I have spent some time checking out some great BBQ websites when I was on vacation last week. My favorite is one called AmazingRibs.com. The first thing that jumped out at me was a list of myths that need to be busted before the next time you put the flame to the meat.
Myth #1: Boil ribs to make them tender
A lot of folks boil their ribs. Don’t do it! You wouldn’t boil a steak would you? When you boil meat and bones, you make flavorful soup. That’s because water is a solvent that pulls much of the flavor out of the meat and bones and makes the meat mushy. Boiling also removes vitamins and minerals. Taste tests have shown that ribs are most flavorful when roasted. If you are in a hurry, you are better off steaming or microwaving ribs and then finishing them on the grill or under the broiler. Just don’t boil ’em if you want max flavor! If you boil ribs the terrorists win.
Myth #2: The best ribs fall off the bone
Barbecue judges agree: Properly roasted ribs are tender but still have some chew, similar to a tender steak. They don’t fall off the bone. If they do, chances are they have been boiled.
Myth #3: Thermometers are for sissies
I don’t care what the TV chef said, you cannot tell anything about the temp of a grill is by holding your hand over the grate and counting “1001, 10002, 1003″ until your palm bursts into flame. Each of us reacts differently to heat, and the heat 1″ above the grate can be significantly different than 6” above.
Likewise, you may have also heard that you can tell the doneness of a steak by poking it and comparing the bounciness of the meat to the tip of your nose or the flesh between your thumb and forefinger. As if everyone’s hand has the same firmness and bounciness! As if a filet mignon has the same firmness and bounciness of a sirloin!
The single most important thing you can do to improve your cooking is get a good digital thermometer for your grill and another for food. The best way to judge the food is by the temp, not the look.
Myth # 4: Soak wood before using it
When I soaked wood chunks overnight, they gained about 3 percent by weight. Chips gained about 6 percent. I cut the chunks in half and penetration was only about 1/16″. That must be why they make boats out of wood! Wood doesn’t absorb much water! If you toss wet wood on a hot grill, the small amount of water just below the surface will evaporate rapidly, negating any effect of soaking. On charcoal, the wet wood cools off the coals when it is important to hold the coals at a steady temp.
Myth #5: The juices from a steak are blood
If they were blood they would be dark, almost black, like your blood. And they would be thick and coagulate. No, the blood is drained during slaughter.
Myth #6: Always use tongs, never forks
Don’t worry about poking holes in the meat. A steak is 70% liquid (much of that myoglobin), so if you poke a hole in a 16 ounce steak and it loses 1/4 ounce of juice, you’ll still have more than 9 ounces of fluid left. When you cook, however, you can lose up to 20 percent from evaporation and dripping.
It is a great site, with near encyclopedic information once you start to dig into it. The great thing about the Internet is once you change the way you think about finding information, it can change your approach to cooking. Essentially, with an iPad, Kindle or smart phone, you have the world’s largest cookbook in your pocket and ready to cook with.
Next week is a a special treat, I going to try to get Barr-Reeve coach Bryan Hughes to give me a rundown on his sliced Pork butt.