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First Look: Daniel Vaughn's The Prophets of Smoked Meat

[Photos: Paula Forbes / Eater]

Here's The Prophets of Smoked Meat: A Journey Through Texas Barbecue, which is notable not only for being the first book by barbecue expert Daniel Vaughn — he with the much-coveted title of Texas Monthly barbecue editor — but also because it's the first of several books Anthony Bourdain is curating for Ecco. Focusing on the former, Vaughn has made his name giving Texans guidance on which barbecue destinations are worth a road trip and which ones they can pass up. In that sense, the book is sort of a Michelin Guide to Texas barbecue.

Here you'll find not just a guide to figuring out where to it good Texas barbecue, but also an explanation of why it's good. Why do Texans hate on sauce (but serve it anyway)? What makes one brisket's crust better than another's? Why do smoke rings happen? What's the proper consistency of a traditional Texas hot guts sausage link? For novices, fatty smoked meat almost always tastes delicious; here are guidelines to becoming a connoisseur.

For the barbecue-inclined, the question is: Vaughn's book, or Robb Walsh's Barbecue Crossroads, also out this Spring? There's really no comparison. Walsh's cookbook focuses on the stories behind the barbecue, contains recipes, and covers barbecue across the South. He purposefully avoids ranking the restaurants he writes about. Meanwhile, Vaughn is willing to evaluate; he even has a section in the back of the book where he lists "The Best" ("with all of the respect due to [pit masters] and Robb Walsh," obviously). It's likely that one or the other suits your needs more; fanatics clearly need both.

A note on the layout: the book would be just fine without the fake grease-stained butcher paper treatment on every single page, and might be better as a paperback to keep in your glove box for easy reference while road-tripping. Still, Nicholas McWhirter's photography is gorgeous, particularly when his images are allowed to take up an entire page.

The Prophets of Smoked Meat comes out from Ecco May 14 (pre-order on Amazon).

· All Daniel Vaughn Coverage on Eater [-E-]
· All Cookbook Coverage on Eater [-E-]