Whether it’s because of fat dripped on charcoal briquettes or simply having the flame turned up to maximum, many backyard chefs allow the meat to cook too fast. A barbeque is supposed to be a little slower. Taking more time creates a better tasting meal and a more pleasurable experience overall.
There are several ways to achieve that…
In the case of smoking a 10 lb brisket, you really don’t have much choice. You can’t get one of these huge chunks of beef to cook in an hour. You’ll just wind up with raw meat that’s scorched on the outside. Smoking brisket is not a bad way to get in the mood for cooking slower. Try it.
Charcoal grills are among the worst influencers of cooking too fast. The coals only last a short while, so you want to get the meal done in a hurry. Or, fat drips onto a briquette and suddenly you have a flare up that scorches a steak before it’s been on the grill for five minutes.
Keep a spray bottle handy for those inevitable geysers of fire. But take some steps to minimize their occurrence as well. Have a section of the grill that contains a large quantity of coals and an area that contains none, with perhaps a medium level in between if you have room. That way when the cooking becomes too accelerated you have space to move the meat over until the heat dies down a bit.
Keep the flame down on a natural gas grill to a lower temperature than you would use on an indoor oven. If you would cook chicken at 425F (218C) inside, try 400F (204C) or even 375F (190C) on the grill. Allow for increased cooking time in order to get the right flavor and a safe internal temperature of the meat.
Try keeping the lid open at least part of the time when you’re not aiming for a wood smoke effect. Take care you don’t get uneven cooking, since the area above the meat will naturally be much cooler than that below. But, carefully monitored, this can let you cook more slowly, giving a smoother transition of flavor and ‘doneness’ from outside to in.
As meat proteins heat up, they break down into amino acids. Those are more flavorful and produce variety. At the same time, the long-chain sugars and fats that are part of the flesh break down under heat. That produces a thin outer layer of sweet and tasty compounds that your tongue will really appreciate. Cooking too fast carbonizes those sugars, producing a harsh, bitter taste.
You don’t have to be from the South to appreciate the results of a slow, easy-going barbeque. The more relaxed experience and the flavorful results will persuade anyone of the advantages.