Sunday, July 27, 2014

BBQ Myths

The BBQ world is full of more myths, old wives tales and just plain strange beliefs than Europe was hundreds of years ago.

We've all been told or shown to do certain things when it comes to barbecue. So much so that they are ingrained in our heads. But, if we stopped to actually think about some of these things, we would shake our heads.

For example, I know all of you have heard that you have to sear meat to "lock in the juices". This is a complete myth. Searing meat does not lock in any juices whatsoever. Alton Brown proved this with this experiment he performed on his show on Food Network. In fact,t his myth has been debunked many, many times.

This notion sells millions and millions of dollars of meat at restaurants all over the world. Funny thing is, it's just not true. One of my all time favorite websites,, has also debunked this myth. Meathead Goldwyn offers some insight to this myth here: Mythbusting the sear.

Searing does, however, provide those great grill marks that we have also been told makes for a great steak. Well,  yes and no. Although those marks are mainly for appearance there can be some benefit. When the surface of meat is subjected to heat, it goes through what is called the Malliard Reaction. In layman's terms, this is when the surface of the meat browns. Different compounds happen while this is going on as well a "crust" forming that adds wonderful flavor to the meat. So, as much as we love those grill marks on our steaks, for the most part they are simply for viewing pleasure.

Another myth in barbeque is soaking your wood. The internet is full of steps for low and slow cooking that start with soaking the wood you use to smoke with. Let's break this down scientifically. First of all, water does not penetrate wood. If it did, we would not have made boats out of wood for thousands of years. The most I have heard is about a 3% penetration. Big deal. Secondly, when heat is applied to wood, the wood starts to go through the process of combustion. First it will smolder, then ignite, and finally burn. Wood will not smolder or ignite if it is wet. Physics tells us that before the wood can start to smoke, the moisture content but evaporate first. So, if you want to delay your smoke, by all means, soak your wood. Otherwise, the moisture will simply evaporate and then the wood will begin the process to produce smoke. Only soak your wood if it will be applied to direct heat such as grilling fish on a plank over direct flame.

There are many, many myths when it comes to barbecuing. One point that I always make with my customers is "if what you are doing works and doesn't cause anyone harm, then continue to do it". I will never, ever argue with anyone over barbecue. We all have our own ways of doing things. And if they work, then continue to do them. I am just lazy and do not want to do any more steps that what is absolutely required of me!

Dan M.
Colorado BBQ Outfitters

Friday, July 4, 2014

Temperature - how important is it?

First, let me start this blog by explaining the difference between barbecue and grilling. Yes, there is a difference! Just like we tend to call all sodas Coke or all tissues Kleenex, we do the same with grilling and barbecuing. Many times people will say they are going to bbq some burgers. Chances are, they most definitely are not going to barbeque burgers!

When you grill something, you are applying high heat to it. So the cooking process is hot and fast. When you are barbecuing (often referred to as smoking), you are cooking your food over a lower heat for a longer period of time or what we call low and slow. Grilling is usually done on a gas grill as the fire or flame is directly under the food. Charcoal can be done both ways. Either directly over the heat of the charcoal or the charcoal can be set to the side for more indirect cooking (barbecuing).

So next time someone tells you they are going to bbq burgers, make sure you explain to them that they are actually grilling. :)

Now that we have gotten that out of the way, let's talk about temperature. When you are grilling; again, you are cooking hot and fast. In some cases, the hotter the better. The ceramic charcoal grills can get upwards of 1000 degrees! Many gas grills temperatures range around 500 degrees and sometimes even hotter. Since direct grilling involves the food over the heat, less time is obviously taken to cook the food. Leave it on there to long and you have burnt food!

As I said before, bbqing is low and slow. Generally the temperature is around 180f to 225f. Some people do barbeque at a higher temperature. The temperature is lower because you are cooking the meat over a period of time to allow for the muscle fibers to break down and make the meat very tender. Obviously, if you are going to cook something for a long period of time, you need to do so at a lower temperature or you will just burn the meat up. Many people will smoke their foods when cooking low and slow. This is why smoking is used synonymously with barbecuing. Smoking simply means to add the element of smoke to the cook to infuse a smoky flavor to the food. This is accomplished by burning wood at a low temp so that is smolders but does not actually ignite.

It is ideal to keep the temperature constant when barbecuing low and slow. Constant temp changes up or down will effect the outcome of your cook. The best way and most preferred way to check your temperatures of both your meat and/or your grill/smoker/oven is to use a digital thermometer. Many bbqers are now using thermometers that are wireless and allow you to bring the receiver inside the house. You can program them to keep an eye on the temperature of your food and your heat source and sound an alarm if anything changes. Easiest and quite frankly the best way to cook low and slow. They can be used for grilling as well to check the temperature of chicken, steaks, etc.

Lastly, always, always cook your meat according to USDA recommended internal temps to avoid eating meat with microbial dangers.

Enjoy your 4th of July and have a safe holiday!

Dan M.
Colorado BBQ Outfitters
6850 N. Academy Blvd
Colorado Springs, Co. 80918