Your BBQ IQ

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The Science of BBQing meat

As well as being a favourite hobby, there is a surprising ‘science’ behind barbecuing meat.

How does meat cook?

We’ll try not to get too scientific here, but the process of raw meat converting to cooked meat, is called denaturation. The meat muscle fibers become weak when heated up, unwinding the protein molecule.

How does meat get its flavour?

Meat develops its flavour as it is being cooked (no trick question there). But it also receives its delicious taste from any fat surrounding it and from a process called the Maillard reaction.  This reaction occurs most readily when the meat reaches between 150°C and 260°C (or 300F and 500F). At this temperature the outside of the meat reaches a higher temperature than the inside which creates the strongest flavours on the surface. Marinating the meat with herbs, spices and oil also contributes to the amount of flavour.

What gives meat its colour?

Red meat contains myoglobin, which is a rich pigmented protein giving meat such as beef, that rich red look.

White meat contains glycogen, stored in the muscles, that turns the meat a whitish colour when cooked. This is found in chicken and fish.

What gives meat that juicy flavour?

The quality of your meat largely depends on how long the meat is cooked and the cut. If meat is cooked too long, it looses its juices and becomes tough. Others factors include the amount of fat and collagen.

Read more on the science of cooking meat.