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Black Smoke

African Americans and the United States of Barbecue

328 pp., 7 x 10, 8 color plates, 26 halftones, notes, bibl., index, 8 color illustrations for color insert. 16 side bars

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-6280-0
    Published: April 2021
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-6281-7
    Published: April 2021

Ferris and Ferris Books

Hardcover Available April 2021, but pre-order your copy today!

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Across America, the pure love and popularity of barbecue cookery have gone through the roof. Prepared in one regional style or another, in the South and beyond, barbecue is one of the nation's most distinctive culinary arts. And people aren’t just eating it; they’re also reading books and articles and watching TV shows about it. But why is it, asks Adrian Miller—admitted ’cuehead and longtime certified barbecue judge—that in today’s barbecue culture African Americans don't get much love?

In Black Smoke, Miller chronicles how Black barbecuers, pitmasters, and restauranteurs helped develop this cornerstone of American foodways and how they are coming into their own today. It's a smoke-filled story of Black perseverance, culinary innovation, and entrepreneurship. Though often pushed to the margins, African Americans have enriched a barbecue culture that has come to be embraced by all. Miller celebrates and restores the faces and stories of the men and women who have influenced this American cuisine. This beautifully illustrated chronicle also features 22 barbecue recipes collected just for this book.


"An engaging storyteller, Miller brings his subjects to vivid life, as in the chapter on Black barbecue entrepreneurship, which predates Emancipation, with enslaved men and women using their business proceeds to buy freedom. He explores what makes the Black barbecue aesthetic exceptional and the many complexities of etiquette. . . . [and] provides plenty of mouthwatering recipes by Black barbecue artists for sauce, meat and fish, and side dishes as well as profiles of unsung Black barbecue trailblazers across three centuries. . . . A highly entertaining, celebratory, and essential reader for history buffs and barbecue lovers alike."—Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews

“Exuberant . . . studious but not stuffy . . . Miller never forgets that barbecue is, at its heart, about pleasure: about smoke, sizzle, and joy. Black Smoke is scholarship with a little sauce on its chin.”—Garden & Gun

“Long before the Aaron Franklins of the world had smoked their first briskets, untold generations of Black American pitmasters laid the groundwork for that great and uniquely American culinary tradition we call barbecue. Bravo and thanks, Adrian Miller, for this brilliant book, which shines a light on America's forgotten barbecue heroes and a new generation of Black chefs and pitmasters who are reinventing a style of cooking that’s as old as America itself.”

—Steven Raichlen, author of the Barbecue Biblecookbook series and host of Project Fire and Project Smoke on PBS

“Black folks and barbecue have long been synonymous. Perhaps better than anyone before, Adrian Miller has discovered people, places, and stories that even most barbecue experts haven't heard of and weaves them into a compelling alternative narrative about how American barbecue came to be. Their stories demonstrate why the Black hand in the pit has been essential to the development of this much loved food."—Lolis Eric Elie, author of Treme: Stories and Recipes from the Heart of New Orleans

“The contributions of Black pitmasters have been ignored and even purposefully erased from the historical record. These are stories that desperately need to be told if we wish to strive for a more accurate account of American barbecue's foundation and continuing popularity. Thankfully, someone as knowledgeable and dedicated as Adrian Miller chose to take on the task in Black Smoke.”—Daniel Vaughn, editor, Texas Monthly Barbecue

Black Smoke, a well-researched and engaging offering from Adrian Miller, certified barbecue judge and 'cue maven, sets the record straight about the importance of Black hands at the spits and pits of American barbecue traditions. This much needed book not only recounts the growth of the art and influences of experts past, but also offers interviews with the current masters and mistresses of the flame, a selection of recipes, and a listing of Miller’s favorite barbecue restaurants.”—Jessica B. Harris, author of My Soul Looks Back: A Memoir and High on the Hog