill a steak, and cook vegetables.

3 | You don’t need to know how to cook everything. Mastery of a few dozen iconic dishes and principles will serve you better than a cursory knowledge of every recipe in a food magazine.

4 | You hunger for flavor. For most guys, bolder equals better. This book will tell you how to make food that explodes with flavor—whether you’re preparing the Skillet Creole Shrimp on page 426 or the spice-crusted whole beef tenderloin on page 250. I’ll show you how to make food with personality, soul, and even a touch of genius.

5 | How you cook matters as much as what you cook. Flames. Smoke. Sharp implements. Blowtorches. High-tech gear and power tools. And of course, alcohol. We guys love this stuff. This book will teach you how to cook with attitude, edge, and style.

6 | You want what you eat to be good for you and the planet. Sure, there’s a time for nachos and fried turkeys (I cover both). But on a daily basis, most of us want what we eat to be healthy—and respectful of the environment. This book will help you to shop locally and green and to cook in a way that’s friendly to your heart and waistline. Hey, if you think buffalo wings are great fried in vats of hot oil, wait until you taste them roasted or smoke-roasted (see page 207).

7 | You understand the importance of quality. Often the difference between a merely adequate dish and a masterpiece boils down to the raw materials. This book will tell you how to select the best salt, olive oil, heritage pork, and other ingredients to make your food explode with flavor. Or as a sage once observed: Better to eat a prime dry-aged steak once or twice a month than factory beef 24/7.

8 | You know the value of money. Cooking needn’t cost a fortune to ring up pleasure. Indeed, some of the most popular guy dishes—wings, brisket, short ribs—originated to make inexpensive cuts of meat palatable. I’ll show you how to extract the richest flavors from the humblest cuts. However, there are times when it makes sense to spend more on ingredients or tools—when buying dry-cured ham or organic meats or a knife, for example—and I’ll show you how to reap the best return on your investment.

9 | You appreciate speed and simplicity. Most guy food is simple. Steaks. Chops. Burgers. So, I promise you, we’ll keep it simple. Even when a dish is unavoidably complicated or time-consuming (and some, like chili and pot roast, are), I’ll show you how to prepare it without breaking a sweat—and of course using as few pots and pans as possible.

10 | You see the big picture. A successful meal involves a lot more than simply what you cook and put on the plate. The cocktails, wine, table setting, music, and the choreography of the evening go a long way toward making a meal unforgettable. And so does knowing how to stay organized—from shopping to clean-up.


I have in my personal library about two thousand cookbooks—thirty of which I’ve written. Small potatoes next to the more than seven hundred cookbooks published each year. So you might think that cooking is really complicated.

It’s not. All the world’s cooking can be accomplished using five basic processes: gathering, cutting, mixing, seasoning, and transforming by heat, cold, or chemical reaction. Five—that’s it. Master them and you’ll rule the kitchen.

1 | Gathering Any meal starts with procuring the ingredients. In the old days, men hunted and fished while our spouses gathered the plant foods. For chefs today, gathering is as important as any cooking method or seasoning. I’m not suggesting you set off to pry barnacles off sea rocks, but I cannot emphasize enough that great cooking begins at the market. You know the old saying: You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Your food will be only as good as the ingredients you start with.

2 | Cutting Lest you ever doubt the machismo of cooking, consider the tools a chef holds most dear: his knives. Two million years ago or more—even before the discovery of fire—a distant human ancestor called Homo habilis (“handy man,” literally) contrived to strike two flint stones together to give one of them a sharp edge for cutting. It turns out we taught ourselves butchering skills long before we mastered fire.

Most food in the wild comes in a form too large, tough, or otherwise incommodious to consume as is. Cutting enables us to remove the inedible parts and reduce food to a size we can fit in our mouths. Cutting embraces good knifes-manship (slicing, chopping, mincing, and so on), and it also includes peeling, grating, blending, and pureeing in a food processor.

3 | Mixing Once you gather and cut your food, you need to mix it with other ingredients to make it palatable and, even more important, interesting. To transform it by the power of your imagination. Eating a strawberry isn’t imaginative. Dipping it in sour cream, then brown sugar transforms it into dessert.

Mixing includes stirring (which you do with a spoon), whisking (which you do with a whisk), folding (which you do with a spatula), beating (which you do in a mixer), and kneading (which you do to dough—in a food processor, mixer, or best of all, by hand).

4 | Seasoning What separates man from beast? There are art, religion, commerce, and opposable thumbs. But I’d argue that our most primal difference is cooking. All animals eat to live—but only man modifies his food to suit his aesthetics. A bear eats salmon raw. Man dips raw salmon in soy sauce spiced with wasabi. A lion devours red meat. Man chops it with anchovies and capers to make Steak Tartare (page 267). An ape eats a banana. Man may eat a banana, but it isn’t cuisine until he sprinkles it with sugar, caramelizes it with a blowtorch, and flambés it with rum (see Deconstructed Bananas Foster on page 564).

So what constitutes a seasoning? Salt and pepper are seasonings. Olive oil and lemon juice are seasonings. Ditto for the Asian triad: ginger, garlic, and scallions. A rub is a seasoning composed of salt, herbs, and spices that you massage into raw meat before cooking, hence the term rub. A marinade is a wet seasoning, as are herb butters, glazes, and sauces. Seasonings enable you to give food ethnic identity. Season a neutral chicken breast with soy sauce, sesame oil, and mirin (sweet rice wine), for example, and you get Japanese teriyaki. Slather it with a ferocious paste of Scotch bonnet chiles, allspice, onions, garlic, and so on, and it becomes Jamaican jerk. Season it with turmeric, cumin, and coriander, and it transports you to Morocco.

Men and women often cook differently and a generous—even profligate—use of seasonings is one of the defining virtues of our gender.

5 | Transformation by heat, cold, or chemical reaction Notice I didn’t say cooking. Cooking implies heat and heat is certainly one way—the most popular by far—to transform otherwise inedible or unpalatable ingredients into food. Grilling, roasting, braising, simmering, and frying are examples of how we cook with heat. Chilling can be equally transformative: Think of ice cream, for example, or the tongue-coating lusciousness vodka acquires when frozen in a block of ice (see page 597).

But many foods require neither heat nor cold to make them delicious. Think gravlax, which is Scandinavian-style salmon cured with salt, sugar, and dill under a weight. Or crudo (Italian “sashimi”)—raw fish seasoned with lemon juice, herbs, and olive oil. In these dishes, as well as the Peruvian Ceviche (page 363), the salt or citrus juice causes a chemical reaction that “cooks” the fish in the sense of altering its texture and taste.


First, the bad news. There are close to thirty different methods of cooking (including all the grilling methods), and no man can consider himself kitchen literate without at least a rudimentary knowledge of all of them.

Now the good news. There are close to thirty different methods of cooking, and you probably have experience with many of them already. You certainly know how to boil water to cook spaghetti. I bet you know how to simmer a stew, fry a sunny-side-up egg, bake a potato, and panfry a pork chop. You likely know how to roast, braise, and broil, and I imagine you know your way around a grill. (I hope so.)

The easiest way to keep all these methods straight is to think about where you do them: in a dish, on the stove, in the oven, outdoors, or in a specialized piece of equipment.


We start with the no-cook methods, so called because they require no heat. Pickling, curing, and marinating so completely transform the texture and taste of foods that they are in effect “cooked” even without fire or heat.

Pickling | Uses salt and beneficent bacteria to initiate a fermentation process that turns cucumbers into pickles, soybeans, and other grains into miso, and ground pork and spices into dry-cured sausages.

Marinating | What do ceviche (page 363) and lomi-lomi (page 365) have in common? Both are raw animal proteins that are “cooked” by the addition of lime juice, vinegar, or a strongly acidic marinade. Note: Don’t confuse cooking marinades with flavoring marinades—the latter a wet mix of flavorings used to season raw food before conventional cooking on the grill, stove, or in the oven.

Curing | Curing uses salt, sugar, and sometimes pressure to turn raw salmon fillets into Jewish-style lox or Scandinavian gravlax.


Generally done in a pot or skillet, stovetop cooking methods include boiling, steaming, simmering, panfrying, stewing, sautéing, stir-frying, deep-frying, griddling, and flame-charring. In some parts of the world (especially Africa and Asia), people don’t have ovens, so most of the cooking is done on the stove or on a burner.

Boiling | Cooking in lots of rapidly boiling water over high heat. Boiling is how you cook pasta, beans, grains, and many vegetables.

Steaming | Similar to boiling, only you use less water and do the cooking in the hot steam that rises from the boiling water. Two foods we commonly steam are lobster and broccoli.

Simmering | Cooking soups, chili, and other wet dishes over low heat so that bubbles just barely break the surface. Boiling toughens meat (then softens it), while simmering keeps it tender from the start.

Stewing | Resembles simmering in that the dish is cooked over low heat but is generally used for stewing chunks of meat, poultry, or seafood.

Panfrying | Cooking thin, flat, tender foods in a little fat in a skillet or frying pan. The operative words when panfrying are thin and quick cooking—as in eggs, fish fillets, cutlets, thin-cut pork chops, and grilled cheese—and little—as in a tablespoon or two of melted butter or olive oil.

Sautéing | Another variation on panfrying, but generally done with small pieces of food, like sliced mushrooms or diced chicken. If you’ve ever watched a chef flick a skillet with his wrist, sending the ingredients skyward (ideally to have them return to the pan), you’ve witnessed sautéing.

Stir-frying | This Asian version of sautéing or panfrying is done in a wide bowl-shaped steel pan called a wok. The ingredients are cut into small pieces and cooked over high heat in a precise sequence: aromatics first, then protein, then vegetables, and finally, the sauce and thickeners. One of the virtues of stir-frying is its speed: The whole cooking process takes five to ten minutes. (For detailed instructions on stir-frying, see page 439.)

Deep-frying | Resembles boiling, except that instead of water, you cook the foods in hot vegetable oil (or lard) at least several inches deep. Deep-frying locks in moisture and gives food a crisp crust. (Think fried chicken and french fries.) The secret to deep-frying is to use plenty of oil and work over heat high enough to maintain a consistent temperature of 350° to 400°F.

Griddling | The Spanish call it a plancha. Argentineans call it a champa. The short-order cook at your local diner calls it a griddle and uses it to fry eggs, bacon, and hash browns. Similar to panfrying, griddling involves cooking foods on a heated flat metal surface with just a little oil or butter. You get a slightly more roasted flavor than with panfrying, which makes griddling (cooking a la plancha) great for seafood.

Flame-charring | The most dramatic stovetop cooking method, used primarily for eggplants and poblano or bell peppers. You place these directly on a gas or electric burner (no pan needed) and roast them until charred and black all over. This burns the skin, which you don’t want to eat anyway (scrape it off with a paring knife), imparting an extraordinary smoke flavor. One of my favorite flame-charred dishes is Rajas (roasted poblanos; see page 200).


The oven is the box beneath your stove, and you use it not just for storing unwanted cookware but for roasting, baking, braising, broiling, and drying. Most stovetop cooking requires constant attention (especially panfrying and stir-frying). With the exception of broiling, oven-cooking methods require only minimal supervision.

Roasting | A dry-heat method for cooking prime rib, pork shoulder, roast chicken, and other large hunks of meats. (Also great for root vegetables.) Generally done in an open pan at a medium to medium-high temperature (350° to 450°F) for a cooking time measured in hours. Done properly, roasting gives you a crusty brown exterior and moist tender meat in the center.

Baking | Similar to roasting, but used for breads and baked goods. You “roast” meat but “bake” corn bread (page 514) or biscuits (page 517).

Braising |


On Sale
May 6, 2014
Page Count
640 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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