April 2020


Our photo from Rack Slabbath BBQ shows the results of the science of meat color when BBQ properly with wood!

This result from Rack Slabbath BBQ shows the results of the science of meat color when BBQ properly with wood!

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Barbecue is one of those methods of cooking that is loved by many but not truly understood by those who love it!  I’m always entranced by the fact that barbecue gets mingled with the word grilling when the reality is, these two methods of cooking mean very different things.  One common denominator though is the meat used for these cooking methods that simply becomes a variant of color so completely different from traditional cooking methods like the frying pan, slow cooker, and oven.

Let’s take a closer look first, at what meat is and then how color develops when cooked.

Meat Defined

You likely define meat as an animal protein that is derived from an animal like cattle, pig, chicken, lamb, goat, etc., and you would be correct in a very abbreviated definition.  But there is so much more to meat that most don’t understand.

Meat is mostly the muscle tissue of an animal which is made up of 75% water, 20% protein, and 5% fat, carbohydrates, and various other protein.  The muscles themselves are made of bundles of cells called fibers.  Each cell is comprised of thread-like fibers made of two proteins: actin and myosin.

The purpose of these protein fibers is to make muscles contract and relax, which requires an immense amount of energy, which the fibers derive from the energy-carrying molecule ATP -adenosine triphosphate.  To produce ATP there must be oxygen which muscles get from circulating blood.  When an animal is killed, blood circulation stops resulting in all muscles exhausting their supply of oxygen.  When oxygen is halted it halts the production of ATP, resulting in the sugar stored in muscles known as glycogen, to be broken down without oxygen support.  The result is the production of lactic acid that builds up in the muscle tissue.  If this acid level is too high, the meat loses its water-binding ability and becomes pale and watery.  Too low, and the meat will be tough and dry.  Add to this the calcium release that occurs when the lactic acid builds up, and the myosin and actin proteins become fixed.  It’s important not to freeze animal meat too soon after slaughter or the meat will become tough.  The meat needs to age to allow the enzymes in the muscle cells to break down these overlapping proteins and produce tender meat.

Why We Cook Meat

Denaturing is the process of breaking, unwinding, and coagulating the protein molecules when meat is heated.  When heated, muscle fibers release water.  Remember, meat is roughly 75% water when raw.  You can retain moisture or water content of meat by using some specific techniques including brining, steaming, braising or poaching, and tenderizing using acid.

Here’s a summary of what happens at specific cooking temperatures to meat:

105°F/40°C – 122°F/50°C:

blanch or sear meat first kills surface microbes then allow the proteins to denature at these temperatures giving an aging effect to the meat

120°F/50°C:

meat has a white opacity as the myosin protein denatures.  Red meat begins to turn pink.  This is known as the “rare” stage of meat cooking and when sliced, the juices will break through the weak spots in the connective tissue.

140°F/60°C:

Red myoglobin begins to denature and turns tan colored.  Myoglobin is another protein store in muscle that is water soluble.  You would know this protein as the red juice in meat packaging when you purchase store bought product.  It’s not blood but it does receive oxygen and iron from hemoglobin in blood.  At this temperature, meat releases a lot of juice, shrinks in size, and becomes chewy.  It is known as “medium” in doneness.

160°F/70°C:

Connective tissue is what binds muscles to bone.  Throughout the muscle is a softer connective tissue called collagen.  When cooked, collagen dissolves or melts and becomes gelatin.  This melting is what gives meat a silky texture and moisture.  Collagen starts to accelerate the melting stage at 160°F and continues rapidly until 180°F.  Despite the meat drying out at this temperature, melted collagen is what makes meat seem more tender.  Just remember, lean meats as well as chicken and turkey don’t have much collagen so don’t over-cook them.

The Smoke Ring

Before we discuss the smoke ring, I need to mention the Maillard reaction.  This is the reaction that occurs between amino acids and reducing sugars in meat that is exposed to dry heat such as a frying pan.  What results is that beautiful, brown exterior that gives meat a rich, deep flavor.  This only occurs with a temperature above 300°F and with dry heat.

Now to the pink ring that commonly occurs just under the surface of a smoked meat. The smoke ring is caused by gases in the smoke that preserve the myoglobin and interact with the nitric oxide (NO) and carbon monoxide (CO) in combustible material like charcoal and wood.  The gases react with the iron in myoglobin and result in the telltale ring of pink just under the surface, while the rest of the meat will turn gray due to the NO and CO only having limited penetration ability in the meat.  This chemical reaction is similar to what happens to meats exposed to curing salts which also produce a pink coloring.  The ring stops growing when the meat hits about 170°F and myoglobin loses its oxygen retaining ability.

If you want a smoke ring then you must incorporate cold meat into a low-temperature equipment.  This will allow the meat to remain below 140°F for a longer time which is the temperature at which myoglobin begins turning brown.

As a final note, keep in mind that any meat that goes to black in color is never good.  That means the meat’s surface has essentially turned to carbon and the ingestion of carbon laced foods has been proven to be a carcinogen.  If you take your meat to this stage, do everyone a favor and throw it away.   No one needs to know you took the meat too far!

What is your preferred finished cooked meat method and color?  Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to follow us on all platforms.  Providing tips, techniques, recipes, and the science behind the flame and fire to improve your skills with live-fire cooking! That’s SmokinLicious®!

SmokinLicious® Products:

Charwood

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

Wood Chips- Grande Sapore®, Minuto® & Piccolo®

More related reading on how the science of meat color affects our appetite for great meat our smoking & Grilling tips and technique see our directory on previous blogs!

More related reading on how the science of meat color affects our appetite for great meat our smoking & Grilling tips and technique see our directory on previous blogs!

Related readings:

-3 METHODS OF SMOKING BOSTON BUTT FOR AUTHENTIC BARBECUE FLAVOR

-TEMPERATURE, MATERIAL AND TIME DETERMINE WHEN ITS CALLED BARBECUE

-WHY IS MY BARBECUE MEAT DRY??

Dr. Smoke-The fun of BBQ is the science of meat color and how it affects the appearance!

Dr. Smoke-The fun of BBQ is the science of meat color and how it affects the appearance!

Your Smoker air flow is your Temperature control in smoking and grilling equipment!

Your Smoker air flow is your Temperature control in smoking and grilling equipment!

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SMOKER AIR FLOW IS YOUR TEMPERATURE CONTROL

How do you keep a charcoal grill at 200°F? How do you cool down a charcoal grill?  Do you keep the vents open all the time?

These are some of the common questions posed when it comes to learning how to control the temperature of a grill or smoker.  This can be a challenge specifically for charcoal/wood units as they rely on the human hand to determine when to add fuel as opposed to a gas/LP unit that has continual, regulated flow.

You might assume that the only combustible material used in these units is charcoal or wood but there is another one.  Oxygen.

I’m going to provide my top tips on gaining control of temperature by instructing you on airflow or oxygen regulation in specific styles of charcoal/wood burning equipment.

Intake and Outtake of smoker air flow

For many of the charcoal/wood using units, they are built with an intake and an outtake vent.  Let’s make sure you understand what these vents are and what the purpose of each is.

Intake Vent: It has one job – bring in oxygen to control the heat of the fire.  If you need to raise the temperature of your unit, open the intake vent.  Too much heat, close the intake vent which starves the fire for oxygen.  Note: if you close the intake vent entirely while keeping the outtake open, you will still starve the fire and put it out.

Here’s the trick – each unit will have a “sweet spot” for the perfect balance of oxygen flow.  Find that spot, and you can maintain a temperature easily in your equipment.  But, I’m getting a little ahead of myself.  Let’s discuss the opposing vent.

Outtake Vent:  This goes by different names (chimney, flue, outtake, vent) but has the same purpose regardless of what you call it; vent out the gases from the combustible material and pull in oxygen from the intake vent which is commonly know as draft.  Remember a charcoal/wood fire produces gases which need to be vented.  If they aren’t properly vented, they will smother the fire.

When learning how to regulate your equipment for the desired temperature setting, always start with the outtake vent fully open.  This allows you to manipulate only the intake vent until you reach the desired temperature.  That will help you learn where the sweet spot is on your equipment.

When You Never Find the Sweet Spot

There are times when no matter how you play with the intake vent, you never seem to get the temperature to hold.  What now?

Time to look for leaks in your equipment.  If an access door or lid are bleeding smoke, then you know where the extra oxygen is coming from.  That will affect the draft between the intake and outtake vent and result in fluctuating temperature that cannot be controlled.  Best course of action is to try to seal the leaks with food grade silicone or other materials suitable for high heat appliances.

The Shape of the Equipment

In my opinion, the vertical-style equipment models tend to be much easier to get airflow/temperature control.  Horizontal units also referred to as off-set smokers and grills, specifically the inexpensive models, tend to have poor design in the vent placements as well as poor insulation that results in heavy leakage.

If you insist on purchasing a horizontal unit, read reviews and ask questions about how the unit is insulated.  Get specific with the materials used, quality of the metal parts, etc.

Chef Bert and Tom using a chimney starter for their grilling needs.

Other Tips

Always try to light your initial fuel product, whether briquets, lump hardwood charcoal, or charcoal in a chimney starter so you can control the quantity with every cook.  Use the chimney to add hot coals to the unit when you need to increase temperature.  Although you can have unlit charcoal in your charcoal area so it will ignite as the lit produce makes contact, this isn’t always a guarantee that you won’t produce some temperature variance.  The best chance of getting the temperature regulated is by adding hot coals as needed, even if this may be every hour or so.

 

To summarize, learn to control temperature by using the same quantity and type of material for the fuel, lit it with a chimney starter, only add hot coals to increase the temperature, and always have the exhaust vent open at least ½ way when cooking.  Remember the number one thing is Temperature control is all in the air flow and you will have tasty grilling results!

Our Readers Are Asking..

When should I add more wood to my smoker to prevent a bitter flavor?

There are a few possible causes for bitter smoked food outcome and easy to fix:

#1 Outtake vent is to tight – open it a bit more;

#2 Wood chunks are too wet. Don’t pre-soak the chunks. Put them on the charcoal dry;

#3 Using too much wood at a time. It only takes 3–4 chunks to infuse smoke flavor;

#4 Not using an ideal hardwood. Stick to common hardwoods like cherry, maple, oak hickory, pecan, ash, alder, beech. Never use softwoods like pine, spruce, cedar, etc;

#5 Use a water pan to keep a good balance of heat, vapor, and moisture.

SmokinLicious® Products Used in this Blog:

Charwood

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

Wood Chips- Grande Sapore®, Minuto® & Piccolo®

More Related reading about smoker air flow is your temperature control an other cooking subjects.

More Related reading about smoker air flow is your temperature control an other cooking subjects.

 

 

Related readings

-WHY IS MY BARBECUE MEAT DRY??

-THE WATER PAN EXPLAINED FOR GRILLING & SMOKING

-WHY WON’T MY WOOD CHIPS SMOKE??

-WHY CHAR-WOOD IS THE BETTER OPTION OVER CHARCOAL

Dr. Smoke for best results in your grilling and smoking enjoyment follow smoker air flow is your temperature control guide.

Dr. Smoke for best results in your grilling and smoking enjoyment follow smoker air flow is your temperature control guide.

How to keep food interesting

How to keep food interesting during the quarantine

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You may be one of the unlucky families faced with the task of social distancing or voluntary/involuntary quarantine.  Without question, this will test the limits of each family member’s patience, flexibility, and cooperation.

Not only are you responsible for ensuring everyone’s safety, you’re tasked with keeping them entertained and fed.  Right now, with internet and utilities intact, you have the option to stream programs, movies, videos, etc., as well as use electrical and gas appliances.  This helps to keep our sanity.  But have you paused to plan for when those items become interrupted or permanently halted?

I’m going to list for you some ways of ensuring you can remain comfortably fed while also enjoying some foods that you consume when you’re not quarantined.

#1 Wood Fired Treats:

Part of the reason we go out to eat is we order items that wouldn’t be commonly prepared at home.  Often, this includes foods that are live fired such as grilling over charcoal and/or wood or smoked with hardwood.  This is where those larger cuts of meat come in handy.  You can fire up the grill with a two-zone set up and some hardwood for added flavor, cooking enormous quantities of meat that can be used for many meals.  Think pork shoulder, full racks of pork ribs, whole chicken and turkey, beef roasts and brisket.  There are so many options including whole fish.  Obviously, if we lose gas and electric services, you’ll need an alternative grill like a charcoal unit, fire pit, wood burning fireplace, or butane-using equipment.  Or, you can make your own using bricks or rocks and a grate from another unit or simply place cast iron right in the coal bed.  Even a charcoal chimney starter can be used in a pinch as a grill.

#2 Foods That Never Expire:

Powdered milk, dried beans, Spam, whole grains, honey, dried pasta.  These are the items you’ll want to have on hand for the “when it happens” scenario as they last forever.  Powdered milk can easily be mixed with other ingredients to make sauces, milk, and treats.  Spam is one of those canned meats that can be a go to for emergency needs but what likely isn’t know is just how versatile it can be in recipes.  This is a perfect item to grill or even smoke as substitute for fresh meats like sausage, bacon, ground meats.  It can be sliced for making sandwiches and sliders, cubed and diced to be used with eggs, rice, quinoa, and pasta.  Dried beans and pasta are also perfect for cooking on a grill even though they need a longer time in water to cook tender.  Use grill-safe cookware on your grill, fire pit, or wood burning fireplace and you’re on your way to a great meal.

#3 Hot Smoking:

Preserving meat can be a challenge if you don’t have refrigeration for storing.  That’s where hot smoking becomes a skill set that could possibly save you from going without animal protein.  You need to make a hot coal bed that produces a lot of smoke not flames.  That means you’ll need green hardwood to produce the smoke, which is wood containing about 20% moisture.  Collect hardwoods like maple, oak, hickory, cherry, etc., and make a racking or hook system that will allow the meat to hang in an enclosure (a wood clothes drying rack works great for this purpose).  A modified smokehouse made from a tarp that is anchored to the ground works just fine, if the enclosure can hold the smoke around the meat and maintain a temperature of 150°F. The better your enclosure the better it will retain heat and will require far less wood. Meat smoked for 12 hours will be preserved for about 1 week, while meat smoked for two days can last 14-28 days depending on the type and cut.

#4 Outdoors:

One benefit of getting to be home is the option to engage in outdoor cooking.  Take advantage of doing as much as you can in the outdoors, whether on a standard LP/Gas grill, charcoal grill, fire pit, outdoor fireplace, or other outdoor equipment.  It provides an opportunity to enjoy the air and feel less like a prisoner.  Also, keep in mind that the more options you give yourself for cooking, the more food you can produce.  For instance, you might have a pork shoulder smoking with wood on one grill, while doing a sheet pan of vegetables on another unit, while making a sauce or flavored butter in a saucepan on the side burner or a butane cooker.  Just remember, if you are using wood and/or charcoal, once the heat is reduced to hot embers, use that to do additional foods like potatoes, peppers, onions, or even  put a covered Dutch oven in the hot bed to cook another day’s meal.  You can cook any meal on outdoor equipment so begin to experiment and get a comfort zone, and you will be a survivor in any situation.

If you’re quarantined, what type of cooking are you doing?  Leave us a comment and subscribe to get our latest tips, techniques, recipes and the science behind the fire and smoke, for all live fire cooking methods.  That’s SmokinLicious!

More related reading on Applewood and other orchard woods see our smoking & Grilling tips and technique see our directory on previous blogs!

More related reading  see our smoking & Grilling tips and technique see our directory on previous blogs!

Other blogs you might enjoy:

-THE EASY METHOD TO COLD SMOKED CHEESE

-A DIY STOVE TOP SMOKER MAKES PERFECT SMOKED RICOTTA CHEESE

-WHY TWO-ZONE COOKING METHOD LET’S YOU WALK AWAY FROM THE GRILL

-SPAM® ON A CHIMNEY STARTER FOR QUICK GRILLED ASIAN SLIDERS

SmokinLicious® products:

Our hand split double filet smoker wood chunks

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

Charwood

Dr. Smoke-

Dr. Smoke-During the quarantine read our how to keep food interesting ideas!

Our 75-75 rule for our Thermal Heating process

Our 75-75 rule for our Thermal Heating process

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You’re limiting your time in stores and other public places.  You’ve taken to online shopping as well as searching for ways to keep your meals interesting and flavorful.  You’re ready to do more grilling in order to keep the family in the household yard, getting some fresh air and UV light when available.  The only concern you have is, how safe is it to receive all these packages at home?  Won’t they be hosts to the virus as well?

Your concern is certainly a valid one and most definitely has basis.  Let’s examine this concern further and explain how the SmokinLicious® procedures protect you.

Why our Thermal Heating Process Makes a Difference

Since 2005, every product manufactured by SmokinLicious® undergoes our Thermal heating process that is a 4-probe computerized system to ensure optimum function of our chamber.  Because we know some fungi spores are only killed at 60°C/140°F, mold spores at 56°C/133°F, and listeria at 74°C/165.2°F, we exceed any regulation for heat level and duration in order to protect the food chain system.  Currently, we use a temperature of 75°C/167°F for a sustained duration of 75 minutes.  We also developed a re-hydration process within our chamber to ensure the hardwood is not depleted of all moisture enabling it to be used for a variety of live fire cooking methods.

The SmokinLicious® Packaging Process

Except for a few micro wood chip products, all the SmokinLicious® online products are packaged in cardboard boxes.  Our Packaging Team adheres to strict disinfectant procedures and utilizes gloves during the packaging process.  We also have automated package loading systems in place for specific products that result in a product no-touch scenario.  Additionally, science believes COVID-19 has a survival capability of 24 hours on cardboard if it is not immediately disinfected.  We recommend upon receiving your carton, you either spray or wipe down the carton with an approved anti-bacterial, anti-viral disinfectant to ensure no risk of host transfer if the carton should become contaminated during the delivery process.  Note, the chances of a viral host surviving on shipped cardboard packages is low due to the variant temperature and humidity the package encounters while in transit.  This makes the package you receive from SmokinLicious® even less of a risk.  For ultimate in safety, disinfect the carton upon arrival, place the product in another container that allows for airflow, and discard the packaging carton.

Thermal Evolution Is the Question

At this stage, we simply don’t have the science about every bacterium and virus that can enter our world.  We do suspect that temperature and more specifically humidity, will play a factor in slowing the infectious rate. The exact temperatures that kill germs/viruses depends on the microbe and how long it stays in the heat. This is the unknown.  This is the waiting game to determine if eradication is possible before the anti-viral becomes available.

While we wait, enjoy the pure, clean flavors of SmokinLicious® and get outside and cook for peace and comfort.

Are you making more online purchases?  Leave us a comment and subscribe to get our latest tips, techniques, recipes and the science behind the fire and smoke, for all live fire cooking methods.  That’s SmokinLicious!  Keeping you safe and informed.

More related reading on thermal heating process and other safety precautions we take in our smoking & Grilling tips and technique see our directory on previous blogs!

More related reading on thermal heating process and other safety precautions we take in our smoking & Grilling tips and technique see our directory on previous blogs!

Additional blog topics to read:

-OUR AIR HANDLING PROCESSES PAY OFF IN THE BATTLE WITH COVID-19

-WOOD SAFETY AND OUR EFFORTS TO PROTECT YOU!

-10 Thinks To Consider Before Purchasing Wood For Cooking, Grilling & Smoking

-COOKING WITH WOOD YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE TO THINK ABOUT YOUR SAFETY

SmokinLicious® products:

SmokinLicious Minuto® wood chips

Wood Chips- Minuto®, Piccolo

Dr. Smoke-

Dr. Smoke- We have been using our customized Thermal heating process on our products since 2005