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Happy Independence Day (4th of July): Scientific Grilling Tips

As you get ready for a day of celebration and revelry, you will no doubt come across a grill sizzling with some tasty morsels. However, chances are that the guy standing there in flip flops holding a beer and poking at everything on grill doesn’t actually know what he is doing! The biggest mistake made in grilling is people messing with their meat too much, for steaks and burgers put them on and leave them alone until juice pool on the top and they are ready to flip. If you want nice criss cross grill marks on your steak just turn 90 degrees after 2-3 minutes, wait another 2-3 minutes and then flip and repeat (most steaks should take 4-5 minutes per side to achieve medium rare). When grilling chicken the best way to do it is by splitting your coals, have a hot area with most of the coals underneath, and a cooler area without lots of coals underneath. Start the chicken skin side down on the hot side, get a good sear all the way around and then move it over to the cooler side to finish cooking. Thighs and wings will take longer to cook than the breast so start them before putting the breast on the grill. Also extremely important to grilling any piece of meats is to let it rest for 5-10 minutes under tin-foil to let all the juices redistribute in the meat.

Happy Grilling from the BMCDB Bloggers

Here are some more tips and explanations of the science behind them.

Excerpts from

Grill Science: How to Make This July 4th The Tastiest Ever” By Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer

What happens to meat as it cooks?

Meat goes through a few stages when you put it over heat. At about 110 degrees F (43 degrees C) internal temperature, muscles fibers begin to coagulate and toughen, Joachim said. At around 115 degrees F (46 C), fats start to melt.

When the internal temperature of the meat hits 130 F (54 C), the proteins in the muscle fibers denature, meaning that long, convoluted strands of protein lose their shape and unravel. Then they coagulate back together. That’s when meat starts to take on an opaque look. At 160 F (71 C), the connective tissues that hold together the muscle fibers start to melt and turn into gelatin. That’s the jelly-like yellowish-white stuff you see at the bottom of a roasting pan that you’ve cooked meat in, Joachim said. [7 Foods Your Heart Will Hate]

When you barbecue, Joachim said, the goal is to use those long, not-so-hot cooking times to melt the connective tissues and create barbecue’s trademark tender mouthful. Grilled cuts of meat usually contain less connective tissue, so they don’t need hours of heat to taste delicious.

Does it matter if I cook on gas, charcoal or a wood grill?

Absolutely, Joachim said.

“The big difference is the temperature and the moisture,” he said. “Charcoal and wood burn hotter and drier than gas.”

That’s because propane contains moisture, Joachim said. For every hour of grilling on gas, you release a half-cup to a cup of water vapor into your grill. That keeps the temperature down and prevents the formation of a seared, browned crust on your meat.

Some gas grills now come with a sear burner, Joachim said, which is a ceramic block that holds heat better than the grill grates. Because the burner can build up more heat, home grillers can use it to brown the outside of a steak or pork chop to get that dark crust.

Okay, but why does a seared crust taste so good?

Time for a chemistry lesson: When you apply heat to meat, you get something called a Maillard reaction. The amino acids that make up the meat’s proteins react with sugars in the meat, creating hundreds of flavor compounds.

Maillard reactions make pretty much everything taste awesome, including roasted coffee, grilled vegetables and even your morning toast.

“Any browned food tastes so good because it’s something new added to the food,” Joachim said. Browning doesn’t just lock in flavors; it creates new ones.

What’s the key to the perfect Fourth of July burger?

“The trick with ground meat is once you grind up meat, you’re grinding up the muscle fibers, and these are what hold the moisture in,” Joachim said. “What I recommend doing is adding moisture back in.”

That added moisture can take many different forms, Joachim said. He uses apple butter in turkey burgers and steak sauce in hamburgers. Simplest of all, he said, you can just mix ice water into the ground meat, along with whatever seasonings you want to use to spice up your burger. The ice water adds in moisture while keeping the inside of the burger cool so it doesn’t overcook. [Grilled to Perfection: Joachim’s Recipe for Bison Cheeseburgers with Horseradish Mustard]

Fat is another important component of a good burger, Joachim said. He recommends a ground beef that’s 80 percent protein and 20 percent fat. Contrary to popular belief, though, extra fatdoesn’t make a burger juicier. Instead, fat stimulates saliva production, moistening your mouth.

When you add fat to a burger, Joachim said, it’s not getting juicier: “You’re getting juicier.”

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