The Great Meat Cookbook: Everything You Need to Know to Buy and Cook Today’s Meat by Bruce Aidells is just like the man – big, friendly, and incredibly knowledgeable about all things meat. In this era of vegan-vegetarian foods, restaurants, and cookbooks, it’s refreshing to find someone writing authoritatively about today’s meat offerings.
Most foodies know Brue Aidells as the man who invented those delicious Aidells Chicken Sausages. He’s also the co-author, with Denis Kelly, of the classic The Complete Meat Cookbook. The Great Meat Cookbook is even better and represents Aidells’ incredibly comprehensive knowledge about everything carnivore.
The first part of Aidells’ book is a primer on selecting, storing, handling, and different ways to cook meat, including knowing how to judge the doneness of meat. This introduction alone would be worth the price of the book, but there’s more, way more.
Aidells then breaks the book into meat types – beef and bison; pork; sausages, pates, potted and cured meats; lamb and goat; and veal. He defines and demystifies terms commonly used but often misunderstood with meat, like grass-fed, certified organic, natural, pasture-raised, and naturally-raised. He also explains different cuts of meat with helpful illustrations and gives a section on good cheap cuts of meat and how to cook them.
One of the most helpful parts of The Great Meat Cookbook is his sections on meat doneness. There’s nothing worse than buying an expensive cut of meat only to overcook it. And Aidell has us covered with pictures of meats at different stages of doneness, the temperature at which to remove from the heat, and the temperature the meat should be after resting (often less than what the USDA recommends).
Then each meaty chapter presents lots of recipes for different type of meat, really delicious recipes like pork and apple dumplings, Chinese-style braised oxtails with baby bok choy, spinach and gorgonzola-stuffed flank steam, and, one of my absolute favorites, Carlos’ grilled chile-marinated thin cut pork tacos. And he includes recipes from around the world – Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Thailand, Mexico, Morocco, Turkey, the Middle East, and more. In addition to an exhaustive collection of international meat recipes, Aidells offers recipes for sides, sauces, relishes, pastas, and even condiments.
Each recipe has a heading that gives the reader clues into the dish. For instance, under the recipe for The Perfect BLT it says “In a hurry, Comfort food;” for the Smoked Pork Loin recipe, it’s “Comfort Food, Great Leftovers, Keeps Well, and Freezes Well.” Additionally, each lists the ingredients and then numbers the cooking steps. It also lists alternative cuts you can use and has a Cook’s Notes section that offers the reader the “inside information” on making the recipes. All of this makes Aidells book even friendlier and more useable for home cooks.
While each recipe in this big 632-page encyclopedic reference/cookbook doesn’t have its own photograph, many recipes do and the photographs, supplied by talented photographer Luca Trovato and styled by his wife, Rori Trovato, are absolutely stunning. I could spend many evenings just thumbing through these gorgeous images.
The book is well indexed and has helpful bold listings that make it easier to navigate. In addition, there’s a “Recipes by Category” listing that arranges the recipes by Cheat Eats; Comfort Food; Family Meals, Fit for a Crowd; Fit for Company; Freezes Well; Grass-Fed Beef and Veal; Great Leftovers; Great Meat Dishes of the World; Heirloom Pork; In a Hurry; Keeps Well; Meat as a Condiment; Rewarms Well; Two-for-One; and Wood-fired Oven. Now, that’s something I’ve never seen in a cookbook, but it’s incredibly helpful.
We see tons of good cookbooks here at realfoodtraveler.com, but few really great cookbooks. The Great Meat Cookbook lives up to its name; it really is great and it contains everything you need to know to buy and cook all kinds of meat. This terrific book will surely occupy a space in the “reference” section of realfoodtraveler.com’s cookbook library and should in your’s too. – Review Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor