It’s grilling season! Well, if we’re being honest, Californians have always been able to enjoy grilling year-round and, over the years, the trend has caught on across the U.S. Summer still marks the official “beginning” of grilling season each year, so the May release of author Steven Raichlen’s 31st book, “Project Fire: Cutting-Edge Techniques and Sizzling Recipes from the Caveman Porterhouse to Salt Slab Brownie S’mores” was perfect timing. Meeting him at a recent media event at Melissa’s Produce in Southern California was a great opportunity to hear about his culinary life and taste several fantastic recipes from his latest tome.

Among his many notable accomplishments, Raichlen counts multiple James Beard Awards, is an international PBS star and the founder of Barbecue University in Colorado Springs, where he still teaches. It was a surprise to learn that he hadn’t planned on a culinary career – he actually holds a degree in French literature. His path took a turn while he was doing research for his thesis and came across a cookbook from the year 1375 that sparked his fascination with live-fire cooking. He received a fellowship from the Watson Foundation to study medieval cooking across Europe and a Fulbright Scholarship to study comparative writing.

Raichlen’s foundation in writing is evident throughout his books; although they are filled with delicious recipes, he freely shared that he writes books for the prose, history and headnotes first and foremost. The recipes (mouthwatering as they are) are secondary. That’s a lucky thing for readers and home grillers alike; his stories and instructions are both thorough and entertaining, taking the guesswork – and apprehension about burning one’s food to a crisp – out of cooking with fire.

One might wonder why, after writing 30 books on barbecue, Raichlen would want to write another. Wouldn’t the subject have been exhausted? Given that grilling, like cooking in general, is constantly evolving, the answer would have to be a resounding “no!” Since “The Barbecue! Bible” was published in 1998, followed by his many others, grills, methods and products have changed and advanced, and so have the grillers themselves. “Project Fire” brings us up to speed on new equipment, tools and techniques, and supplies a drool-worthy assortment of innovative recipes with which to use them. Drool-worthy may even be an understatement when it comes to the Cutting Board Sauce. (Olive oil, herbs and spices are combined on a cutting board, upon which perfectly grilled steak is placed and sliced, allowing the juices to run into said oil and herb mixture … then everything is tossed together … it’s one of the simplest, best things I have ever tasted!)

Beginning with his fellowship, Raichlen’s travels have taken him to 60 countries on six continents learning about the world’s oldest and most widespread cooking method. In his words, he has “followed the fire around the world to document how people grill … everybody grills differently with different foods, methods and tools, but always with lots of passion.” “Project Fire” reflects this with step-by-step guides for five main and 10 specialized grilling techniques. From grilling over charcoal and gas to caveman grilling directly in the embers, grilling in blazing hay, on or under a salt slab, on a shovel over a campfire or using a blowtorch to char meat tableside, there’s culinary adventure for beginners and pros alike.

Raichlen’s favorite recipe is the Caveman Porterhouse, and he shared the story of how President Dwight D. Eisenhower brought ember-roasting to the White House in 1953 (as reported by the “Miami Daily News”) as “… he rubs the steak … with oil and garlic … then, as the horrified guests look on, he casually flings the steak into the midst of the red and glowing coals.” I’m sure his guests were both relieved and delighted when they tasted the crispy seasoned crust and strong smoky flavor that are the rewards of having some serious grilling chutzpah. (And if you think that this recipe sounds fantastic, add the Caveman Lobster With Absinthe Butter to your list!)

At the luncheon, we savored dishes from several chapters of “Project Fire”: Smoke-Roasted Carrots With Spice-Scented Yogurt from Vegetables and Tofu, Grilled Watermelon Salad With Arugula and Queso Fresco from Salad Hits the Grill; Dry-Brined Peppered Filets Mignon from Beef; Lemongrass Pork Bites from Pork, and Cinnamon-Grilled Peaches With Bourbon Brown Sugar Glaze and Salt Slab Chocolate Brownie S’mores from Desserts and Drinks. (Yes, drinks – recipes for Grilled Sangria and Grilled Peach Bellinis will undoubtedly add a special something to your cocktail repertoire!)

Speaking of chapters, there are the requisites on meats, poultry and vegetables. But there are unexpected additions: Breakfast on the Grill (think Bacon and Egg Quesadillas); Starters (Greek Grilled Cheese and Bacon-Grilled Onion Rings); Breads and Pizzas (Goat Cheese, Thyme and Honey Tartines) and Salad Hits the Grill (Ember-Roasted Beet Salad With Sour Cream and Dill) that will take anyone’s grilling game to a whole new level.

At first glance, you may wonder if your grill skills are up to some of the recipes – as a novice griller myself, I can understand. Starting with Chapter 1, though, Raichlen schools us on the Seven Steps to Grilling Nirvana and shows how any grilling enthusiast can achieve success. Follow his instructions to Choose Your Grill, Select Your Fuel, Assemble Your Tools, Flavor Your Food, Choose Your Grilling Method and you’ll be more than ready to Fire It Up. With tips on how to arrange food on the grill to using a garden hoe to move coals around, “Project Fire” is a master class wrapped up in 326 pages, where I learn something new every time I open it. In fact, as I’ve gotten more proficient with my gas grill, I’m seriously thinking that I need a charcoal grill, too!

Armed with Raichlen’s vast knowledge, relaxed encouragement – “When you heat the grill, everyone gathers around and it’s an instant party” – and more than 100 beyond-flavorful recipes, my grilling list is sure to last through the summer and beyond. If you’ve got a passion for fired-up foods, add “Project Fire” to your cookbook collection and yours will, too!