Not that we’re anywhere close to being qualified enough to evaluate books but more so as a public service announcement we will periodically discuss barbecue and barbecue-related books.
Monk: As I mentioned in my prior book club entry, it took me years to finally read “Franklin Barbecue: A Meat Smoking Manifesto” as I (wrongly) assumed it was just yet another barbecue recipe book. As is the case with “Franklin Steak,” these books are more textbook than cookbook.
In “Franklin Steak,” Aaron Franklin and his co-writer Jordan Mackay, a California-based food and wine writer, take much the same approach as they did on “Franklin Smoke.” They take their time getting to the actual cooking of the meat; in the three parts of the book (each with three chapters), they don’t get to the cooking until midway through Part III.
The book starts with “Know Thy Beef” and educates the reader on the history of beef and how the evolution of cattle and beef has coincided with the evolution of man (seriously), before getting into the different breeds of cows on the market today and the different cuts that make them up.
Part II handles the aspects of steak leading up to the actual firing of the grill. It dedicates an entire chapter to dry aging and the science behind it. For the curious home chef, it even shows step by step how you can dry age at home by utilizing an old fridge (which may be the only way to get it outside of a restaurant).
There’s also a chapter on the different styles of grills, from the basic Weber Kettle to a Kamado-style cooker (such as a Green Egg) to the PK Grill to a Santa Maria style grill. After reading about the PK Grill (Aaron’s preferred grill), my interest is definitely piqued into potentially getting one of those, which can be used for steaks or for smoking and I think would be a perfect complement to my old Weber and my Oklahoma Joe offset.
Finally, Part II ends with an exploration of different types of fuel; that is – the various types of charcoal found around the world as well as all the varieties of woods suitable for grilling.
Finally, its grilling time, and Part III (“Steak Perfection”) gets down to business. After a short chapter on lighting the grill and some different set ups (in particular, the charcoal and accent long two-zone method known as the “Franklin Formation”), it’s time to grill the steaks. Using a science and evidence-based approach, the book walks through how to do each method (hot and fast, reverse sear, on the coals, and blast furnace over the top of a charcoal chimney) and pros and cons of each. Finally, the book ends with the self-explanatory “Sides, Sauces, and Drinks” to pair with steak.
Sprinkled throughout the book are short profiles on the best steakhouses in the world, from New York to Spain to Japan. Interesting but not essential for 99% of the us who will likely never make it to any of these hallowed institutions of beef.
Franklin and Mackay’s writing is smart and sharp but also accessible. You can tell they both know their stuff when it comes to the science of beef and steak. As was the case with “Franklin Barbecue,” throughout the book are wonderful photos by Wyatt McSpadden, the fantastic Texas photographer who has two barbecue books of his own (one of which we previously featured).
Rest assured, I will be purchasing the “Franklin Barbecue Collection” gift box set so I can have both of these books on my shelf. They are filled to the brim with so much information, that it will be nice to be able to return to them time and time again.
Available at Amazon or wherever you buy books