Posts Tagged ‘muscle fibers’

Pork on the Grill

When it comes to cooking pork on the grill, the optimal technique and temperature can vary wildly from one cut of meat to another. We have all bitten into a perfectly seared bone-in pork chop only to find a dry, leathery flip flop inside. While at times it can be frustrating for the beginner, pork is one of the most versatile and rewarding meats on the grill.

Basics of Pork on the Grill

Different pork cuts will require different cooking methods. For example, a tenderloin should be treated differently from a shoulder. Unfortunately, pork is not as forgiving as beef when it comes to moisture, so it is very important to know your meat and be prepared to grill it properly.Pork on the Grill
Remember that, in general, the meat you grill is muscle tissue. On a pig, different muscles are used in different ways. Some muscles, such as the shoulder, are used constantly as the pig moves about during its life. Other muscles, such as the tenderloin, are rarely used at all. The more a muscle is used, the more developed the muscle fibers become. Long and strong muscle fibers are naturally tough, but they also retain moisture. Less developed muscles are naturally tender, but they dry out easily because of their lack of collagen.

In general, the more developed a muscle is, the slower it needs to be cooked. A long slow cook allows the collagen in the muscle fibers to break down and lose cohesion. This is where we get pulled pork barbecue. A less worked muscle can be cooked hotter and faster, but extreme care ought to be given when it comes to temperature monitoring.

Flavors for Perfect Pork

Perhaps more than any other meat, pork pairs well with sweet flavors. Citrus, pineapple, blueberry, even maple flavors complement the natural sweetness of the meat. This is not to say that savory flavors do not work well with pork, but sweet flavors tend to have a more pleasing effect on guests.

Two Key Tips for Pork on the Grill

Temperature monitoring is important when grilling any meat, but it is especially important when dealing with pork chops, loin, and tenderloin. Purchase a good leave-in meat thermometer and use it to make sure you don’t overcook your meat. Take your meat off the grill when it is about 5 degrees shy of the target temperature. It will finish coming to temperature during the next most important stage of grilling: resting.

Resting your meat is nearly as important as not overcooking it. The rest allows the tight and strained meat fibers to relax and reabsorb juices. Without a rest, you will have dry meat in a pool of flavorful juice that would otherwise be in the meat.


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Beef on the Grill

Beef is perhaps the most rewarding meat to grill and eat. It is most often associated with the “all American” cookout. Because there are many cuts of beef, there are many preparation styles. The key to grilling beef is to know your meat and understand what makes it different from other cuts.

Basics for Beef on the Grill

Grilling techniques for beef vary wildly from one cut to another. Brisket is typically cooked “low and slow” for Texas style beef barbecue. Flank steak, and hanger steak are tougher cuts, but their size allows them to be seared on the outside and left rare on the inside. Slicing these cuts thinly against the grain breaks up the muscle fiber and leaves a tender bite. Steak cuts come from moderately tender muscle regions and are perfect for searing to whatever doneness you prefer. These are only three of the many cut types that could be considered.

Different Cuts, Different Techniques

When determining how to cook your beef on the grill, consider what type of muscle you are dealing with. Muscles that see much use will be tougher, since their fibers are long and well defined. Less used muscles are much more tender, and the fiber structure is almost indiscernible. Of course, ground beef bypasses the muscle fibers by grinding them up for you, making even the toughest muscles useable.Beef on the Grill
For tougher cuts, it is typically best to cook them at low temperatures for an extended amount of time. This allows the collagen in the muscle fibers to break down and become tender. The exception to this is the flank steak and its variations. Because of the flank steak’s thin profile, slicing it against the grain breaks up the muscle fibers and makes it tender.
For tender cuts, a medium to medium-low grill is best for temperature regulation and avoiding overcooking. A grill thermometer is crucial for getting a good result because it allows you to monitor the meat’s internal temperature and remove the meat from the grill at just the right time.
For steak cuts and ground beef, a medium to medium-high grill is best for achieving a good sear on the outside without overcooking the inside.

A Word About Seasoning Beef on the Grill

It may come as a surprise to some home chefs, but beef packs a lot of great flavor on its own. A robust seasoning blend, while imparting a unique and powerful flavor profile to the meat, often actually detracts from the meat flavor. Steak sauces and seasonings work wonders to cover many grilling failures, but a truly stunning steak is one that features the flavor of the beef as most prominent.
The mark of a great outdoor chef is his ability to draw out the complex savory flavors of the beef without muting them with extra flavors. You will taste sweet success when your guests realize that they don’t have to flood their steak with a sauce that steals the entire dish. To achieve the best simple steak, rub your steaks down with a liberal application of kosher salt and freshly ground coarse black pepper. Wrap the steaks individually in plastic wrap for at least 45 minutes to let the salt work it’s hydrophilic magic. After the wait, unwrap the steaks and either grill them immediately, or leave them on a wire rack in the refrigerator overnight, uncovered. The overnight method intensifies the “beefy” flavor of the steak.


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