Book Review: Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ
by Rodney Scott and Lolis Eric Elie, Clarkson Potter,
New York, 2001, 225 pages, $29.99 USD/$39.99 CDN.
This report originally appeared in the Winter 2021/2022 print issue of Quench Magazine.
Why do you need to get your hands on Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ right now? First of all, Scott is one of the most dynamic figures in contemporary barbecue. Second, his is the first cookbook by an African American professional barbecuer published by a major commercial press… in three decades! Let that sink in for a moment. Third, this cookbook’s storytelling, accessible prose and tantalizing recipes completely immerse you in the mind of a pitmaster at the top of his craft.
The first section of the book is straight biography. Co-writer Lolis Eric Elie weaves an utterly compelling narrative about Scott’s life journey in barbecue. Readers learn what it was like to grow up in Hemingway, South Carolina, of the dedication it takes to become a pitmaster, and how he started on the path to greatness when others told him that his best destiny was mediocrity. The World of BBQ is not solely about self-promotion. Scott is astonishingly, and refreshingly, honest about his trials and tribulations on the path to greatness. Foremost is his strained relationship with his father Roosevelt “Rosie” Scott.
The next section is about the barbecue craft itself. World of BBQ differs from other cookbooks because Scott is a specialist in the fading art of whole hog cooking. Here, he breaks down the process from the ground up by showing the elements of this old school form of barbecue. Scott even shows the reader how to build one’s own cinderblock barbecue pit and a “burn barrel” from a steel oil drum in case you want to burn down your own coals. Then comes the cooking process. As any cook knows, it’s a lot easier to cook an animal broken down into smaller parts than it is to cook a whole animal. With the latter, different parts cook at different rates, and this is a core challenge for whole hog cooking. Scott demystifies the process by providing ample tips on fire management, the cooking process, and seasoning. A slip in attention to detail at any time during the barbecuing process can lead to disaster. That’s why Scott earnestly declares that “Whole hog is king in the barbecue world. Barbecuing briskets and pork shoulders well is an art that takes time, skill, and dedication. But it doesn’t take the twelve hours of concentration that a whole hog requires.”
The latter half of World of BBQ pivots to recipes that should be less daunting to the home cook. Though Scott openly pledges his allegiance to the Big Green Egg, all of the recipes are easily adapted to most grill setups. Mercifully, Scott avoids giving overly complicated recipes for beef, chicken, fish, and turkey dishes. He also spares cooks from getting exotic ingredients that they may only use once. Scott also provides helpful tips for barbecuing meat. For example, pork spareribs are done “[w]hen you pick the slab up, it should sag or flop easily. If a slight tear develops in the meat between the bones, that’s another sign of doneness.”
Scott doesn’t provide a recipe for a plant-based entrée which is a missed opportunity given the current fervor for smoked vegetables like jackfruit and portobello mushrooms.
In addition to standard barbecue fare, Scott also shows off his culinary range by in-cluding southern food essentials like crispy fried catfish or chicken, smoky pork-laden collard greens, or creamy pimento cheese. At his multiple restaurants in Charleston, South Carolina, Atlanta, Georgia, and Birmingham, Alabama, customers love these items as much as the barbecue. Scott’s barbecue world also contains a fair amount of mad scientist moments and whimsy. A chocolate layer cake spiked with pork cracklings, macaroni and cheese anchored with condensed cream of chicken soup, and a tequila cocktail infused with honey barbecue sauce syrup are just a few examples of how Scott bends culinary norms.
Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ clearly demonstrates why Scott is one of the more intriguing and exciting figures in the contemporary world of barbecue. This cookbook is essential for any barbecue aficionado who desires to be simultaneously steeped in tradition and peer at the cuisine’s cutting edge. Each page of this beautifully photographed cookbook breathes life into Scott’s personal motto: “Every day is a good day.”
Photo credits: supplied