Book Review: Fire and Smoke – A Pitmaster’s Secrets by Chris Lilly

July 7, 2014

This year’s batch of barbecue and grilling cookbooks continues to be one of the best in years, including the latest book from 4 time world champion Chris Lilly.  Here’s VIP blogger Chris Grove of’s review of Fire and Smoke: A Pitmaster’s Secrets.

Chris Lilly, Memphis in May

Pitmaster, Chris Lilly, makes his smooth as glass presentation to one of the three onsite judges at Memphis In May.

Chris Lilly, MEmphis in MAy

Chris Lilly and Don McClemore serving up their World Championship pork shoulder.

The Big Bob Gibson team did it once again last May.  Chris Lilly, Don McLemore, Ken Hess, and the crew from Decatur, Alabama won the World Championship BBQ Cookoff at Memphis In May, making them the first team to win 4 of these coveted World Championships.

How would you like a peek at this World Championship pitmaster’s grilling secrets?  Well you’re in luck.  Just before Memphis In May, Chris released his second book…Fire and Smoke: A Pitmaster’s Secrets.

Fire and Smoke by Chris Lilly

Fire and Smoke by Chris Lilly

One of the best things I ate last year was the Southwestern Smoked Brisket Hash from this book.  Last Spring, I was lucky enough to help out at the photo shoot for this book and Ken Hess made a batch of this for the photo but made eggs to order for everyone too.  It was easily the best breakfast I have had in 10 years and I knew right then, that this was going to be another special book from Chris Lilly.

Fire and Smoke – A Pitmaster’s Secrets

Chris Lilly




Physical description –

Fire and Smoke is a soft cover, medium sized (9 3/4″ by 7 3/4″) book with just over 250 pages.  Chris starts off with an intro covering 18 types of grills that the reader might use and summarizes them, including the fuel used, convenience, ideal use, indirect and direct set ups, and cost.  The book is organized into 11 sections broken out into

  1. Grilled Cocktails
  2. Appetizers
  3. Salads and Sandwiches
  4. Grilled Pizza
  5. Bellies and Bacon
  6. Steaks
  7. Mains
  8. Barbecue Leftovers (my favorite section)
  9. Side Dishes
  10. Grilled Desserts
  11. Sauces and Dry Rubs



In my opinion, Fire and Smoke is the companion piece to Chris’ first book, Big Bob Gibson’s Barbecue Book.  Fire and Smoke complements Big Bob Gibson’s Barbecue Book, it’s the yin to its yang.   While BBG was heavy on the BBQ side (multiple rib, brisket, and whole hog recipes), Fire and Smoke is more about pairing the convenience of everyday backyard grilling with the smoky flavors of traditional barbecue.  Together these books make a great pair.

Fire and Smoke has 100 original recipes that while having complex flavors, they are simple enough that anyone can follow the instructions and recreate them on their grill.

The first thing I made was a brisket version of the Overstuffed Pulled Pork Potato.  Nothing against pulled pork but I had just smoked a few briskets on my competition pit, aka “the Warthog”.

The Warthog

The Warthog

The briskets were both over 15 lbs.  I injected them with my NMT Beef Injection, seasoned them with my NMT Beef Rub, and smoked them a bit hot at 275°F until they were done.

Beef Brisket

If you don’t want to smoke your own, most BBQ restaurants sell brisket by the pound. In Knoxville, Dead End BBQ has the best brisket

The recipe didn’t call for BBQ sauce but a BBQ place here adds it to theirs so I did.  I used Albukirky’s new Duke City Sweet which turned out to be perfect for this, it rocked with the brisket.  This was fantastic but huge! I ended up splitting one with Alexis.

Overstuffed Brisket Potato

Overstuffed Brisket Potato

We also made the Seasoned Mustard Drumsticks with Peach Glaze.  I should have followed the recipe because we made them a little too spicy by adding ancho chile to the rub and used peach jalapeno preserves for the sauce.


Simple and quick recipe, like most in this book.

Seasoning chicken legs

These fell out of the flavor tree and hit every branch on the way down.

Molasses Peach Glazed Chicken

We did half in the molasses peach jalapeno glaze…

BBQ Sauced Chicken Legs

and half with traditional bbq sauce. Both were excellent.

Grilling chicken legs

Cooked on the kamado grill, indirect with a platesetter.

Grilled Chicken Legs

Fantastic chicken legs!

Food Stylist

Food Stylist, Pam Lolley, setting up the shot found on page 75

Chris Lilly

Whether picking raw ingredients or choosing a burger for the shot, Chris is a selective dude.

Komodo Kamado

Nice kamado grill, right? These run about $3,000 last time I checked.

Shooting Photos for Fire & Smoke

Shooting Photos for Fire & Smoke

Chris Lilly

Chris preparing the Charcoal Seared Trout Fillet with Sun Dried Tomato Brown Butter.


Chris Lilly

Chris Lilly

Chris checking to see if the salmon is done.

Chris checking to see if the salmon is done.


Fire and Smoke is full of exceptional color photos.  Whether the pictures were for step by step instructions or for setting the story, Photographer, Ben Fink, delivered in a huge way.  No surprise there, though.  He is the photographer to the food stars.  Name a big food star, and Ben has probably shot for them.  Bobby Flay?  Yep.  Jacques Pepin?  You betcha.  Ina Garten?  Uh-huh.  Michael Symon?  Sure.  He also has worked with just about every major food brand as well.

The Perfect Burger

Ben Fink shooting The Perfect Burger.


Fire and Smoke is the ideal book for the backyard griller, whether you are a beginner or an advanced grill master.  Chris Lilly does a masterful job including recipes that will fill your grill with big time tastes.   Father’s Day is just around the corner and I can’t think of a better present for Dad than a copy of this book (and Big Bob Gibson’s Barbecue Book, if he doesn’t have it already).



5 stars – an absolute resource, will refer to frequently

4 stars – good cookbook with value added tips, photos, guides, and other content

3 stars – Good, average cookbook, glad to have it on my shelf

2 stars – a recipe collection

1 star – would give it away to someone else to get rid of it, but only if I didn’t like them very much


[Standard Disclaimer]  I received no compensation for this post and I paid full price for the book.

Related Topics: Barbecue Cookbooks | Bbq Cookbooks | Big Bob Gibson | Chicken Legs | Chris Grove | Chris Lilly | Don Mclemore | Editor's Picks | Fire And Smoke | Grilled Chicken Legs | Grilling Cookbooks | Memphis In May | | Overstuffed Baked Potato | Overstuffed Brisket Potato | Smoked Brisket | Smoked Chicken Legs

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