Everybody has their own style, technique, and secret recipes when it comes to preparing barbecue. With as many different styles as there are pitmasters and enthusiasts, much knowledge gets to be shared across backyards, cooking books, devoted websites, online forums, blogs and vlogs, and what not.
However, along the lines of common knowledge and inherited wisdom, we might find ourselves with a piece of information that may be more myth than reality, as it happens with information of any kind.
Some of the common misconceptions around barbecuing run along the lines of how often one should flip the meat, the risks of consuming charred or burnt meat, the importance of smoke in our grills or pits, whether we should soak wood before grilling or not, and the delicate art of the legendary Smoke Rings.
You Only Flip Once
It’s been discussed on online forums, cooking books, backyard barbecues, specialized articles, blogs, vlogs, and any other media outlet you can think of, and still some people swear by the only-flip-once rule. Even when you look for images of the perfect steak online, you will get mouthwatering photos of grill marks for as long as you can scroll.
However, the key to getting the best results when barbecuing is looking for a golden to brown color on the surface of the meat. This will give a richer flavor and texture to the steak because of the caramelization of the crusts, plus helping the meat cook faster and more evenly, and this is achieved by flipping the meat more than once.
The truth is, a photo of a steak with grill marks might get you more likes and followers, but an evenly cooked and tasteful one will get you a better reputation and more credibility as a cook.
The Smokier, the Better
Most of us have been through the journey of finding the perfect smoke taste on our steaks, and some of us might even love the feeling of being surrounded by smoke when having a backyard barbecue, making us look all mysterious and knowledgeable of what we’re doing behind the pit.
There is truth in this, though, but we need to consider two aspects that will help define the overall smoky taste we will get on our steaks.
If we are getting a thick white or gray smoke, that is only the result of the wood we are using beginning to burn, and the fire lacking oxygen. This type of smoke will have a negative effect on the meat, giving it a burnt and ash-flavored taste. The ideal type of smoke should be thin and blue, which will come from the mix between the right wood, like hickory, mesquite, or apple wood, and the right temperature from your fire.
Wet Wood Works Wonders
Some of us might be strictly against soaking wood chunks or chips before putting them in the grill, but some of us like to use wet wood in order to get the ideal temperature for smoking meat, and there are some experimental grillers out there who might use red wine, apple juice, and rum to add more flavor to the meat.
Apparently, soaking wood should prolong smoke and keep the temperature controlled. However, it isn’t the case, as wood doesn’t really absorb water beyond its surface, and instead of prolonging the smoke, you are preventing the wood to reach the desired temperature, and the smoke you might see coming from wet wood is only the water evaporating and creating this flavorless steam.
Instead of soaking your wood chips and chunks, expert pitmasters will tell you to put the chips inside of a foil pouch and poke a small hole on it. This will give you a great “smoke bomb” effect that will keep the wood chips from setting on fire, lasting longer, and generating better smoke.
One of the biggest myths about barbecue must be the Smoke Rings that result from the skillful display of knowledge, technique, and artistry a griller puts into their craft, translated into quality, flavor, and eye candy for meat lovers.
We all love seeing these delicious-looking pink layer of meat right underneath the surface of the steak, it is the pride and honor badge of many prestigious restaurants, pitmasters, and backyard grillers altogether, as it represents a high-quality standard. And even when it is appealing and mouthwatering, these pink ribbons make no difference whatsoever on the taste of the meat.
Smoke rings are a result of chemical changes on the meat when exposed to different gases generated by burning wood and smoke, and there are many websites and devoted blogs that will guide you through the detailed process of getting that desired ½ inch smoke ring you have been bragging about and that will impress your backyard cookout guests, but the effect will be only on the outside, and the taste will depend on your cooking skills, regardless of the rings.