Time to fire up the grill and sizzle your way to your finest barbecue yet
The lady who is about to be your guide to the grill hasn’t always been an expert. Jess Pryles loved the flavours produced on a barbecue, but just didn’t understand them, so she moved from Australia to Texas to devote her life to all things sizzled and seared. Two degrees in food science later and she’s one of the world experts on barbecuing, judging competitions all over the globe. Apply her extensive learning next time you fire up the grill.
LET IT REST
Have you ever cut into steak straight after cooking and watched precious juices flood onto your board? That wastage is exactly why you should rest meat after cooking. Muscles are made up of tightly bound protein strands that wring together when heat is applied, pushing water to the edges. Resting allows fibres to relax, so moisture is redistributed evenly. The time it needs is proportional to cooking; steak needs about 10 mins and a joint over 30.
FIND YOUR MARBLES
Marbling is the term for the delicate lines of fat that appear within meat like a road map. It’s the intermuscular fat of the animal and is hugely important to the quality of the meat. It’s also the primary factor that influences flavour and tenderness.
In simple terms, the more fat that you see in your steak, the more flavour the meat will have, and the more marbling it has, the better quality the meat and better nourished the cow.
GO AGAINST THE GRAIN
Each muscle has fibres that run alongside one another in a single direction: the grain. Always slice against this by angling your knife perpendicular to the fibres. It makes them relax and lessens the resistance of each bite, making a big difference to the tenderness. Confusingly, large cuts often comprise several grains, like brisket, where it switches mid-cut. In this instance, try to treat the meat in different sections when carving it at the table.
GET A MAILLARD REACTION
That beautifully charred and browned exterior you want to get on every piece of meat you cook is achieved through the Maillard reaction. It’s a chemical process between amino acids and sugars against the heat of the pan or grill and requires a dry environment to be carried out efficiently. Always pat your meat dry before grilling. If it’s even slightly damp, the process won’t occur properly and true flavour won’t develop.
CREATE SALT ALCHEMY
Seasoning can be the difference between good and bad grilled meat. When salt hits the surface, osmosis begins, drawing moisture towards the crystals. If left long enough, the salty brine created is absorbed back into the meat. Salt also acts as a tenderiser. It destroys the proteins, creating a more tender bite. You have two options: either salt immediately before cooking, or 45 minutes before cooking, so the brine can be reabsorbed.
BETTER WITH AGE
Ageing is the process of holding meat (primarily beef, which benefits most from the process) for an extended period from the slaughter date to the time of eating. As unpleasant as it sounds, the process is actually controlled decpmposotion, which promotes tenderness and improves taste. ‘Wetaging’ means that it is vacuum packed and sits in its own liquids, while ‘dry aging’ means to expose meat to a controlled environment to impact on flavour and tenderness. The longer it ages, the bigger the flavour.