Book Review: Slow Fire by Ray Lampe

Slow Fire BookCan one book teach a person how to barbecue? Ray “Dr. BBQ” Lampe thinks so. His new book, Slow Fire…The Beginner’s Guide to Barbecue, claims you’ll be cooking up great barbecue in no time. Since most experienced pitmasters learned through much trial and error…mostly error, I was skeptical.

Many of the barbecue “Bibles” entail 500 pages or more and while great resources, they tend to overwhelm the beginner rather than teach. Ray’s book contains just a bit under 200 pages. I’m more skeptical.

After a foreword by Famous Dave Anderson, of Famous Dave’s Barbecue, Ray gets into the basics. The Art of Barbecue was a great read. In two pages, he explains all that is barbecue. It was short and sweet, but conveyed the theory quite well.

The tools and techniques chapter covered just about everything in a very simplistic manner. In addition to the basic tools and the various styles of cookers, he explains charcoal and gives you a complete rundown of the different types of smoking wood. If you’ve never fired up a grill in your life, this chapter will have you brimming with confidence.

The backbone of great barbecue is spice. It doesn’t matter how good your sauce and rub recipes are, they must play nice together. This is a concept that many beginners fail to grasp, yet it is so important. Chapter one not only explains this critical, yet often ignored process, but then gives you enough rub and sauce recipes to keep you busy for quite some time.

“The trick is using ingredients that compliment each other and getting the ratio just right. Like any other cooking, it’s all about balance.”

Ahh, the meat part. It’s all covered. From ribs and pork to beef and birds, I have to say that most of the recipes look pretty darn tasty. If I failed to mention that each meat type begins with a brief overview of the animal itself, it’s because I delved into the recipes. Oh look…pulled barbecue beef. I’ve only had pulled pork.

Man can’t survive on meat alone. OK, maybe we could, but a great barbecue sure is better with some side dishes. Yep, it’s also here. How about some Smoked Stuffed Baby Bellas or a Carolina-style Coleslaw? The Cheesy Mac and Cheese sounds heavenly! Look no further for side dishes. By the time you get through all these, you’ll have learned enough to begin creating your own.

If you’re a beginner looking to expand your cooking skills into the fine art of barbecue, Slow Fire will surely set you in the right direction. The book is not intimidating in stature, but complete in guidance. I firmly believe Ray Lampe can teach you to barbecue with just one book.

For experienced barbecue cooks, Slow Fire is a great resource. In addition to some great recipes, Ray can help you perfect an area that you may be weak in. Brisket for instance, is my weakness. I’m convinced that Slow Fire will help me improve upon my brisket cooking skills.

The problem I have with Slow Fire are these recipes: Barbecue Champion Ribs, Competition-Style Pork Butt, Competition-Style Beef Brisket and Competition-Style Barbecued Chicken Thighs. Teaching a person to barbecue is one thing, but championship barbecue is another. Is it possible that a beginner can crank out competition quality barbecue right from the outset? That’s quite a bold claim!

Before I criticize, maybe I should take Ray’s challenge. As a certified barbecue judge, I know championship level barbecue. I’ll remove my pitmaster hat and pretend I know nothing about cooking barbecue. Let’s follow the recipe to the letter and cook up some ribs…after all, this is a rib website. We’ll see if Ray can guide me into a high score at the Judge’s table.

I’ll be the first to acknowledge my mistakes. Yes, the Doctor did indeed walk me through the creation of a championship quality rack of ribs. I would have scored it a 9 on taste and texture if they were presented to me as a judge. Next up…Competition-Style Beef Brisket !


If you’d like to learn more or want to buy the book…and why wouldn’t you? click here.


Meet Ray Lampe

Ray LampeRay “Dr. BBQ” Lampe has been barbequing professionally for more than 20 years. A multiple cook-off champion, he’s also been a chef, cooking teacher and the writer of the column “Ask Dr. BBQ” for Fiery-Foods & BBQ magazine. He has written five cookbooks, including The NFL Gameday Cookbook and Ribs, Chops, Steaks & Wings. Dr. BBQ has been featured in numerous magazines and on TV shows for his expertise and passion for barbecuing. Although he frequently travels around the country, he resides in Florida. Learn more about Ray at

Enjoy your ribs and always remember…admire the fire!


If you’d like to check out the Barbecue Champion Rib recipe that I cooked up, click…here


My Recommended Ribmaster Essentials






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