When you’ve prepared your meat and vegetables, it’s time to start cooking. Three simple to carry out steps can give you a great barbeque.
Barbeque, to a purist, means slow cooking. That often involves using a smoker, or at least a large grill with a good lid and areas where you can separate the food from high heat. You can move briquettes around or, in many models, light the flame on only one side. That creates an area of lower heat (the side with no flame or briquettes) that allows you to carry out step one: infusing.
‘Infusing’ means getting all the flavorful components into the meat before the outer layer seals off the interior. Rubs, sauces, fat and internal juices all interact with the smoke and heat to put a hundred different compounds into the meat. Fats on the outside melt and the molecules make their way into the outer layer. The marbling inside melts and performs a similar function.
When everything is liquefying and heating up, conditions are created that allow migration of flavor compounds to spread throughout the meat. If you’re making a good steak, that results in all but the innermost portion getting what was on the outside. If chicken, things on the surface of the flesh just under the skin make their way in. A fine layer of fat around a pork chop will suffuse into the interior.
Step two is the longer stage cooking portion. As the internal temperature of the meat rises toward 200F (93C), proteins break down into amino acids. Long-chain sugars break down into shorter molecules that provide sweet flavor. Salts become ionized and enzymes become more active. The net result of this heated chemical ‘soup’ is to change pink and raw flesh into delicious meat suitable for eating.
During this phase, smoke from any added woods continues to add more flavor to the end product. The flesh seals itself and internal juices are retained, heated and transformed. Here’s where you want the meat to spend most of its time. That’s achieved by a lower cooking temperature than you would use in an indoor oven.
When the internal temperature of the meat reaches 200F (93C), as you can detect by using a good meat thermometer, it’s ready to be removed from the grill or smoker. Now comes step three.
Meat at that temperature is both too hot to eat and not yet completely done cooking. As it cools down, there’s enough internal heat to continue changing the composition of the meat somewhat. During this phase, meat can continue to become even more tender, making for a mouth-watering meal.
When the temperature has dropped to below 165F (74C), it’s time to serve. Slice off a sample piece and examine the color. The raw, bloody pink of beef should be a darker red now. Pink chicken should have turned white and any pink juices should have become clear. Pork should be a gentle grayish-white. The taste should be delicate and the consistency easy to chew.
You’ve done it. The perfect barbeque.