When it comes to barbecue, there is a science to making great-tasting meat and a lot of different techniques involved. You’ll also find tons of different tips, tricks, competition BBQ secrets and hear varying opinions from different BBQ pitmasters of what works best.
But, there are definitely some clear dos and don’ts. As well as some common smoking, barbecuing, and grilling myths that you may have heard and need some clearing up. In this article, we’ll break down and debunk some common barbecue myths with the help of our Champion pitmasters. Let’s take a look:
Surprisingly, there are still people (and quite a few books) that recommend you soak your wood chips or chunks for several hours before smoking. The theory behind it is that it will keep the wood from burning up quickly.
This is a myth for several reasons. The first one should be pretty obvious if you really think about it. Wood chips and chunks float. Even after soaking them for a few hours. Boats are often made of wood, because wood floats. By soaking your wood before smoking, you will actually mainly produce a bunch of steam at first which will reduce the temperature of your fire and you won’t be imparting any extra flavor.
Another main reason you should not soak your wood first is that it will negatively affect the quality of your smoke. For best results, you want thin blue smoke. To get blue smoke you need dry wood, a hot fire, and plenty of oxygen. So, don’t worry about your wood catching fire, let it burn and get that blue smoke rolling.
You may have heard from someone that if you let your meat rest in a marinade longer before cooking that it will taste better. This is entirely not true. Marinades simply cannot penetrate into the meat further than about ⅛” therefore making them primarily a surface treatment.
Meat is naturally already packed full of about 75% water. So, there isn’t much room for any more liquid. Plus, many marinades are oil-based, so there’s no way the oil can get past the water in the meat. The outside of the meat will absorb the flavor of the marinade and if there is sugar present it can help create the nice exterior bark.
The exception is if it’s mainly salt, in which case it would actually be a brine. Salt does react chemically and electrically with the water in the meat and can penetrate down into the meat itself.
So, skip wasting time by marinating overnight and enjoy the delicious flavor of the meat itself.
There are still plenty of chicken recipes that say that the chicken is done cooking when you slice or stab it and the juices run clear and not pink. Following this thinking could actually result in extremely overcooked meat or meat so undercooked it’ll make you sick.
The “clear juices” rule may have been true a long time ago, but with today’s environmental factors, differing levels of acidity in meat, pre-slaughter environment and factors you can’t go by the juices. Or even just by looking at the meat and bone color.
The only trusted way to tell if your chicken is done is to go by the internal temperature using a good meat thermometer. Cook until internal temperature reaches no less than 160 degrees in the breast and 175 degrees in the thigh.
The phrase “if you’re lookin you ain’t cookin” was actually created by Weber Grills in 1952 as a catchy slogan to promote the use of lids on their grills. This is one of the most common barbecue myths. Even though you may still hear people say that opening the lid to your grill or smoker increases cooking time, it’s been scientifically proven that this phrase isn’t much more than a catchy slogan.
Yes, it is true that when you open the cooker the internal temperature of the cooker may decrease slightly but there is actually very little, if any, decrease of the internal temperature of the meat. Your meat will continue to cook by conduction at a steadily increasing internal temperature. So don’t fear, if you want to open your cooker to baste or rotate your meat you’ll be fine.
For some outdoor cookers, their goal when smoking meat is to achieve the perfect smoke ring, the pink band on the outer rim of the meat just below the crust. It is a common myth that the smoke ring means the meat is perfectly flavored. It is NOT all about the smoke ring.
A smoke ring indeed looks great, but it doesn’t actually have much to do with the smoky flavor of the meat. The pink ring is the result of a chemical reaction between the gasses in the smoke and protein molecules in meat when the meat is cooked “low and slow.” You might be able to see the smoke ring but you can’t taste it.
To really get a nice flavor to the meat, focus less on achieving a perfect smoke ring and more on starting with good quality meat and cooking it patiently at consistent temperatures with that nice thin blue smoke.
These are just a few of the most common barbecue myths that are heard these days. To help ensure you’re cooking great tasting meat it’s important to make sure you have good quality meat, some tried and true techniques, are adequately prepared ahead of time and have plenty of patience.
Have you recently had experience with any of these myths? Have you busted any other barbecue myths yourself? Leave a comment below and tell us about it. We want to hear from you!
The valuable information above, as well as competition-winning tips and tricks, is the kind of bbq education you’ll get from our champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters here at BBQ Champs Academy. We can help you take your smoking, barbecuing, and grilling to new levels like never before. Join our first-of-its-kind tell-all online barbecue school and learn the best techniques and secrets straight from the champions. Check out the all-access pass today!
Great information!!!!! Thank you sooo much. This answered a couple of questions that I have always wondered about
You're welcome Mark! Glad you enjoyed the article. Make sure you follow us on Facebook @bbqchampsacademy. We do a LIVE weekly podcast every Tuesday at 7:00pm CST. A lot of great information and you can ask questions while we are live on the podcast!!
Thank you for talking about consistent cooking temperatures and how to use them to cook meat to perfect quality and taste. I've been interested in starting a home barbecue hobby while we're still staying inside all the time, and I had wondered if there were any special cooking secrets I needed to know about. I'll make sure I keep these techniques in mind as I start shopping for BBQ essentials like sauces and meats.
Like many people I used to guess when meat was done.
I now have a good meat thermometer and no more burnt or raw meats.
I only marinate a few hours instead of overnight.