There is nothing like the smell of barbecue wafting as you pass by. Nothing makes my mouth start salivating more than the enticing smell of grilled ribs with a great seasoning and with meat so tender it falls off the bone. Our lives are constantly jumping from one meal to the next. When I took a trip to New York, the scene was amazing, but you will hear me praising the food experience more than anything.
Some people can barbecue, they just know what flavors will combine to create a beautiful harmony. Others, like me research and follow “proven – this will be edible food”. I began to take on the task of barbecuing, not knowing what depths I would find myself in. So, to others that share my shoes, here is what I have found out in regards to the common barbecue terms and how true they are.
Seal in the Juices
As I asked my friends whom I admire their particular barbecuing style, they would instruct me to “seal in the juices”. That sounds great, but how do I really accomplish the sealing of the juice to achieve maximum flavor and moisture? The truth is, there is not a glaze which you can marinate your meats in which will work to seal in flavor. The trick is matching the meat to the temperature with correct timing.
It is important to cook your food all the way through to avoid bacteria and other diseases, but sometimes this is done in an overkill fashion with high temperatures for long periods of time. I have learned to measure high heat by a hand test. This meaning I hold my hand a few inches above the grate and if I can keep it there for a few seconds before needing to withdraw my hand I know it is at the right temperature. In my experience, this is the key to fine barbecuing.
So, you have the temperature down and now for the timing. Timing is a tricky game; I have no simple way to decipher this code as I am still working on it. Below are the factors which contribute to timing:
- Surface Area
- Weight of the meat or vegetable – Heavier means longer cooking times
- Cooking Surface – Larger cooking surface means longer cooking if not heated evenly
So, there is no seal for the meats, it’s the perfection of temperature and timing which seals in the juices in the meat and prevents the juices from being squeezed out through over cooking.
This was a running joke with the guys, “you have to 2-zone cook! 2-zone I’m telling you!” Having no idea what this meant as the boys continued to hide from me what this 2-zone was I was researching and found out it was real! So, if you don’t know, it’s basically indirect cooking to control temperature. The myth about 2-zone is that it really doesn’t make a difference. Contrary to the myth 2-zone cooking really does make a difference.
Indirect cooking is when you split the heat up into 2-zones; one has the heat the other one does not. It is common practice to put a pan of water under the side without heat to increase humidity and overall moisture in the grill. Indirect cooking is also a great way to work on your timing. Certain foods require more timing than others and through this style of barbecuing you can have your meal ready to go at the same time. I like to cook my chicken over the heat and put the veggies on the non-heated side so they don’t get over cooked; when the chicken is done my meal is ready to go!
Dirty Grills Equal More Flavor
I have grown up learning to leave the grill after you’re done cooking, the flavor is better and the heat will kill all the possible bacteria. Dirty grills do not increase the flavor of your food. Cleaning your grill is a necessary process just like you would clean your frying pan after cooking. One, it upholds the life of your cooking utilities. Second, it keeps your food tasting the way it should. If you cooked bacon in your frying pan and didn’t clean it and then sautéed broccoli it would give the vegetable a poor taste (to some).
It has also been proven that the black char that is made from grilling is a carcinogenic substance and avoiding thoroughly cleaning your grill can have poor health implications. You may love barbecue, but live to eat it again by exercising grill cleaning.
Keep the Lid Shut While Grilling
This is one which has been ingrained in me; I have heard the roars of upset when I open the lid to check on the food. When you’re learning it helps to see the meat and see how it is turning colors what does it look like when it is the optimal time to pull it off the grill? Apparently with every opening of the lid the heat leaving the grill was critically affecting the meat.
With this one, there is a myth to be revealed and in a way there is some truth. For thin meats lifting the lid while cooking does not make a difference, in fact it is better to cook on one side and then the other. For thicker meats that take time to cook, keeping the lid shut and maximizing heat from both the top and the bottom will decrease the cooking time.
So as you sit next time to barbecue and people are throwing about their jargon about the best practice don’t hesitate to learn the truth for yourself. There are many resources out there which can help you understand new practices and techniques. But, the joy of cooking comes down to the ability to make it happen and throw your own spin on it. Who knows, you may make the best barbecue in town and have everyone over to your country home and have done it going completely against the norms. Whatever your process may be, post your knowledge and share your techniques!
The author of this article is Alisa Carscaden an SEO engineer and SEM designer. If you enjoyed this article please follow me on Twitter @avantgaurd. This article is written on behalf of The Plan Collection who provide beautiful country house plans.