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AL ROKER'S BIG, BAD BOOK OF BARBECUE: 100 Easy Recipes for Backyard Barbecue and Grilling

Al Roker, Author, Mark Thomas, Photographer , photos by Mark Thomas. Scribner $27.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-7432-2864-0

You don't need a weatherman to know which way the smoke blows, but nonetheless, here is Roker (Don't Make Me Stop This Car) in an attempt to amuse, instruct and otherwise cash in on the craze that is backyard barbecue. Despite its demonstrative title, this effort is medium-sized and mediocre. With the aid of food columnist Marialisa Calta, Roker sets out his favorite grilling recipes and tips amid a squalor of bad puns and folksy humor. Jerk Chicken, he explains, "is not a recipe named after your boss." In his "Five Rules" for grilling he warns not to move meat around with a fork lest the juices run out. Yet, for one of his signature dishes, "Steaks As Big As Your Head," he advises making several small cuts in the meat to press garlic into. Elsewhere, ribs, pulled pork, burgers and wieners are prepared in simple styles that first-time grill owners will appreciate. Only about a third of the collection concerns itself with the art of introducing meat, fish and poultry to fire. The rest of the book is consumed by appetizers, salads, sauces, drinks and desserts. Roker admits to being "no more qualified than you are" to write a cookbook, but at least he knows what he likes and is happy to share the knowledge. Can Alain Ducasse on the Weather Channel be far behind? (June)

Forecast:Despite the many better books on the market, Roker's name alone will sell the book, and the Food Network will help things along with an hour-long special on the creation of the book.

Reviewed on: 05/06/2002
Release date: 05/01/2002
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