Which books are good gifts for someone who owns a pellet grill?
A pellet grilling book is important to a newcomer and is a welcome gift for veteran owners, as well. And let’s face it: there are only so many pellet grill gadgets to give. But a book worthy of giving needs to be more than just a collection of recipes or how-tos. It should also be beautiful. Inspiring. It should make you a better, more confident smoker. And it should be a pleasure to flip through.
With all that in mind, we’ve looked at 11 books about smoking food. Five are specifically about using a pellet grill and contain how-to’s on setting one up, maintaining it, as well as how they work.
The other six books are more generally about smoking meat and offer just as much, sometimes more, information about becoming a more capable cook when using smoke. The techniques and recipes transfer easily to pellet grilling and often do a better job of explaining the art of smoking. Don’t limit yourself to just “pellet grill” books, in other words.
How much can the book add to your abilities as an owner of a pellet grill?
If not a pellet grilling book, is the information applicable to smoking and cooking on a pellet grill?
How easy are the recipes to follow: are tips given, are the recipes difficult, or do they use bizarre ingredients?
How readable are the recipes: good white space, good organization, good pictures?
How well is the book designed: is it nice to look through? What’s the “cool factor” of the book? (We think this plays pretty big in a cookbook, especially if it’s to be added to a collection or given as a gift.)
A NOTE ABOUT E-BOOKS
If you own a phone, you can read a book on it. Though there are free books available, these are mostly limited to old classic literature and some trashy romance novels. In order to read most books, your best bet is the Kindle app from Amazon. You can download free previews of books, read books you buy (either through the app or on Amazon) and even read magazines. I won’t go into too much detail on Kindle, but it’s worth it if you read even a moderate amount.
Amazon offers a subscription to Kindle Unlimited, which lets you read a lot more, for a lot less. Not all books are free in this program but there are several available in the program of note. We’ve indicated which of the books in our list are available for free as part of Amazon Kindle Unlimited. It’s normally $9.99 per month but see the discount link at the end of this article to save over a third on that.
Master the Wood Pellet Grill: A Cookbook to Smoke Meats and More Like a Pro
by Andrew Koster, 2020 Kindle Version Available, Kindle Unlimited Usefulness Rating: 8 Cool Factor: 8
Koster presents a fairly thorough basics of pellet grilling, along with some unique methods and tips. For instance, using mustard as a binder for ribs (you can’t taste it), reverse searing on tri-tip, and rubbing seasoning under the skin of turkey and chicken.
The first 35 pages are a well-done section on the basics of pellet grilling—from techniques to temperatures. It is, though, mostly a recipe book, and there is a good mix of them to try.
The recipes are well designed and easy to follow, but lack photos of each individual dish. That said, the chapter headers and overall design are very well done, making it a very tastefully done book with lots of usefuleness.
The troubleshooting section helps with issues like unwanted temperature swings, igniter trouble, and the loss of fire while in smoke setting
Meat tips: a useful section of tips on selecting, handling, and preparing various meats from fish to lamb
Rubs, Marinades and Sauces: a very good section of do-it-yourself recipes
Bonus: Digital version is free with a Kindle Unlimited account
A very extensive “how-to” section will be very helpful to not just the new owner, but anyone who already owns a pellet grill and needs some pointers. There are almost a hundred recipes, which are straightforward and well-laid out. However, there are very few food photos. A solid choice, especially for a utilitarian who doesn’t need the glam of food photos. Bonus: Free with a Kindle Unlimited account.
The Wood Pellet Smoker & Grill Cookbook: Recipes and Techniques for the Most Flavorful Barbecue
by Peter Jautaikis, 2016 Kindle Version Available Usefulness Rating: 7 Cool Factor: 6
The strength of this book is its step-by-step photos for each recipe. The recipes are super easy to follow, because of this and this would be an excellent first book for a new or veteran pellet grill owner. There’s not a lot of “why we do this” for each recipe, however. The Introduction of the book is 25 pages of photos, tips, and instructions on pellet grilling basics that is very useful. Overall, it’s a great beginner book, with recipes for any level of cook. It’s professional and good-looking, but not great-looking. The photos are a bit sub-par for food photography. And you’re only going to get 6-10 recipes for each type of food, but they’re very extensive in their steps.
The troubleshooting section: answers to issues like unwanted temperature swings, igniter trouble, and the loss of fire while in smoke setting
Meat tips: a pretty useful section of tips on selecting, handling, and preparing various meats from fish to lamb
Rubs, Marinades and Sauces: a very good section of do-it-yourself recipes
Bottom Line A solid gift, especially for a new pellet grill owner. The Introduction is a solid introduction to pellet grilling. But while it has a decent array of easy to follow recipes, it probably won’t meet the expectations of a picky or seasoned chef as the photos are a bit unattractive.
The Ultimate Wood Pellet Grill Smoker Cookbook: 100+ Recipes for Perfect Smoking
by Bill West, 2018 Kindle Version Available, Kindle Unlimited Usefulness Rating: 9 Cool Factor: 6
They say not to judge a book by its cover, and this book is a perfect example. The cover is, frankly, boring. I’m guessing West had to go with what the publisher decided was a good-enough cover, which is a shame, because the insides are way better and deserved a better treatment.
Unlike any other book we reviewed, this book gets an additional recommendation for “prospective grill owners,” as it has a concise and very helpful overview of available grills, their differences, and the important disclaimer that they all basically function the same, though their conveniences and quality may differ.
As for the recipes, they are numerous and cover a wide and interesting range. They’re straightforward and easy-to-follow. There are no pictures with the recipes, but the typography and layout is above average. Recipes include some helpful tips, clues to the fact that it seems West actually cooked these recipes (not always true with cookbooks.) Example: microwave a raw spaghetti squash for a few minutes to make splitting it easier in preparation for smoking it.
The “Fundamentals of Wood Pellet Smoking” section is a very good primer for existing or prospective owners
You get the feeling that West has cooked each of these, and he offers some helpful tips along the way
Bonus: digital edition is free with a Kindle Unlimited account
Probably the best book for someone who’s thinking about buying a pellet grill. And it’s a good collection of solid recipes, though it doesn’t have the “wow factor” of beautiful photos that a typical gift book might. Think of it as a toolbox for grill owners, rather than a feature film about smoking, and this book has value.
Wood Pellet Smoker and Grill Cookbook: Complete Pitmaster Book for Smoking and Grilling Meat
by Roger Murphy, 2020 Kindle Version Available, Kindle Unlimited Usefulness Rating: 5 Cool Factor: 3
Murphy’s book is the equivalent of a box of recipe cards. It has 3 to 6 recipes for each category: Pork, Lamb, Vegetables, etc. Each recipe includes a black and white photo, which is better than none but not very appetizing.
The recipes are straightforward and specific to pellet grills for the most part, though a few reference using the indirect heat part of the grill. They lack nutritional info and serving sizes. Overall, the recipes are on the easy side, with no real bizarre ingredients or techniques. There are a decent amount of interesting recipes typical for pellet grilling recipe books.
As for design, it’s honestly awful. The book looks like someone created it in Microsoft word, with poor typography and spacing. One bonus, however, is that the type size is on the larger size and (too) spaced out, so those with poor vision may actually like the recipes here. It is not, however, a very impressive or awe-inspiring gift and has little value beyond a box of recipe cards or binder of printed out recipes from the internet.
8 pages of rudimentary how-to information in the back.
Free (digital version) with Kindle Unlimited account
Only 3-4 recipes for each category, but solid recipes
Not a very impressive book for a gift, as it’s too spartan looking with its black and white photos and poorly designed typography. It’s worth getting (for free) for the recipes if you have Kindle Unlimited.
Healthy and barbecue don’t always go hand-in-hand. But many basic barbecue recipes are surprisingly healthy. This book is one of the only cookbooks we’ve seen with nutritional information for each recipe. Did you know that a half-slab of baby back ribs is 720 calories? (A Big Mac is 563, by the way.)
Loseke’s book does an excellent job of showing good-tasting recipes, while keeping you informed of what you’re eating. It is NOT a no-flavor, no-fun diet book. Rather, it’s a solid cookbook for pellet smoking with the bonus of nutritional awareness. We do wish there were more vegetable recipes.
There are numerous quality photos throughout. The recipes are easy to follow, with very helpful tips provided for each. The book has a basic but not super-thorough “how to pellet grill” section. It also seems to be printed on a higher-quality paper than some of the others, giving it a good solid heft factor.
The only book we reviewed with nutrition information for each dish
Not just for dieters. The recipes are going to be useful to anyone.
Photos throughout, and recipes are straightforward with very good sidebar tips
If you know someone trying to eat healthy, this is a no-brainer gift. But it’s a solid pellet grilling book on its own, even if you aren’t trying to cook healthy. It’s professional
Smoking Meats 101: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide
by Bill West, 2019 Kindle Version Available, Kindle Unlimited Usefulness Rating: 8 Cool Factor: 7
We didn’t intend to include two Bill West books in our list, it just happened that way. Regardless, as with his pellet grilling cookbook, this book is a well-designed collection of helpful recipes, chock full of tips and techniques. And, as with his other book we reviewed, it’s far better looking on the inside than the cover would indicate. Bill, check out some new cover designers! Your content deserves it.
This is one of our favorite layouts for recipes among the group: the typography and use of color makes the recipes pleasing to look at and easy to follow. His peppering of F.A.’Ques (get it?) through the book are very insightful and helpful. There are photos throughout the book, but not for each recipe, if that’s important to you.
The book starts with the typical basics of smoking, but also gives a good food-specific set of tips in each food section: poultry, beef, sauces, etc..
Very easy to follow and easy on the eyes recipes
Not the best looking book for a gift, but high utility value for how to cook
Bonus: Free digital version with Kindle Unlimited account
So Bill West definitely needs a new cover designer, but his recipes are solid. The book is well-laid out and easy to follow with enough recipes to keep even a seasoned smoker busy with new discoveries. It may not have immediate “what a beautiful book” impact, but anyone who wants to expand their cooking will appreciate its usefulness on the inside.
Project Smoke: Seven Steps to Smoked Food Nirvana
by Steven Raichlen, 2016 Kindle Version Available, Kindle Unlimited Usefulness Rating: 10 Cool Factor: 8
Raichlen is no newbie to barbecue or to writing about it. He’s written several books on the subject, including The Barbecue Bible, a bestseller.
In Project Smoke, Raichlen has put together an almost 300-page A to Z tour of what’s possible when cooking with smoke. The instructions and tips are straightforward and comprehensive, with tons of photos.
The recipes cover everything from pork to desserts to smoked drinks (Smoky Mary, anyone?) and there are tips and techniques specific to each category and recipe throughout. It reads more like a cooking magazine with recipes than just a hodgepodge of recipes by category. Highly recommended for the pellet smoker in your life and honestly, anyone with a pellet smoker should own this book.
The best of the group for how-to info, though it’s not pellet-grill specific
Unique recipes from Tea-Soaked Duck to Smoked Nachos
Techniques and advice are constant throughout, as are helpful sidebars of extra info
A solid choice to help understand the how and why of smoking, as well as detailed recipes. There are tons of pictures along the way, and it’s done very tastefully. Consider this a school on smoking in a book, whether you’re a beginner or are looking for some additional tips and tricks. Even the paperback is impressive, which is good because the hardcover is difficult to find.
Smoked: One Man’s Journey to Find Incredible Recipes, Standout Pitmasters and the Stories Behind Them
by Ed Randolph, 2019 Kindle Version Available Usefulness Rating: 8 Cool Factor: 8
The author is a well-traveled BBQ team and restaurant owning pitmaster. His journeys have had him run across a myriad of people, styles, and techniques for barbecue and he does a good job of profiling them here. The recipes are diverse and playful, but not too complicated to use.
Most, but not all, of the recipes have photographs and each is well-organized and straightforward. The uniqueness here is not in the layout, though it’s above average, but in the diversity of cuisine. There are some truly inspiring recipes here that you’ll be anxious to try—or to eat.
The stories of each of the regional pitmasters and their recipes makes the read very interesting, as well as useful. It’s a fine way to expand your horizons when it comes to smoking.
Wide variety of recipes, from experts all over the country
Most recipes have great photos of the end product
Bonus is that it serves as a road-trip guide to traveling BBQ fans
Vegetarian smoked BBQ? Yep, there’s a few of those recipes, too.
A great way to supplement someone’s collection of recipes. The design is above-average, but the real beauty is in the subject matter. The profiles (and map) of the restaurants across the US–and the recipes they’re willing to share–make this not just a solid book of recipes for a pellet griller, but an interesting read on new people and places.
Salt Fat Acid Heat
by Samin Nosrat, 2017 Kindle Version Available Usefulness Rating: 10 Cool Factor: 9
This is definitely the book that is least about smoking food, but yet it may be the book most about creating good smoked foods. There is no doubt that this is the most popular and best-selling book on the list, and for good reason. Salt Fat Acid Heat is a deep deep dive into knowledge to make you a better cook.
And though it is a big book, with lots of information, the illustrations and organization make it not just informative, but entertaining. If you know someone interested in the science of cooking, and in becoming an overall better cook, this is the book for them. It contains probably more instruction than recipes, but it does have both. Photos are nonexistent, but that’s okay because the illustrations, charts, diagrams and even mini posters more than make up for it.
Though not specific to smoking, an understanding of how salt, fat, acid, and heat influences cooking and taste will be a huge benefit to people who use pellet smokers
Learn how to efficiently cut an onion as well as the magical taste combinations to create with them
The most gift-like of any book here, but make sure they don’t already own it
If not already owned (it’s pretty popular among cooks), this is a can’t miss choice. That being said, it’s not a book about smoking food. It’s a book about learning to cook food that can be applied to using a smoker. And it is wonderfully presented.
The South’s Best Butts
by Matt Moore, 2017 Kindle Version Available Usefulness Rating: 9 Cool Factor: 9
This isn’t just about pork butt recipes. There are a lot of them in here, which is a huge bonus to anyone with a pellet grill. But this book is a jaunt through the BBQ joints of the South, including their tried and true (and probably cherished) recipes.
The recipes are unique and make you want to go to the grocery store or butcher and get cooking. Though not pellet grill specific, they include times and temperatures, so they might as well be pellet grill recipes. They are clear and well designed, if a bit sparse on steps. But that’s okay, as these aren’t difficult recipes. And the profiles of the pitmasters and their restaurants are beautifully photographed.
It’s like a peek into the secret recipes of iconic BBQ joints across the South
Beautiful story-telling, mixed with unique and proven recipes like
Bonus: a great road-trip guide for foodies
Reads like a combination of great recipes and a National Geographic study of southern BBQ joints. In short, it’s a beautiful book that is sure to add to the griller’s ability to wow people and appreciation for the craft. It probably would have been a 10 on the cool factor–and the perfect gift–if it was offered as a hardcover. Still, you can’t go wrong giving this book for a pellet griller in your life.
Michael Symon’s Playing with Fire
by Michael Symon, 2018 Kindle Version Available Usefulness Rating: 8 Cool Factor: 10
In many ways, the best book here: the best photography, the best step-by-step methods, the best design, the best overall appeal. Yes, it’s a great book. The recipes are clear and very in-depth, with not just gorgeous photos, but illustrated techniques when appropriate.
The book does some profiles of pitmasters and restaurants as well, though they’re a constant throughout and not the entire focus of the book. Symon has, in his own words, created a love letter to live-fire cooking and it’s presented as a grand tour, complete with storytelling and images.
One caveat downside: the recipes are mostly created for pitmasters and not pellet grillers. Most recipes refer to “medium heat” or “indirect fire” and so these aren’t paint-by-numbers recipes.
The most gorgeous design of all the books here
Chicken smoked in hay is a must-try
The best vegetable recipes section of any book in this list
Just an all-around beautiful book. This is an easy choice as a gift. Oh, to have someone produce a pellet grilling book of this quality, with specific temperatures. It’s still a useful book but could be intimidating to beginners, due to lack of specific times and temperatures.
We think a good book is a great gift, and a book on pellet smoking might just the thing to not only make gift-giving a bit easier, but to help a pellet griller get the most out of their smoker. While all the books have recipes that will add to anyone’s abilities, we think there are a few in the list that will make great gifts. And everyone needs a few new tips and recipes.
Oh, and here’s that link for the Amazon Kindle Unlimited deal: