No one is born knowing all the secrets to great barbecue.
And, while there’s absolutely no replacement for getting out there and getting your clothes smokey, having at least one great barbecue cookbook on your table means you’ll save yourself a whole lot of burnt brisket. It’s nice not to have to learn everything by trial and error.
Whether you, or the person you’re buying for, is a total beginner, already compete, or are somewhere in between you’ll find one of the best smoker cookbooks here that’s right for you.
We’ve pored over a multitude of options, from the classics that have earned their stripes to hidden gems waiting to hit the bestseller lists.
Each cookbook we’ve recommended has been thoroughly evaluated, not only for its recipes but also for its clarity, innovation, and suitability for both newcomers and seasoned smokers.
There’s the history of barbecue, tried and true basics, regional flavors, tips and tricks, pitmaster secrets, and restaurant favorites with a whole heap of sides to serve up with it.
No matter what type of smoker you’re using, up your barbecue with one of these top smoking titles…
Burning Brisket is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Read our affiliate policy to learn more.
Table of Contents
How We Selected the Best Smoker Cookbooks
We review barbecues for a living so, naturally, we barbecue a lot!
But, when we started smoking, there was a lot of burning brisket (hence the name…). We started reading, we tested different methods, we talked to the experts, and, we kept going until we became experts ourselves.
A lot of the best smoker cookbooks recommended here are ones that we poured over in our initial days. A lot are books that we still use today.
We’ve got our favorites for the meat, favorites for sides, the best for understanding the science behind heat and smoke, and the titles we reach for for gifts.
Some of the books are award winning. Most have thousands of great reviews from other users. Some are lesser known but, in our opinion, are just as good as the titles everyone knows.
There’s one thing in common with all of these books though, they’re all written by people who really know what they’re doing. They’ve tried and failed many a time before they succeeded.
Learning from their mistakes will shorten your road to barbecue glory. And, they’ll be an enjoyable read while you’re at it.
Our Tried and True Top Smoker Cookbooks
These titles are a great addition to any barbecue lovers library.
Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling - Best Smoke and Grill
If you want just one barbecue book to sit on your shelf, it better be this one.
Meathead covers just about everything barbecue including smoking AND grilling in a science-based approach that shatters myths so that you can cook better food.
This book is thorough, meticulous, and just what you called for if you want a great generalist book that’ll actually teach you the how, why, when and where of barbecue instead of just being able to follow a few recipes.
Written by the well-respected Meathead Goldwyn, founder of AmazingRibs.com, this best BBQ cookbook is as much designed for the beginner as it is the experienced pitmaster. Meathead takes the ‘magic’ out of cooking by teaching you the core concepts that will 100% make your food taste better.
But, if you’re worried about too much theory and not enough practical advice, you can kiss that goodbye. There’s more than 100 recipes ranging from the basics to more creative inventions that deliver flavor you weren’t expecting.
Meathead is a must-have on any outdoor cooks shelf that will become a reference book for helping you create outstanding dishes of your own.
Franklin Barbecue: A Meat Smoking Manifesto - New York Times Bestseller
Franklin Barbecue, located in Austin, Texas, is one of the most famous BBQ joints in all of America. And, this thorough book is filled with everything that Aaron, Franklin Barbecue’s proprietor, knows about this, what he terms, ‘loosey goosey’ practice.
Unlike most recipe books, Franklin Barbecue isn’t filled with instructions cover to cover.
In fact, it’s not until chapter 6 that he gets into the actual ingredients and methods. But, that’s what makes his New York Times Bestseller (and his barbecue for that matter) so darn good! He emphasizes that there’s no magic recipe in barbecue and that being equipped with general knowledge and tips and tricks is the best thing he can give each and every one of you.
Just keep in mind, this book is more focused on helping you to master the variables of your smoker, wood, fire, meat, rub and time, instead of just blindly following a recipe.
So, if you want a great reference book with just a few recipes to really master, Franklin Barbecue is for you.
Rodney Scott's World of BBQ - Hottest New Title
Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ is one of the hottest recent smoker cookbook releases on the market.
So hot that it’s been named as one of the best cookbooks of the year by The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time Out, Epicurious, Vice, and Southern Living.
Writen by the James Beard Award-winning chef, Rodney Scott, and award-winning writer, Lolis Eric Elie, Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ covers pretty much everything you could ever want from this type of book.
There’s foundational knowledge and history and easy to follow core recipes and a whole heap of sides. He even shares some of his life story and family recipes that have been handed down through generations.
With exceptional photography, Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ is something special.
The best part?
It’s written in a friendly, down-to-earth tone that makes you feel like Rodney’s right there with you, sharing his secrets over a cold beverage.
Just as suitable for the seasoned pro as it is for an absolute beginner, your barbecue is sure to get a whole heap tastier with this read.
Project Smoke - Best Innovative
Steven Raichlen steps away from the norm in Project Smoke to bring you a tonne of innovative and all smoker-based recipes that are still backed with his many years of solid experience and expert knowledge.
From traditional brisket to seafood, smoked cocktails and desserts, Project Smoke covers it all.
Starting with the basics like which type of wood to use, Steven breaks down barbecue technique into 7 easy to follow steps that’ll take you from novice to tried and true, encouraging you to have fun while you’re at it.
There’s 100 bbq recipes that, unlike a lot of cookbooks, are ALL done on a smoker. And, they’re not all just beef with a side of pork. Project Smoke will have you smoking things you wouldn’t have even dreamt of!
I mean, smoked cheesecake… say no more!
Smokin' with Myron Mixon - Best Keep It Simple
If you’re looking for proof that the author of any of the best smoker cookbooks has the expertise to have written it, then Smokin’ with Myron Mixon is it.
Before writing this book, author Myron Mixon had won 3 world championships, more than 180 grand championships and took the title of breakout star in the TV series, BBQ Pitmasters.
And, his advice might surprise you! Throughout this top rated smoker cookbook, you’ll find his ‘keep it simple’ mantra applied to the whole barbecue process as he guides you through the basics, setup, techniques and more than 75 recipes.
But, what really makes Smokin’ with Myron Mixon stand out to us is that Myron doesn’t just talk about large quantity or competition-based cooking. Instead, he tells you how he does barbecue in his own backyard so that you can take what he’s said and apply it to your own smoking right away, whether that’s to impress your friends, or, to win you next barbecue competition.
Whether you’re cooking on an offset, kamado, electric, or even a gas grill, Myron shows you how to adapt his recipes for success without the anxiety of stressing out about exact quantities, temperatures and cook times.
We like it when simple means best!
Pitmaster - Best Expert Collection
In the top rated smoker cookbook, Pitmaster, you’re not only getting access to the knowledge of one expert, you’re getting tips and actual recipes from more than 10 well-known competition winners, restaurateurs and barbecue professionals.
With a spotlight on different regional barbecue styles, Pitmaster starts with the basics and moves you through to more advanced cooks like the North Carolina whole hog. But, the backyard is definitely not forgotten with a whole chapter dedicated to the solid foundation of cooking for friends and family.
Their recipes can be used on a range of different smokers so you won’t need to upgrade your gear. But, if you’re new to ‘cue they go into detail on their favorite smokers including the Weber Smokey Mountain (read our full review of the WSM here).
Most of all, we love that Pitmaster respects all styles of barbecue and encourages you to find your own with what you’ve got and what you enjoy. And, for people like us who enjoy good meat no matter where it’s from, it’s right on point to be able to follow the lead from Lewis Barbecue one day and Hometown Bar-B-Que the next
Diva Q's Barbecue - Best Family-Friendly
Diva Q’s Barbecue Cookbook is not as well known as the other titles on this list. But, it’s really thorough, has a tonne of great recipes and really earns a place up there with one best smoker cookbooks.
It’s also a great choice if you’re looking for a gift because there’s less chance that this one’s already sitting on your bbq lover’s bookshelf.
Diva Q was made famous on the hit TV show, BBQ Crawl. And, her expertise shines through in this self-titled guide as she delves into essential techniques, flavor profiles, and pro tips that will have you wielding tongs and fire with newfound confidence.
While some smoker cookbooks focus more on technique than actual recipes, Diva Q’s Barbecue is packed full of 195 of them covering the basics all the way through to champion level dishes.
But, what I think really makes this book stand out from the crowd is that Diva Q uses it to emphasize the joy of cooking with family and friends. She encourages you to focus on making barbecue and meal time into an experience filled with laughter and shared moments – just the way it should be!
Diva Q’s Barbecue will fill you with expertise but also enthusiasm for creating memorable backyard gatherings with your newfound barbecue magic.
Suitable for beginners and seasoned grill masters, it covers both grilling and smoking while focusing on casual, family-friendly food.
Horn Barbecue: Recipes and Techniques from a Master of the Art of BBQ - Best Unique Style
Finalist in the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) Cookbook Awards for 2022, Horn Barbecue is another top smoker cookbook title that’s worth a place on your bookshelf.
And, the coolest thing about this one is that Matt Horn, star pitmaster and founder of the Horn Barbecue restaurant in Oakland, California gives you the insight, tips and tricks of his very own, unique style of barbecue.
Instead of focusing on a single style of barbecue, Horn has adopted what he loves about barbecue from Texas and Carolina while putting a Californian spin on smoking.
In it you’ll find recipes covering the traditional cuts of barbecued meats. But, there’s more chicken, seafood, vegetables and even fruits.
A lot of the recipes in Horn Barbecue are from Matt’s personal collection. Others are from his restaurant.
But, pork ribs, burnt ends, Matt’s grandmothers Smoked Oxtails, smoked Jambalaya, a unique brisket mix-up, sides and dessert to boot make this a great all-round smoker cookbook for someone looking for something a little bit different.
The Brisket Chronicles - Best In-Depth
When it comes to barbecue, brisket is king! And, this whole book is dedicated to brisket, brisket and more brisket. It’s pretty much our dream come true…
In The Brisket Chronicles, Texas-style smoked brisket is just the beginning. There’s more than 60 different recipes covering brisket that’s barbecued, cured, braised, boiled, fried, and, brisket even for breakfast.
Whether you want to learn how to make Old School Pastrami or more trendy takes on this versatile cut of meat, The Brisket Chronicles covers it.
But, recipes aren’t all that’s in it. There’s plenty of time spent on theory and helping you master the technique with tips scattered throughout the book.
Basically, Steven Raichlen really knows what he’s talking about and this book will help you turn this can be tricky cut into something that’s really pretty simple.
Smokestack Lightning: Adventures in the Heart of Barbecue Country - Best History
Author/s: Lolis Eric Elie
Available formats: Paperback
Smokestack Lightening isn’t so much of a recipe book. To put it in potentially an off-putting way, it’s the story of a 1993 road trip around the USA where a lot of barbecue was eaten.
Journalist Lolis Eric Elie and photographer Frank Stewart visit some of the country’s top joints as well as a lot of lesser known, local spots. They talked to the chefs, pitmasters and restaurant owners and share history, perspective and lessons they learned along the way.
Sounds like a great trip, right. But, surely it doesn’t qualify as one of the best smoker cookbooks out there…?
Smokestack Lightening is just so fundamental. It’s eloquently written. It’s funny. It provides such a great history and comparison of barbecue in different regions. It’ll broaden your perspective of barbecue and take you back to the essence of what the meat, smoke and spice is all about.
A lot of people are talking about this book as the anthropological bible on the history and soul of barbecue.
Yes, you should read it yourself. But, Smokestack Lightening is one of, if not our top choice for a barbecue gift book. It’s unique and memorable. There are a few good recipes along the way but it’s the other stuff that really makes this book something special.
Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook - Best Texas-Style
You know Aaron Franklin? The founder of the legendary Franklin Barbecue and author of the Franklin series of cookbooks. Well, this book, the Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook has been with him since the very beginning of his barbecue journey.
It’s helped build legends.
And, if you love Texas, Texas, and everything Texas, this book gives you an in-depth look at the Texas-shaped heart of barbecue.
There’s lots of history, lots of Texas-style recipes, and sides to serve up with it, plus a little commentary on travelling around eating meat.
The recipes themselves I’d say are mostly pretty basic (as good bbq really is). But, the dialogue around the process of cooking, the techniques you can use and the demonstrations of how it’s all applied are where you’ll really learn the most.
This updated version has 32 new recipes as well, focusing on the classics while documenting the latest techniques that have come about from Texas-style barbecue becoming so darn trendy.
The Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook is a bible that’ll end up dog-eared and stained while your barbecue will just keep getting better.
Smoke and Spice - Best Original
Smoke and Spice was the first smoking cookbook that we added to our collection. And, since then, it’s become one of our most well-used barbecue tools.
Originally written back in 1994, this revised edition recognizes that most people are well-versed at what they term “introductory barbecue”. But, it’s time to move beyond grilling to “real, honest-to-goodness ‘Q'”. And, it can totally be done in anyone’s backyard!
Although Smoke and Spice does address technique throughout the book, you won’t find pages and pages just focused on technique in here.
Instead, it’s pretty much cover to cover with a tonne of recipes including regional barbecue favorites and more modern takes on this versatile method of cooking.
You’ll also find added tips, serving suggestions and information on how to make your own variations of their recipes. Cheryl and Bill really make sure you’re not jumping in blind.
There’s also plenty of sides, salads and desserts to round out your meal too.
Smoking Meat 101 - Best Beginner
You may be fresh but Bill West, my friend, isn’t! This respected barbecue master has spent more than 30 years working with prolific pit masters in South Carolina, and, the past 20 or so years, teaching backyard barbecue through his blog, BarbecueTricks.com, and his BarbecueTricks.com YouTube channel.
Smoking Meat 101: The Ultimate Beginners Guide, is an amalgamation of all of his teachings, coupled with a few extras and more than 75 recipes.
Unlike a lot of best smoker cookbooks, Smoking Meat 101 starts at the very beginning. It’ll help you select the right type of smoker, know which accessories are essentials versus extras, and, understand how different woods affect the flavor of your meat.
It’s straight-forward. It doesn’t distract with too many stories of the competitive barbecue circuit. And, it doesn’t assume you might want to run your own barbecue restaurant one day (although there’s nothing wrong with using this book as your foundation if you do!).
What Smoking Meat 101 does do is provide you with an excellent foundation from which you can experiment with both it’s traditional recipes and it’s more exotic creations.
Slow Fire: The Beginners Guide to Barbecue - Best Technique-Focused
Slow Fire is another beginner barbecue book. But, with it’s simple yet thorough focus on technique, this one’s really just great for anyone beginner up.
If you’re not already familiar with him, Ray “Dr. BBQ” Lampie is one of the most well-liked and well-known experts in the barbecue world. Starting as an award-winning competitor, Dr. BBQ has taught his own barbecue school, started the Dr BBQ restaurant, and, written another award-winning cookbook, Dr. BBQ’s Big-Time Barbecue Cookbook.
With plenty of recipes to get you going, Slow Fire is well-written and straight forward without limiting you to beginner-level meals. It’s also designed for any type of smoker from stove-top to vertical, offset, electric, pellet and the good old kamado.
The Wood Pellet Smoker and Grill Cookbook - Best Pellet Smoker
The cover’s not so pretty. But, if you’ve got a pellet smoker and want a barbecue cookbook that focuses solely on that, The Wood Pellet Smoker and Grill Cookbook is an excellent choice.
Written by Peter Jautaikis, self-proclaimed wood pellet smoker-grill aficionado, this book dives straight in to the hows, whats and whys or this specific type of smoking. This means that you get all the extras more general barbecue books may have missed including learning about every part of a pellet smoker, the different types of heat controllers, how to select and store pellets, and, testing for hot spots on your grill.
And, once your well-versed in the theory and technique, The Wood Pellet Smoker and Grill Cookbook has an appealing range of recipes as well.
Covering appetizers, poultry, red meat, pork, seafood and a few extras, you’ll without a doubt benefit from Peter’s extensive and specialized experience or pellet smoking.
The Complete Electric Smoker Cookbook - Best Electric
Using an electric heating element plus wood to smoke meat is really different to using a pure log fire. So, if you’re weapon of choice is an electric smoker, The Complete Electric Smoker Cookbook gives you precisely the right focused advice you need to master this unique method.
Written by self-proclaimed barbecue master and teacher, Bill West, The Complete Electric Smoker Cookbook covers everything from the fundamentals of electric smoking to advanced more creative recipes with a spin.
Just like electric smoking itself, this top rated smoker cookbook keeps things pretty simple. We love the fact that Bill focuses on using pantry essentials, minimizing the number of ingredients you need to buy.
And, because electric smokers often mean bulk smoking, there’s even some notes on how to store and freeze different types of smoked meats without losing too much moisture.
FAQs on the Best Smoker Cookbooks
Although a lot of the best smoker cookbooks focus on using a traditional offset smoker with charcoal as a fuel, any recipe can be followed and/or adapted to suit your particular barbecue.
Some of these books will help you to do that.
Regardless, make sure you’re well practiced (or get the practice along the way) in the basics of using your own barbecue. This would include knowing things like how long it takes to heat up, where any hot spots are if there are any, how even the smoke distribution is, and how to vary the temperature as required.
When it comes to the actual recipe with meat, spices and sauces, well, you can cook that on anything.
But, if you do want a book that’s specificially focused on cooking on a pellet smoker or an electric smoker, check out our top recommendation for that above.
It might seem a bit odd that a lot of the best smoker cookbooks are filled with dialogue instead of straight up recipes. But, there’s actually a pretty good reason why many smoker cookbooks keep their recipe counts on the low side.
Smoking, my friend, is all about the process, not just blindly following a recipe.
It’s all about mastering the techniques, understanding your smoker inside out, and getting those smoky flavors just right.
Each recipe in a smoker cookbook usually comes with detailed instructions, tips, and tricks to help you nail it. It’s not just about throwing some meat on the grill and hoping for the best; it’s about patience, precision, and knowing how to tweak things when the smoke’s rolling.
Sure, the recipe itself is useful. But, they’re teaching a man to fish so you can truly understand what’s going on when you smoke.
So, don’t be put off by fewer recipes. Look at it as an opportunity to dive deep into the world of smoking and truly master the art.
Truth be told, any of the cookbooks listed in this review are great for beginners.
Most start with the fundamentals of cooking with smoke and indirect heat before getting into more complicated recipes.
But, if you’re picking any single smoker cookbook to sit on your shelf, I’d go with Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling. This book is so meticulous while teaching you the core concepts to barbecue well without the fluff that can overcomplicate stuff.
Smokin’ with Myron Mixon is another great beginner barbecue title. In it, you’re learning how a world champion pitmaster applies his ‘keep it simple’ mantra to cook barbecue in his own backyard. He also shows you how to adapt recipes to suit your smoker of choice. But, what we love the most about this book is how it doesn’t overcomplicate barbecue. Great bbq really can be simple.
The other book we’d recommend if you’re a total novice is Smoking Meat 101.
This book walks you through everything including how to choose the right kind of smoker for what you want and which accessories you really need. It’s straight-forward and doesn’t get carried away with competitive barbecue, getting you focused on doing the basics well.
If you’re aiming to take your smoker skills to competition level, you’ll want a cookbook that doesn’t mess around.
Learn from not just one but ten well-known barbecue professionals in Pitmaster. They’ll walk you through different regional styles of barbecue and how to do more advanced cooks. Keep in mind they don’t just go in at a high level. Pitmaster covers the basics as well because you can’t build greatness without a solid foundation.
Another title we recommend for the backyard pitmaster who wants to get serious is Smokin’ with Myron Mixon. He is after all, the winningest man in barbecue. Learn as Myron shows you how to apply his ‘keep it simple’ philosophy to the whole barbecue process to create meats that are truly exceptional and award winning.
Just remember, competition-level smoking takes dedication, practice, and a lot of patience. These cookbooks will give you the recipes and knowledge you need, but it’s up to you to put in the hours at the smoker. Get ready to smoke your way to BBQ glory!
Our go-to smoker cookbook to gift to someone when we don’t know what books they already have is Smokestack Lightning: Adventures in the Heart of Barbecue Country.
This book does have recipes in it. But, it’s more of an inspiring, historical and regional look at barbecue across the United States.
There’s still plenty of guidance in there. There’s tips and tricks from famous pitmasters and real restauranters. There’s a few great recipes as well. We love giving Smokestack Lightening because it’s not your typical barbecue book. It’s funny and insightful, unique and memorable.
For a more recipe-focused smoker cookbook to gift, go for the Steven Raichlen’s Project Smoke.
In it you’ll find more than 100 recipes that, unlike a lot of smoker cookbooks are ALL to be cooked on the smoker. It’s expert advice based on years and years of professional experience that starts with 7 easy steps and takes you all the way through to smoking some more unusual things.
Kate Brown, the founder and voice behind Burning Brisket, is not your typical pitmaster or restaurateur. Her expertise in barbecue grew from a humble desire to cook exceptional meals for her family. From overcoming burnt brisket mishaps to establishing her boutique cattle ranch, Kate shares her passion to help 'ordinary' individuals cook extraordinary barbecue, believing that simplicity often yields the best flavors. Kate is commited to making great barbecue accessible to all with the right resources and some tasty practice.