In contrast to such stereotypical peccadilloes as chugging milk from the carton and refusing to ask for directions, a knack for cooking hunks of meat - preferably over fire - has long been one of the positive male traits. So guys - and their dining partners - should celebrate a new micro-trend in cookbooks. A recent crop of meaty, manly cookbooks promises to show men - and anyone else carnivorously inclined - how to grill, smoke and sear tonight's dinner with gusto. Shaun Smith rates them in terms of their recipe appeal, usability and downright manliness.
Smokin' with Myron Mixon: Recipes Made Simple, from the Winningest Man in Barbecue
By Myron Mixon (Ballantine Books, $25 )
Rating: 5/5 stars
Grill cred: Myron Mixon, who has won more than $1-million on the competitive barbecue circuit, learned his trade shovelling coals at his daddy's Georgia barbecue pit. Barbecue is in this good ol' boy's blood.
Gutsiest dish: Smoked whole hog. Why have just the ribs, bacon or chops when you can have it all: a 180-pound (82-kilogram) butterflied hog, injected, rubbed and basted with apple, vinegar, sugar and spices, then smoked for 20 hours. Don't have a day to spare? His nine-hour smoked pork shoulder yields comparably glorious results.
Macho quotient: Mr. Mixon espouses a hard-as-nails approach to work and a workmanlike approach to having fun. If you aren't prepared to get your hands dirty, get yourself a nice salad cookbook.
Eat Like a Man: The Only Cookbook a Man Will Ever Need
By Esquire (Chronicle Books, $34)
Rating: 5/5 stars
Grill cred: The editors of Esquire magazine have brought together 69 top chefs such as Daniel Boulud and Charlie Palmer to provide recipes for the sort of hearty grub "men want to eat." .
Gutsiest dish: Steak with potatoes. Every man should know how to sear a beefsteak in a cast-iron pan. Tom Colicchio, owner of New York's Colicchio & Sons, lays out the basics of cooking hanger steak over high heat with almost constant butter basting. He then fries up some spuds in bacon fat. Oh, be still my heart!
Macho quotient: With recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert and even cocktails, a river of butter, gravy, cheese and booze runs through this sumptuous book. Put your cardiologist on speed dial.
Grilling with Salming
By Borje Salming (HarperCollins Canada, $24.99)
Rating: 4/5 stars
Grill cred: Yes, that Borje Salming, a.k.a. "The King," who skated 16 seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs. After retirement, he returned to Sweden and devoted himself to barbecuing dinners for his large family.
Gutsiest dish: Stick fish. Salming catches trout or char on the Swedish fell, skewers them stem-to-stern and roasts them over an open campfire. Sprinkled with a little salt, they're eaten "directly off the stick." Dinner doesn't get much more primal.
Macho quotient: Mr. Salming once took a skate slash to the face that required 300 stitches. Is that macho enough for you? Retirement seems pretty tame by contrast - hunting and fishing with his sons and setting up a hockey league for his daughters - and his food reflects that subdued lifestyle.
The Deen Bros. Get Fired Up: Grilling, Tailgating, Picnicking, and More
By Jamie & Bobby Deen (Ballantine Books, $28.95)
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Grill cred: Paula Deen's boys, Jamie and Bobby, follow in their mama's footsteps to peddle that Southern charm and their family's knack for cooking. The emphasis is on simple grilled meats, saucy sandwiches and finger foods for watching sports.
Gutsiest dish: Beer can chicken. An almost-full tallboy of beer goes on the barbecue, and a whole chicken rubbed with mustard, chili powder and brown sugar goes over the can. It's a beerlicious classic.
Macho quotient: With their Bermuda shorts, pastel shirts and pasted-on smiles, Jamie and Bobby come off like a couple of posed dandies in the book's many photos. Sadly, like their middle-of-the-road preppy style, their food takes no chances and offers little innovation.
Sear, Sauce & Serve: Mastering High-Heat, High-Flavor Cooking
By Tony Rosenfeld (Running Press, $23)
Rating: 3/5 stars
Grill cred: Chef and co-founder of a Boston burger chain, Tony Rosenfeld spent years working in restaurants perfecting his technique. The book teaches us not only how to properly sear everything from steak to seafood, but also how to make dozens of easy sauces to match.
Gutsiest dish: Root beer glaze. This syrupy reduction that blends our favourite childhood pop with ketchup, garlic, orange juice, mustard and Worcestershire sauce goes beautifully on pork chops, ham and even ribs.
Macho quotient: There's a tremendous range of recipes here, but no photos. Without drool-inducing shots of all that seared meat and saucy goodness, this one feels like a home-economics textbook.
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