The Deck Chef offers grilling recipes (PODCAST)

This blog post is on a delicious topic. That’s because I’m writing about a grilling cookbook. The cookbook is “Great American Grilling,” a book on grilling, smoking and tailgating by Kent Whitaker, aka “The Deck Chef.” The publisher is Great American Cookbooks.


When I say “grilling,” I’m not talking about throwing a couple of brats on the grill and winging it. I’m talking about preparing delicacies like Grilled Sea Bass Fillets with Garlic Red Potatoes. (Brat and hot dog recipes are in the book as well, however.)

“Tailgating these days has gone so far beyond a hot dog and a bag of chips,” Whitaker said. “There’s people pulling their mobile kitchens and campers (to events). My thing is, you can still have a great tailgate even if you don’t have all that stuff.”

Do the prep work at home before going out tailgating, he said.

“You don’t have to have all that expensive stuff.”

I love this cookbook. The recipes are easy to follow. In addition to listing lots of mouth-watering recipes, “Great American Grilling Cookbook” provides fun facts like who invented aluminum foil and the basics of salsa. Then, there are tips on working with chicken.

That type of story-telling is the norm for Great American. They have cookbook series on back road restaurants, hometowns by state and more, and provide lots of trivia and other cool information in addition to recipes.

Story-telling is nothing new to Whitaker, a longtime Tennessee journalist who studied at Middle Tennessee State University. He has worked in radio (WSM), newspapers (the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro and the Chattanooga Times Free Press). He even owned a golf newspaper once upon a time. He is a self-described history buff and journalism junkie.

“All of that comes together and is the basis for this cookbook,” Whitaker said. “When you give readers the background on a recipe … then it becomes more than a recipe.”

Whitaker said one of his favorite recipes in “Great American Grilling” is for grilled pound cake.

One suggestion he makes is to use craft beer as a basis for sauce and marinades. Since craft brewers switch flavors by season, you have lots of options to use your favorite flavor in a recipe.

Whitaker says he has written approximately 14 books ranging from children’s titles to history (such as on the USS Alabama) to cookbooks. Indeed, the Tennessee native has written several titles with Great American, a faith-based cookbook publisher.

Whitaker’s website is Great American’s website

citrus-chicken-kabobsHere is one sample recipe from “Great American Grilling”:

Citrus Kissed Barbecue Chicken Kabobs

4 boneless chicken breasts
Raw vegetables of your choice
1⁄3 cup honey
1⁄2 cup barbecue sauce
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste

Cube chicken and set aside. Slice vegetables and set aside. Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Add chicken and vegetables and turn to coat well. Put meat and veggies on metal skewers and
place on a cookie sheet; baste with sauce. Cover with foil and chill before grilling. Grill over medium-high heat, turning as you grill, to desired temperature. Serve hot.

Then there is turkey.  Here are Whitaker’s thoughts on smoking turkeys for the holidays. This is not in the cookbook, but I thought I would throw it into this story given that Thanksgiving is here.

Smoking turkey

“I love smoked turkey for the flavor – I think it really depends on your family traditions. If you’ve always baked the turkey using your grandmothers method then chances are that’s what you associate with Thanksgiving! Personally – with our family – brother’s sister etc – you’ll have a couple of baked turkeys as well as a few smoked ones! All  make great left over sandwiches!”

“The main issue that I see with people smoking turkeys is they don’t plan in enough time. Low and slow smoking takes several several hours, so be sure to plan ahead and build in some extra time. With perfect conditions – no rain, no wind, no freezing temps, a 12 to 18 pound turkey could take over six or more hours to fully cook in a smoker. In fact – I think this time issue is a problem with grilled, smoked, and baked turkeys. I don’t think people – most often people trying a turkey for the first time take into account thawing time and cooking time.”

“The time issue is the number one step I would take in preparing a Thanksgiving turkey. The other issue is seasonings. There are thousands of ways to season a turkey – all are awesome – go with a flavor you enjoy such as Southwest, Cajun, or Hickory Smoked. Or, go simple with some butter, herbs, salt and pepper. It worked for our grandparents and parents – still offers great flavor today. The main tip – everything tastes better when you can enjoy it with family or friends.”

“I’d love for everyone to buy my books – but – if you are cooking a turkey before you can get one – a great resource that everyone can use is the Butterball turkey hotline! I think I read this year they will have over 50 people manning the phones during the holiday!”

“Fried turkey done right offers some amazing flavor. I’ve really enjoyed some of the fried birds I’ve sampled over the years. I’ve done a few but prefer smoking or baking. But people really need to pay attention to the safety issues when frying a turkey. Too many people burn their houses down trying to fry a turkey on a carport, or porch, or garage etc.

— Jason Reynolds

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