Monday, March 2, 2009

Review: Paul Kirk's Championship Barbecue Sauces

Championship Barbecue Sauces

Author: Paul Kirk

Publisher: Harvard Common Press

Page Count: 262

There are three things that immediately come to mind when you take a look at Championship Barbeque Sauces. The first is the pedigree. The author is a legend in competition BBQ. He has won countless awards, including the Grand Championship at the American Royal. After being assured that you are in good hands, you realize that the title is a bit of a misnomer. The cover lets you know that in spite of the title, sauces aren’t the only subject matter. Marinades, rubs mops and salsas are also covered. The last item to catch your attention as you flip through the first few pages is that this book is 11 years old. Is it still relevant?

It’s hard to be disappointed in a well written book that contains 54 pages of BBQ sauces when sauces are your focus. If this book does present something to be disappointed in, however; it is that those 54 pages are out of a total of 262 and the book is entitled ‘Championship Barbecue Sauce’. The mustards, relishes, mops and salsas are all interesting and relevant, but they aren’t sauces. If that is my only major complaint, it should tell you something about the quality of this book.

Paul Kirk is a giant in the field and this book offers you some insight into why that is. The man is an expert who speaks with a friendly, down to earth and colloquial tone. His manner isn’t overly ‘folksy’ as if he were adopting mannerisms to appeal to a specific audience, nor is it overly stilted and bogged down in detail; like you might find in a sauce book by Harold McGee.

Although there were many recipes that I would consider ‘basic’, there were none that I would consider ‘simple’ or a waste of space. There is plenty here to appeal to both the novice and the expert. Kirk covers everything from flavor profiles to methodologies.

Although the book pays some attention to regional differences, I would have preferred a more in depth discussion of how sauces differ from region to region and why. Is there anything in the book that could have been jettisoned to make room for such a discussion? Sure. How about the BBQ sauce worksheet? I have no idea what that is doing there. The listing of resources is extremely limited and almost anachronistic. The reader would have been much better served if the book pointed to a comprehensive list of resources instead of offering said resources itself.

Overall, this book is a treasure trove and is one of the most important books in my collection. I would absolutely love to see this book updated and expanded. I understand the problems with building and maintaining a brand identity, but they might also consider renaming the book to reflect the fact that sauces occupy less than a third of the pages here.


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Thom said...

Well designed blog and a nice review of what appears to be a super nice book. Best to you!

BBQing Tips From Deep In The Heart Of Oregon

Eric Devlin said...

Thanks Thom!

I appreciate your taking the time to post.