Great Backyard Barbecue and Grilling

Popular Barbecue Myths Debunked

With so many barbecue myths floating around, it is difficult to figure out which rules to stick with. Our intent is to debunk some of the more popular barbeque myths so that you can decide which, if any, work best for you.

Myth: Cook chicken until the juices run clear.

This myth couldn't be more false. If you believe this particular myth, you could easily end up over or undercooking your bird.

Cook chicken until the juices run clearJuices in chicken, turkey, and even pork are coloured pink by the protein myoglobin. When myoglobin is cooked, its structure changes and the denatured molecules absorb light differently so they no longer appear pink. It turns out there is no fixed temperature at which myoglobin changes colour because other factors come into play. One research scientist explained to me that the acidity (pH) of the meat is a major factor.

When the muscle is high in pH (low in acid), it takes a much higher temperature to denature the myoglobin. The meat may need to be 170 to 180°F before the myoglobin in breasts is sufficiently denatured to see clear juices. The drumstick and thigh have higher levels of myoglobin, and they require an even higher internal temperature to denature it. As long as the meat reaches 165°F, it is safe to eat.

Myth: If you're lookin', you ain’t cookin.’

It seems to be widely accepted wisdom and appearing in practically every barbecue cookbook ever published, that if you’re lookin’, you ain’t cookin’.

The myth here is that each time you peek at what you are cooking adds more time to the length of the cook. The warning against looking is meant as a caution for cooks who are constantly basting their food or just admiring their handiwork. When you open the lid of your grill or smoker, hot air escapes, cooking slows, and it takes longer to taste the goodness of your cook.

Myth: You can tell the doneness by the bounciness of the meat.

The myth is that you can tell the doneness of meat by poking it and comparing the bounciness of the meat to the flesh between your thumb and forefinger. Like everyone’s hand has the same firmness and bounciness! Does the hand of a 120-pound, 26-year-old woman who works out have the same resilience as a 250-pound, 50-year-old man who works in an office or a 70-year old retired ditch digger? Of course not. Does a filet mignon have the same firmness and bounciness as a sirloin? Of course not. >

This could explain why almost all professional chefs carry a meat thermometer in their chef’s coat and you should probably do the same.

Myth: Meat should be at room temperature before cooking it on the barbecue.

The experts have said that keeping meat at room temperature enables the fibres to stay relaxed during the cooking process, keeping the meat tender.

They also warn to not leave meat out for too long at risk of growing bacteria.

Myth: Gas grill lids are used for roasting.

It is said that the lids of a gas grill are used for roasting, slow cooking meat and keeping the barbecue food warm, but doesn’t heat the hotplate faster. But if you are going to cook with the roasting hood down, don’t cook with the burners on high.

Myth: Some vegetables should be cooked before grilling.

Some experts say thicker vegetables should be parboiled before cooking on the barbecue. An example is to boil potatoes before being grilled.

Myth: Slathering meat with a spicy red sauce from a bottle makes it barbecue.

Barbecue requires that the meat be cooked slow over very real low heat temperatures — with real wood smoke — until it is tender enough to chew without teeth. The sauce is optional, but still, it should be homemade. Many barbecue pitmasters are of the mind that bbq sauce is used to cover up bad barbecue.

Myth: Meat should be grilled over blazing high heat.

Tender cuts of meat thinner than an inch (for example, most steaks and chops) do best over direct high heat, but tougher and thicker cuts will be more succulent if you sear them over direct heat and finish them more slowly over indirect heat.

Myth: My grill is designed for meat only; all vegetables, side dishes and desserts should be made in the kitchen.

Your grill is essentially an outdoor oven. It can roast vegetables, smoke fish, cook pizzas and even bake desserts. Of course, results will vary according to the cook’s DNA and learned grilling skills. The fun od grilling and bbq is the freedom to experiment. If you can cook it in your kitchen oven, why not try it on your grill?

Myth: Marinating Infuses Meat With Flavor

It's a painful but inescapable truth: Marinades only really flavor the surface of the meat, never really penetrating deeply to the interior. Instead, opt for a spice rub, which delivers a much more powerful burst of flavor.

Myth: You should wait until meat reaches its recommended temp before taking it off the grill.

Due to the “carry-over factor” - meats will continue to cook another 5-7 degrees after they come off the fire, so take them off before.

Myth: All meats should rest for the same amount of time once off the grill or smoker.

The experts suggest you follow this key: 2-3 minutes for a steak, 10 minutes for a loin or tenderloin, and 1-2 hours for brisket or pork shoulder.