To create those delicious morsels of crispy deep brown nuggets found on that perfectly cooked steak and brisket, you need the presence of sugar.
When meats are exposed to heat, they release sugar and amino acids.
On a quick cook such as steaks, usually the high cooking temperature will provide the elements essential to achieving those crispy nuggets, which are known as the Maillard Effect.
Here’s what needs to be done:
When cooking a steak, for instance, make sure the surface of the meat is absolutely dry.
If not, when the heat hits it you will be steaming the surface of the meat.
After drying the meat with a paper towel, you can sprinkle sugar on the surface and allow the steak to sit so the sugar can penetrate the surface.
At high heat, place the steak on the grill and keep flipping as necessary to achieve that golden brown surface.
On large cuts of meat, because they are cooked low and slow, we will add brown sugar or a layering of seasonings – one of which is high in sugar – to help achieve a nice bark.
Check out our recipes for smoked brisket and pulled pork.
“Difference between a great one and an OK one”
Hamburgers appear to “reign supreme” when it comes to outdoor cooking. We may eat 10 million hotdogs per year but the average American eats 150 hamburgers per year for a total of 50 billion per year. Everybody cooks them and therefore there doesn’t seem to be much forethought as to what they’re comprised of or how they
We tell customers that when it comes to brisket, butts, ribs etc. half the battle of getting good results is the quality of the meat. Low quality meat low quality results. It is the same with hamburger meat.
To understand the quality issue is to understand what you are buying. There is hamburger meat and there is ground beef. The USDA allows processors of hamburger meat to add fat. Fat is not allowed to be added to ground beef. With that being said, you may elect to purchase the ground beef over the hamburger meat but remember you still need a certain amount of fat to make a good burger.
We recommend the following, avoid either if you can. With either one you never know what part of the cow you are buying, how old it was, was the meat frozen etc. Remember, the USDA does not inspect meat unless it travels over State lines. Some States have State inspectors but that doesn’t necessarily guarantee high quality meat. You can be getting anything from the head to the a-s. Most butchers have scruples and will grind up better parts of the cow than a processor so they are your best friend when it comes to getting good quality meats.
How do you avoid this problem and buy high quality hamburger meat or ground beef? First, you buy the meat (or have your butcher select), and you have it ground. Doing so insures you have control of purchasing high quality meat and the cuts that you prefer. You determine the amount of fat content that you prefer since you will have the butcher grind the meat to your preference.
Which cuts should you buy? There are several choices based on taste and price. The main cuts are chuck roast, short ribs, brisket, sirloin and skirt steak. The most flavorful and economical is chuck, The other cuts noted above are a little more expensive. We prefer chuck or chuck mixed with short rib, brisket etc. So purchase your chuck roast and ask the butcher if he would be willing to grind it up for you. You’ll have to tell him the fat content you would like for example 15% to 20%.
The best burger we found are those where the chuck is coarsely ground, only ground once and has no less than 20% fat content. The coarse grind allows for more places for the juices to collect during cooking and has much better texture. The 20% fat content adds great flavor and a lot of moisture to the burger.
When you make the patties don’t over form them. Keep the meat packed just enough to hold the burger together but loose enough so the juices can collect. Cook to your desired temperature. Medium rare is 135 degrees and well done 165 degrees. It is important to know that a burger whose internal temperature is cooked below 160 degrees runs the risk of having e-coli. Now does this happen frequently no, but people do die each year from hamburger meat that has become contaminated. If that’s the case, why don’t we eat our steaks well done? Because if e-coli is present it is only present on the surface of the steak. When you throw the steak on the grill the surface heats quite rapidly to 160 killing any e-coli that may be present. The difference with ground beef or hamburger meat is that during the grinding process the e-coli gets mixed in with the meat and is spread throughout the entire patty including the center. If you don’t cooked the center to 160 you can be exposed to active e-coli. Most people prefer to have their burger cooked below 160 degrees internal temperature to avoid drying the burger out to the tenderness of a hockey puck. If this is the case, then to still get a tender and flavorful burger, just increase the fat content. Some will increase it up to 30%.
So, take control and “up” your burger cooking by purchasing good quality meat instead of leaving it up to the processors. You and your guests will noticed a big difference in the taste, juiciness and texture.
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!