Time to fire up the grill and siz­zle your way to your finest bar­be­cue yet

Food and Travel (UK) - - Contents -

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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