If you were to make a list of the most important, influential, and best barbecue joints in America, somewhere towards the top of that list would be Big Bob Gibson's in Decatur, AL. For 85 years this restaurant has served up some of the best barbecue in the country. Famous for barbecue chicken served in a white barbecue sauce, aficionados continue to flock here to take their bite of history.
These days Big Bob's Gibson's is in the hands of Chris Lilly who married into the family and worked his way from the bottom to the top of the barbecue world. This book, part cookbook, part history is the legacy of the Gibson dream.
Few cookbooks lend themselves to being read cover to cover. We flip from section to section, recipe to recipe looking for the tip or technique we need at the moment. Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book, on the other hand is one cookbook that you really can read straight through. Intermixed between a wide variety of recipes is the story of the restaurant and by extension a history of barbecue in the 20th century. Layered on top of this are the experiences of Chris Lilly as he came to know barbecue and then master it. This narrative gives you an appreciation of the true depth of barbecue as America's core culinary tradition. Chris Lilly, in these short visions of the past demonstrates a real understanding of history and its importance.
You see not just the story of a barbecue joint in Northern Alabama but how food in the United States has changed and how, in turn, our expectations of food as evolved. The story here is so well told that any student of food history will find this book informative, yet the story doesn't take away from the real purpose, cooking barbecue in all its glory.
Over the last decade Chris Lilly and the Big Bob Gibson BBQ Team have racked up a list of championships and awards that is the envy of most any competitor on the barbecue circuit. This has not been done by hitting every competition possible but by selecting the most important events and showing a level of knowledge of barbecue on the highest order. Chris Lilly has time and time again shown that his expertise goes well beyond that underrated Alabama BBQ Chicken to Texas Brisket to Carolina Pork and every rib in between. This book shows how those competitions got won and give practical information and recipes so you can achieve nearly that level of greatness. While being a complete cookbook with a wide variety of recipes the core of true barbecue is well represented and you never forget that it is all about.
While the focus of Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book is traditional southern style barbecue in all its forms, this book combines it with a wide range of grilled favorites, side dishes, and innovative variations of traditional classics. From Mushroom Crusted Beef Tenderloin to Burnt End wrapped scallops you get more than enough ideas to keep you using this book for years to come.
Add to this a good explanation of technique and combination of instructions of various outdoor cookers and few people will find this book inaccessible. From best practices for lighting charcoal (Chris Lilly is the spokesperson for Kingsford so it appears throughout the book) to advanced smoking techniques, the basics shine through here and everyone from the beginner to the master will find something to help them out.
All about the Fire
Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book is all about the fire. I honestly believe that that isn't a form of outdoor cooking that doesn't find some kind of representation here. Whether you are into hardcore barbecue or a beginning griller there is something you will find appealing in this book if not absolutely fascinating. Even for me, who has made a living out of barbecue, this book is an inspiration and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who wants to get more out of cooking than just a meal.