What’s the difference between a Myth and a Legend? Myths are pure imagination and are usually based more on wishful thinking than facts. Legends are as grand and wondrous as Myths, but they’re real. When it comes to grilling, Myths don’t cut it – and Legends should be respected!
Myth: Press down on the burger!
Some old-school ‘barbeque’ hands will tell you to press down on your burgers when they’re sizzling on the grill. Don’t do it! You’ll just squeeze all the moisture and juicy flavours out of them! Same goes for steaks, chops and any other meats you choose to grill. In fact, don’t use a spatula/lifter at all when grilling. Tongs will treat the meat more gently and give you more control when rotating your steaks to create perfect grill marks.
Myth: Slather sauce on at the beginning
Virtually all BBQ/Grilling sauces are loaded with sugar. Many also have a lot of tomato product (paste, sauce or ketchup) in them. If you put the sauce on at the beginning of cooking, it will almost certainly burn before the meat is cooked through. Burned sugar will also gum up your grill something awful and make it really hard to clean. And, worst of all, it’s a poor substitute for the great grilled flavour you could otherwise be enjoying. If you want to infuse your meats with great flavour, marinate them before cooking.
Marinating mainly gives your foods flavour. But the acids (dry wine, lemon, vinegar, etc.) in classic marinades can also help tenderize. That’s not to say that you should skimp on the quality of the meats you choose for grilling. But cuts like strip, skirt, flank and chuck steak can be just as good as sirloin or ribeye – I think better in their own way – if properly marinated (for up to 24 hours!) before cooking. For details on cooking ‘tough’ cuts, see Myth: Turn up the fire!, below.
Legend: Season well
Don’t expect the grill to impart all the flavour you ‘re looking for in your food. Regardless of the sauce or mop you use later in the grilling process, to finish and flavour your creations. If you don’t marinate your meats before grilling, and do give them a generous sprinkle of salt and fresh ground pepper before you put them on the fire, to help develop flavour throughout the cooking process.
Myth: Turn up the fire!
For best grilling results, you must cook at the appropriate temperature. Many grill cooks just turn up the flame and plop the meat on the rack. No! You’ll burn your foods on the outside and leave them raw on the inside. And that kind of cooking will make the fat render all the faster which, in turn, will cause flare-ups that can quickly turn your grilling masterpieces to pieces of charcoal-enrobed leather. Use direct heat, say medium high on the propane burner dial, to sear the meat. Then turn down the heat to medium or move the meat to the other side of the grill to finish cooking it through on indirect heat.
Legend: Don’t overcook
Some ‘grill masters’ like to cook the living daylights out of their meats, chasing after what they perceive as ‘grilling perfection’. Overcooking ensures that foods are cooked through, alright, but it drys out meat and shrinks it and makes it tough. Overcooked burgers get grainy and tend to break apart, Yuk! If in doubt about the doneness of chicken parts or thick steaks, cut into them and check. Or, better, use a regular meat thermometer, placed into the thickest part of the meat and refer to the standard doneness temperatures for whatever you’re cooking:
Beef Rare: 135 F
Beef Medium: 145
Beef Well: 155
Chicken Parts: 170
Chicken Whole: 180
Pork & lamb: 160
All Ground meats: 160
Mop, slather, brush, baste, or squirt. Whatever you call it, applying marinade or sauce at the right times can help produce a perfect finish and keep your grilled goodies moist, especially if you’re doing something like brisket, chuck or flank steak by the ‘low and slow’ method. Use every opportunity to build and enhance flavour!
Legendary: Your grill creations!
…If you respect the grilling legends and beware of the myths!
~ Maggie J.