As per Wikipedia the Maillard reaction is “a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that gives browned foods their desirable flavor. Seared steaks, pan-fried dumplings, breads, and many other foods make use of the effect. It is named after French chemist Louis-Camille Maillard, who first described it in 1912 while attempting to reproduce biological protein synthesis.”
Pitmasters better than most know how important it is to have that perfect smoke when barbecuing. It can make the difference between winning or losing in the contest circuit. It is as important for the novice and the backyard pro. It can mean a perfect cook and a disaster. The last thing you want to be known as is the GrillMaster whose meats taste like a pure hardwood baguette. So yes, there is good and bad smoke.
Let’s discuss what is happening with combustion and the production of smoke. All forms of combustion can produce some amount of smoke, just some are better than others. Wood, pellets, charcoal produce better combustible byproducts than gas and electric. So our discussion will concentrate on wood.
In the most technical sense wood goes through 4 stages of burning. To avoid a highly technical and boring conversation we will call it two stages. At GrillBillies we explain to customers that wood goes through two major phases. The primary and the secondary burn. The primary burn is the phase where the wood is heating up and in our case over a bed of hot charcoal. We like to start our offset reverse flow, direct flow and upright smokers with a good base layer of hot charcoal.
In the primary burn the wood is just heating up (smoldering). The same by-products nitrates, carbon monoxide, creosote that gives us that delicious smoky flavor are produced but just in a different state. When the wood is heating up it is producing the same combustible by products but in large particulates. In this state they are heavy and can “drop out” on the food resulting in a very smokey strong taste. The smoke you see in this stage is a billowing white or gray white smoke. This is the smoke to avoid when cooking low and slow.
When wood heats up to a temperature of about 575 to 600 degrees the gases in the wood are released and the wood bursts into flames. The particulates from the burning gases are smaller and that gives us the smoke which makes our barbecue so good. At this stage the smoke will be a visible blue/white.
There are 100 combustible by products from burning wood. The ones that contribute the most to the flavor of our barbecue are nitric oxide, creosote, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, guaiacol, syringol, phenols and water vapor. In a properly burning fire these by products will add just the right amount of flavor to your meat.
Now all being said there is a point during the cooking process where you may think you have returned to the primary burn. Well into the cook the meat is heating up and releasing juices that will vaporize and exit the pit giving the impression that we returned to that billowing white smoke associated with the primary burn. This water vapor and is normal. As long as your wood is lit there is no problem.
How do we achieve the perfect smoke? Start with a good bed of lit charcoal. Add properly seasoned wood. Have all vents wide open so the fire gets enough oxygen to achieve combustion and within several minutes you should see the smoke change from a billowing white to a nice blue white. Time to get the meat on!
Digital meat thermometers are the newer version of their dial counterparts. It is very important that you use a meat thermometer that works. You want to make sure your meat is well cooked and that no one will get sick from the meal.
An estimate from the US Center for Disease Control states that about one in six Americans get sick from food borne illnesses each year. This statistic alone is enough motivation to get a better working thermometer!
There are a couple of reasons to switch over to digital meat thermometers. The first is that digital thermometers will give you the temperature quicker. This could possibly make the difference in burning your food or leaving it in to cook just a little too long.
If you are grilling, you want your food to be flavorful as well as safe. Many thermometers on the grill that are bimetal do not give an accurate reading. Many grillers have found that with digital thermometers, the reading on their grills were off as much as 75 degrees! It is imperative to invest in a good digital thermometer to create the best food.
The color of the meat is not always the best indicator of how cooked meat is, or that the bacteria are completely gone. When testing the temperature of the meat, make sure you are inserting into the middle of whatever you are cooking. This will give you a better idea of how cooked the middle is so that you know the whole piece of meat is properly cooked.
Don’t leave it to chance, make sure you invest in a digital thermometer today!
For decades, it’s been taught that in order to cook delicious steaks or chops, the grill has to be fire hot and then you throw the steak down on the grill and char it to death. This technique is called “direct searing.” The only problem is that with steaks or other meats over one inch thick, you can easily either under or overcook them. We may want the char, but we want to make sure the inside is cooked properly as well.
Using the “direct sear” technique is very similar to being on a runaway train. It becomes very tricky to adjust the grilling process once you’re going at a fast speed. The “reverse sear” technique is much more controlled.
How it Works:
You will need to utilize your gas or charcoal grill for indirect cooking. This involves lighting only half of your grill. Place the meat on the unlit side, instead of right in the fire. Close the lid to your grill and make sure to monitor the internal temperature with a digital thermometer (like our Maverick PT-100BBQ or wireless ET-732).
By lowering the convection heat, you have brought the train to a manageable speed. Once the meat reaches an internal temperature of 115 degrees, crank up the lit side to “mach speed” and sear the steak by flipping it back and forth to develop that nice golden brown look with the delicious char.
By this time, your internal temperature should be between 125 degrees and 130 degrees, which would make it medium rare. There is no need to let your steak sit; it will only continue to cook from the internal heat. So enjoy it right away!
As most experienced grillers have experienced, fresh meat is a lot better than meat that has been thawed. There are a lot of juices that are lost when the meat is thawed, and that is part of what helps to keep the meat so tender.
You want to thaw your meat, but you don’t want to encourage bacteria to grow. This is between the temperatures of 41°F to 135°F. You can slowly thaw the meat in the fridge, but if you want to do it quickly then you will want to have it in a water bath. And here is a secret- you CAN thaw in hot water!
Here are some safe methods of making sure you are safely thawing your meat:
- Thawing in the refrigerator: This is the easiest way to thaw meat. Leave it in the fridge in its packaging. It might be a good idea to put it in a pan that will catch any drips. For every four pounds, allow for a day of thawing.
- Cold water baths: you can either fill the sink or a pot large enough to hold the meat and cold water. The meat should be kept in a water tight plastic zip bag, making sure the air is out of the bag. Leave it in the cold water. If necessary, put a plate on top of it to keep it submerged. Change out the water every 30 minutes. Allow for 30 minutes per pound.
- Extreme cold water baths: This method will give you the least amount of purged fluids which would otherwise be good for tenderness. Put the meat in an airless zip bag and put it in an insulated cooler. Cover with cold water. After an hour add a quart of ice as needed, possibly every hour, in order to keep the temperature under 40°F.
- Hot water bath: This is only for thin cuts, however, it has been proven than if you can thaw a 1” thick steak at 102°F in water within 11 minutes, you quickly pass through the zone that bacteria is able to grow, and you do it in a way that doesn’t give them time to grow. Remove the meat as soon as it is thawed. Your thawing times will vary based on how thick the meat is.
If you follow these guides then you should still be able to enjoy juicy meat that doesn’t have any bacteria in it.
Just like any other great past time, there are going to be myths about ribs. Here is a couple that we are able to debunk for you.
- Boiling your ribs will make them tender. Don’t do this! Would you boil steak? Essentially when you boil meat, you just make soup. The water you boil them in will pull out the flavor and the meat will become mushy. Vitamins and minerals will also be removed when the meat is boiled. The most flavorful way to cook your ribs is through roasting. If it is an issue of time, then either microwave or steam your ribs, but don’t boil them if you want any flavor in them!
- Fall off the bone ribs are the best. While judges will agree that having tender ribs is good, they should still be slightly chewy. If they are falling off the bone, it was because they were boiled or overcooked.
- The juices you see from steak are blood. This is not true. Blood is drained from the animal when they are slaughtered. The juices you see is actually a liquid rich in a protein called myoglobin. If it were blood, it would be much darker and thicker.
- Use tongs, do not use forks. Do not fret if you wind up poking holes in the meat. A steak is roughly 70% liquid, so poking a hole in a 16 oz. steak might cause you to lose 1/4 ounce of the juice, but this is fine because you still have about 9 ounces left. When you cook, evaporation can cause you to lose 20% of the juices, which is more than three ounces.
It’s important to know the facts when grilling so that you can create the best tasting meats possible. Keep these myths in mind the next time you fire up the grill, and your family and friends will be coming back for more!
Hog and pig roasting is a tradition that has formed roots across the world. There are many countries that have whole celebrations revolving around the sharing of this beast. If you are looking to host a celebration or just a backyard barbecue there are a few things that you should know about roasting a pig before you begin.
You can eat pretty much all of the meat of a pig from the rooter to the tooter. When grilling the pig, coat the grate with cooking oil spray. You can certainly feed a large family gathering with one pig. To prepare the pig, there are a few things you can do. One option is to inject the butts and hams with a mix of apple cider vinegar, salt, apple juice, pepper, and garlic salt. This along with rubbing vegetable oil into the skin of the pig will help give an extra boost of flavor and keep all of it in.
If you are looking to cook a pig there are several different options to do so. You can buy or build your own pit, or use a roaster. The roasters are a great option because you never have to turn the pig. There is such temperature control allowing for perfect cooking and fat rendering each and every time. If you are using a roaster, the general rule of thumb is to fill it with ¾ lb. of charcoal for every 1 lb. of pig. Also, if you have wood pieces that are approximately 6” x 6” then simply put them in front of the lit coals.
Your roaster will need about forty five minutes to an hour to reach a temperature of 300-325. Once it reaches 325 ideally, you can place your pig on the grate. The temperature will drop due to putting on a cold pig, but the temperature will rise again once they pig heats up. Just make sure you maintain a temperature of approximately 300 degrees.
You also want to give yourself ample time to cook the pig as well. This will not be as simple as tossing a few hot dogs on the grill, you may be cooking for the majority of the day before your pig will be ready. The rule is to allow one hour of cooking time for every 10 lbs. of pig. Allowing some buffer time would also be wise.
When the internal temperature gets to be at least 185 or more, then you are ready to remove the pig. Make sure to test the temperature in both the hams and the butts. If it is low in one of the areas, make sure the lowest at least reaches 185 before taking it out. It is OK for one section to get hotter while the other cooks.
Once your pig is cooked and removed from the roaster, there is some cool down that should happen first. Double wrap the pig in heavy tin foil, cover it with a blanket, and allow it to rest and cool for at least one hour. But, don’t worry- the pig will be hot for at least 3 hours, and stay warm for many hours after that.
If you are ready to take on the challenge of roasting a pig, there will be an amazing reward of a great meal and pride of a job well done indicated by the full bellies of your friends and families. Once you finish your first roast, feel free to comment and let us all know how it turned out.
It is clear to see that there is a fifty degree difference between the two. That is a pretty wide gap, especially when it comes to those delicious steaks you were looking forward to eating! This could make a big difference in cooking meat perfectly or making people sick, and will also make a difference as to whether your dinner will taste juicy or like cardboard.
This is the sad reality for anyone who is still using cheap bimetal thermometers. These days, everything else has a microchip in it, and so should your thermometer! Embrace the technology that is available, and use it to prepare great foods right in your backyard.
There are stigmas against using digital thermometers and people think that they are not as good of a griller if they use one. This is simply not true. If anything, it shows others that you know how to be responsible with the food you are serving people!
When you step away from only grilling hot dogs and hamburgers, then you start to cook some fairly pricey meats. Overcooking expensive rib eye steaks is sure to open your eyes to how important it is to know for sure what the temperature of your meat is. A good digital thermometer is an investment and a tool you should use whenever you cook.
If meat is undercooked, you risk the spread of bacteria and the possibility of getting sick. No one wants to have to worry about these things, so always have a good digital thermometer handy.
Remember, we have the Maverick-ET 732, ET 733, and PT-100BBQ!
There’s nothing like smoked meats cooked on our Meadow Creek Tank Smokers (TS Series).
Throw on briskets, pork butts, ribs, and whole chickens along with sausage and kielbasa, and enjoy the best barbecue ever. Meats are slow cooked at 225 to 250 degrees to perfect tenderness and taste.
Low rack with 4 pork butts, 14 racks of ribs, 1 kielbasa and a pork loin.
Top rack with 6 pork butts and 10 racks of ribs.
Our Meadow Creek chicken cookers will deliver the most delicious BBQ chicken you ever tasted – crispy and moist.
No need to turn each piece by hand. Cook loads of chicken in minutes with the ease of the rotating stainless steel grate.
40 lbs of seasoned chicken thighs loaded on the cooker.
The 304 food grade stainless steel double sided grate makes loading the chicken easy. Season right over the fire to eliminate messy clean up.
Once loaded, just turn the revolving grate every couple of minutes.
The dripping juice creates a great BBQ taste.
Nicely balanced, the revolving rack can be turned with one finger.
Add your favorite BBQ sauce and cook a few minutes more