Book Review: Cheater BBQ

You know, no one likes a cheater. Whether it is Barry Bonds with his “clear and the cream”, Bill Clinton with Monica Lewinsky or even Ivan Boesky on Wall Street, we as Americans frown upon cheaters. You were taught in grade school that “cheaters never prosper” and for the most part that is true. But when it comes to cooking and preparing tailgating food it is okay to “cheat”.

By cheating I mean preparing as much food prior to leaving for the game so you can spend more time tailgating and less time working. I recently read the book Cheater BBQ by Mindy Merrell and R.B. Quinn and it is the definitive cookbook and guide to getting great BBQ to your tailgate party while doing the majority of the work before you leave.

Right off the bat, let’s clear up the usage of the word “BBQ”. Many know BBQ as the actual apparatus that you cook meats on, usually outdoors, and in my favorite place, a parking lot while tailgating. For our purpose of this book review we’ll refer to that as a grill to avoid confusion. “BBQ” in this instance will refer to the types of foods that can be described as BBQ such as pulled pork, brisket, baby-back ribs, etc. These are food items that are typically prepared on a grill or a smoker but the food itself is called BBQ. So now that we have that cleared up, let’s dive into this book.

The premise of Cheater BBQ is to achieve that authentic BBQ taste without all the work and effort that preparing BBQ normal requires. Smoking meats to perfection while tailgating is nearly impossible these days, especially with all the tailgating time restraints many college and NFL teams have recently imposed. Smoking a 14 lb. turkey could take up to seven hours and honestly not many of us are tailgating that long. That seven hour estimate is just cooking time and does not include the prepping of the smoker to the exact temperature you’ll need it to be at. Cheater BBQ includes more than 125 recipes to render that BBQ flavor using slow cookers, ovens, crock pots or even on your stove top.

Cheater BBQ was written to be the first cookbook to stake out the middle ground between the restaurant quality and highly unattainable perfect pit and your kitchen at home. It brings indoors favorite techniques for smoking and grilling, but without lighting a match. Low and slow cooked Cheater Pulled Pork, Cheater Oven Bag Ribs and Cheater Smoky Brisket take little more than an oven or an electric slow cooker, a roll of aluminum foil and some all-natural liquid smoke. And the best part for you tailgaters is that time you spend cooking your BBQ at home means more time for socializing in the parking lots. Anyone up for a game of beer pong?

Of course I was not able to try all 125 recipes but I did try a few. I especially liked a few of the brisket and pork recipes but the side dish recipes, think ranch style BBQ baked beans, were great as well. The pulled pork recipe (on Page 54 of my copy) is as simple as it was delicious.

Ultimate Cheater Pulled Pork

Makes 12 to 14 servings

* One 5- to 6-pound boneless Boston butt pork roast or same weight of boneless country-style pork ribs
* 1/4 cup Cheater Basic Dry Rub (recipe follows)
* 1/2 cup bottled smoke
* Barbecue sauce of your choice

1. Cut the pork butt into medium (2- to 3-inch) chunks (the ribs don’t need to be cut up).

2. Put the pieces in a large slow cooker (at least 5 quarts). Sprinkle the meat with the rub, turning the pieces to coat evenly. Add the bottled smoke.

3. Cover and cook on high for 5 to 6 hours or on low for 10 to 12 hours, until the meat is pull-apart tender and reaches an internal temperature of 190 F.

4. Using tongs and a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a rimmed platter or baking sheet. Let rest until cool enough to handle. Pull the meat into strands. It should shred very easily. Serve the barbecue piled on buns with your favorite barbecue sauce.

5. To serve the barbecue later, cover and refrigerate the meat when it has cooled. Pour the meat juice into a separate container and refrigerate. Before reheating the juice, skim and discard the congealed fat layer on the top.

6. To reheat the barbecue, place it in a saucepan moistened with some of the reserved juice. Gently heat the meat on medium-low, stirring occasionally. Or, place it in a covered casserole with some of the reserved juice and heat in a 350 F oven for 20 to 30 minutes.

7. While the meat warms, combine the barbecue sauce and some of the additional reserved meat juice in a saucepan. Heat through and serve with the barbecue.

Cheater Basic Dry Rub
Makes about 2/3 cup

* 1/4 cup paprika
* 2 tablespoons kosher salt
* 2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
* 1 tablespoon garlic powder
* 1 tablespoon dry mustard

1. Combine all the ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake to blend.

My recommendation is if you are pressed for time but still want the authentic taste of BBQ, you need to get this book. It will cut down on the amount of time you spend cooking in the parking lot leaving you free for other things. Also, if you are looking for a holiday gift for that tailgater in your life that could stand to get a break from cooking, grilling and smoking, this would make a great gift.

List price on the back of the book says it will run you $17.95 but I am sure you might be able to find it cheaper online or possibly at your local book seller.