Millions of steaks are put on the barbecues in this world every year and with them comes a lot of doctrine that is long outdated. Old barbecuing rules are happily accepted without being questioned, despite there being new awareness that lies significantly closer to the truth and can undoubtedly lead to a better barbecuing experience. We uncover the three most important grill myths for you – so you have more of an in-depth knowledge about barbecuing.
“It is too bloody for me”
“Please don’t make my beef steak too bloody” he shouts from the assembled guests towards the barbecue master. This message is problematic for two reasons. First of all, this sentence suggests that they want a completely cooked steak, which will bring tears to the eyes of any barbecue fan. It is however much more important to clarify that a steak is never “bloody”. Even if red liquid gathers on the plate when you cut into a steak, this has got nothing to do with blood, these are meat juices.
What is the best way to explain that a steak never contains blood? You need to carefully consider how the slaughter process works. After an animal is stunned with the cattle gun it is then killed by being stabbed in the carotid artery and the resulting blood loss. In the following minutes the still beating heart pumps all of the blood out of the animal so that there is no more blood left in the muscles. What is given to you over the counter from the butcher is pure muscle tissue that only contains transparent cell fluid. The fact that this looks similar to blood is because it contains myoglobin, which turns red when it comes into contact with oxygen.
“Never salt a steak before cooking”
There is still no consensus on the timing of when to salt a steak – and there are actually different ways of doing it that can lead to a good result. However, the categorical statement that “you should never salt a steak before cooking under any circumstances” is definitely wrong. This assumption is based on the hygroscopic characteristics of salt, which means that salt absorbs water and retains it. This fact is undeniable, but the effect of salt depends essentially on timing.
If you salt too early, i.e. 3-4 hours before grilling, this effect can even be taken advantage of. The salt first actually draws out a certain amount of the water from the meat, which collects on top of the steak in a small pool. However, in the time that follows the gradient between the salty fluid on the steak and the non-salty cell fluid within the steak tips so that the steak reabsorbs a large part of the salty water - by means of osmotic processes. This means that the steak has virtually already been spiced and seasoned from the inside prior to grilling – so there can be no question of it drying out. However not everyone has the time to monitor their meat so far in advance.
The second option for pre-salting is to salt the meat directly before putting it into contact with the heat – i.e. a few seconds beforehand. This way the salt has no opportunity to make use of its water absorption characteristics and the salt adheres to the outer side of the meat in the form of small crystals. The big advantage: in the following minutes of contact with the heat these crystals will be grilled into the exterior of the meat so that they provide an additional crunch for the crust. They don’t drip off even when the steak is lifted up and the steak is already perfectly spiced when it reaches the plate. Meat expert, Lucki Maurer says, “If you don’t put the spices on the meat before grilling, you will never get them on the meat afterwards.”
“A steak has to reach room temperature before barbecuing or frying it”
The belief that you have to allow a steak to sit at room temperature for at least three hours before grilling or frying is strongly held. Strictly speaking, however, it only applies for very thin steaks that won’t be indirectly subsequently cooked. Any “normal” steak, that is first grilled at a hot temperature and is brought to a core temperature significantly benefits from this if you put it on the grill when it is very cold. Why is this the case?
The aim of every barbecue fan is to serve a steak with a dark crust, that has been perfectly cooked at the right level and also has only a little bit of an overcooked edge. The grey rim on the outer edge consists entirely of completely denatured tissue that won’t absorb any more water and therefore also has no culinary value anymore. If you keep the edge especially thin, then you will achieve maximum enjoyment from your steak. The key errors: the warmer the meat is before grilling, the bigger this edge will be.
The reason is simple: when you grill at a hot temperature in order to create roasted flavours on the outside the heat naturally also penetrates into the meat. The warmer the meat the quicker inner sections of the meat next to the edge will reach a temperature that is above the optimal cooking level. In short: the overcooked edge becomes wider. However, if the steak is very cold when it is put on the grill this temperature works as a natural buffer as it takes longer for the meat to reach inner temperatures of over 60 degrees. Careful subsequent cooking takes a bit longer, but the result is perfect. Fun fact: even a frozen steak can be grilled straight on the grill. It then defrosts at an indirect heat and after a short period of time it reaches the desired cooking temperature and overall it delivers an optimal grill experience with a minimal grey edge.