Article featured image

Barbecue season is officially here! With Memorial Day weekend come and gone, the warm weather has finally kicked in, and backyard grills are being fired up everywhere. But while barbecue may be a gift from the gods, there are some persistent myths around meat-smoking that can seriously hinder your success. Our friends at ChefSteps wrote in with some advice on separating fact from fiction (they cover each topic in more depth on their site).

Myth 1
Collagen conversion, fat rendering or general protein denaturing causes “the stall.”

The Truth
The meat sweats, and the moisture evaporates and cools the surface of the meat, slowing the cooking.

Myth 2
Smoking wood in flavorful liquids will make your food taste better.

The Truth
Giving your wood a flavor bath will lower its smoldering temperature and may damage the quality of your smoke, but it certainly won’t make your food taste better.

Myth 3
Smoke rings mean flavor.

The Truth
The smoke ring results from reactions between a protein molecule in meat and gases in smoke. While we can clearly see the result of those reactions, we can’t taste them.

Myth 4
Membranes on food block flavor penetration.

The Truth
Membranes can block some liquids, but vapors pass through them and dissolve into the moist flesh beneath. The presence of membranes will not stop smoke, or flavor, from penetrating your meat.

Myth 5
Quality smoke only comes from solid chunks of wood.

The Truth
You can get very good results using sawdust and pellets to smoke food. The trouble comes when you close the flue too much.

Myth 6
Tars and oil droplets in the smoke create the pellicle and color in the food.

The Truth
Both the flavor and the color of smoked meats can be attributed to reactions between the food and invisible gaseous volatiles in the smoke, not the smoke you can see, which is a combination of liquid droplets and sooty solids.

Myth 7
The more fat, the more smoked flavor you’ll get.

The Truth
The fat content in meat strongly impacts how well the food absorbs flavor from smoke vapors. But if there’s too much fat on the meat’s surface, the flavors will fail to diffuse into the flesh.

Myth 8
Only raw foods can absorb flavor.

The Truth
So long as the surface of your food is moist, aromatic vapors will continue to absorb there and diffuse into the food.

ChefSteps comprises a team of award-winning chefs, filmmakers, scientists, designers and engineers focused on revolutionizing the way people cook by inspiring creativity and encouraging expertise in the kitchen. The site is currently offering a free online class called Cooking Sous Vide: Getting Started, as well as a $10 class called Cooking Sous Vide: Beyond the Basics.

Read these ChefSteps columns on Food Republic: