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I recently received a review copy of America’s Best BBQ, which was published by the same people behind Falling Cloudberries, one of the most gorgeous cookbooks I’ve ever seen. (Seriously, I don’t know who the graphic designers are at Andrew McMeel, but their work is so good, it’s honestly enough by itself to warrant buying these books, if just for flipping value.)
In the case of this barbecue book, “cookbook” might not be the best term to describe it. While filled with recipes, it’s also part guide, part travelogue, part window into the barbecue belt of America (i.e. from North Carolina to Texas, with a few other states thrown in).
There are a lot (a lot!) of gorgeous, glossy photos, along with stories and commentary by Ardie A. Davis and Chef Paul Kirk, the authors and researchers behind this compilation.
These men love barbecue. They make it, they taste it, they travel around the country deciding what’s good enough to tell the rest of us about.
If I had one complaint, it’d be that a lot of the recipes, at least for main dishes, require special ingredients particular to the restaurants they came from: Ed’s Pepper Vinegar Sauce from The Pit in Raleigh, North Carolina, to make a barbecued hog; Curtis’ Southern Style Bar-B-Q Sauce from Curtis’s BBQ in Vermont to make their loaded pork-stuffed potato.
I had to dig a little to find a barbecue recipe I could make in my own kitchen: the Apple City BBQ Sauce that, ironically, comes from my own home state, one not especially known for that sort of thing.
To make this recipe from the 17th Street Bar & Grill in Murphysboro, Illinois, I had to tweak a few things, most notably the grated onion, which I replaced with onion powder.
You’d think such a substitution would ruin everything, but in fact, it gave it a wonderful kick that almost made my eyes water.
It worked very well in an old standby chicken recipe I’ve posted here before, the one that, with a store-bought barbecue sauce, brought me back to my grandma’s kitchen and her clear glass plates.
With this new sauce, the slow cooker recipe was just as easy and made the chicken just as delicious, but different.
And on sandwiches a few days later, this fork-tender meat left me with nothing but happy sighs – that and a desire for more. I’d say that’s testament enough to its value and, of course, the power of good barbecue.
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Photos by Mike Quinn and Shanna Mallon, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published May 8th, 2008. Revised and updated December 21st, 2017.
*Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her mantra? Restoring order and celebrating beauty through creative content, photography, and food. Shanna's work has been featured in Bon Appetit, The Kitchn, MSN.com, Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens, Houzz.com, Food News Journal, Food52, Zeit Magazine, Chew the World, Mom.me, Babble, Delish.com, Parade, Foodista, Entrepreneur and Ragan PR.