Most of us who enjoy cooking over an outdoor fire are proud of some of what we accomplish and are at least satisfied with the things we don’t do too well. Like Johnny Mercer, we tend to accentuate the positive. However, armed with a book like Weber’s Ultimate Grilling, we Backyard Bocuses could become way more competent.
Ultimate Grilling author Jamie Purviance’s resume should inspire confidence. His graduation with high honors from the Culinary Institute of America would speak to his basic grounding in all manner of cooking techniques. Twenty years association with the company that makes Weber equipment should put to rest any doubts about his familiarity with grilling and barbecuing. The 17 cookbooks he has produced adds to the weight of the evidence that he knows what he’s doing, too. Oh, and before he got into all this cooking business, he used his Stanford degree in teaching writing in California and in Indonesia.
So what kind of guide did Weber and this talented master griller produce? One with plenty of basic information on how to grill—what to do and why to do it. In my experience, the best teachers are those who “see the big picture,” then explain the constituent parts of that picture so that the lessons are easily absorbed.
Purviance explains grilling by “The Four T’s,” these being Temperature, Time, Techniques and Tools. Lots of good information is unveiled in this front section of Ultimate Grilling. Charts, tables and graphs are clearly presented and are augmented by photos, some of which illustrate lessons like the pictures of hamburger patties under “Hot & Fast” and a pork shoulder below “Low & Slow.”
Recipes are plentiful and are presented in logical sequence beginning with Starters on page 50 and continuing through Desserts concluding on page 331. Excellent photos of finished dishes are presented as well as step-by-step shots of their preparation. Recipes in these segments are broken up by recurring Grill Science sections—These are extras that aren’t required steps exactly, but illustrate reasons why and how you should salt your steaks before they go on the grill, for instance—good advice and not just the “rules,” but the reasons behind them. Several locations have illustrated sections with how-to additions like Flavor Bom your Bruschetta, Flavor Bomb your Rib-Eye Steak, Flavor Bomb your Pork Chop and Flavor Bomb your Salmon. These augment the recipes with options you can act on—or not, as is your preference.
The Weber name is included in the title, so there’s an obvious commercial connection here, but it doesn’t seem intrusive. Lessons learned in this book would still be applicable if you were using equipment made by some other company.
Weber’s Ultimate Grilling would provide an ideal grounding for somebody who has little or no experience but wants to learn. Yes, it presents basic information in an easily absorbed format, but it also provides plenty of continuing education for the veteran barbecuer/griller—even one with a raft of ribbons from competitions.
--reviewed by Dan Clarke