The evolution of Cottage Life’s new cookbook special, Summer Grilling

We’re really excited about our special new publication, Summer Grilling–on newsstands now, and available from our online store. It’s a collection of 201 (I counted) great barbecue recipes from 25 years of Cottage Life.

It’s a natural evolution from our annual grill guides, which started appearing in our June issue in 2006. Of course, being cottagers, we’ve always had a lot of grilling recipes but, around 2005, we saw a need to do something different. We looked at what other magazines were doing—including Chatelaine, Canadian Living, Gourmet, Bon Appetit. Many had special grilling sections in summer issues, usually collections of recipes. Good recipes, mind you, but we knew from talking to readers that they wanted more in-depth info—the basic principles that would help improve barbecuing techniques for steak, or chicken, or whatever. Readers wanted to feel confident at the barbecue, even if they weren’t using our recipe, or any recipe.

Penny and I decided the way to do this was to narrow the focus. Instead of giving an across-the-board selection of recipes, we’d concentrate on one food at a time. We also decided to combine two barbecue experts, Jane Rodmell and Dave Zimmer. Jane, we knew, would give us fantastic recipes; Dave could explain expert techniques more clearly than anyone else, and he’d make it fun to read.

That first year we covered steak in all its glory—how to buy it, what cuts to use, how to cook it, and how to know when it’s done. Along with the recipes, this became the model for the next five annual grill guide topics: burgers, chicken, ribs, kebabs, and fish. The concept has done well for us: The chicken grill guide in 2008 won a Gold National Magazine Award, and 2011’s grill guide to fish and seafood is nominated as well (we’ll find out if we won on June 7). More important, we’ve had terrific reader feedback. I remember a letter that arrived after the first guide—a reader told us her steaks were suddenly and consistently much, much better, just by following Dave’s and Jane’s tips and techniques. That is exactly what we hoped for.

We used the model of the grill guides to organize Summer Grilling; we cover steak, chicken, kebabs, and other stalwarts of the summer barbecue, plus a chapter of grilling know-how. It was exciting for us to go back through older issues of the magazine and look for the recipe gems that new readers wouldn’t have seen, and that even our long-time readers may have forgotten. It’s a curated package of the best of all our grilling content.

We think Summer Grilling will make a great Mother’s Day or Father’s Day gift. Or if you’re a cottage guest this summer, pick one up for your hosts. It’s available for $11.95 on newsstands where Cottage Life is sold, online, and even in some places where you don’t usually see the magazine.

Let me know what you think of Summer Grilling. I hope you like it.