NEWS for North Dakotans
Agriculture Communication, North Dakota State University
7 Morrill Hall, Fargo, ND 58105-5665
April 23, 1998
Prairie Fare: If That's Charcoal I Smell,
It Must Be Spring
May is National Barbecue Month, so I thought I'd help rekindle some of your favorite barbecuing memories. Remember how your favorite steak sssizzlessss on the grill? Smell that wood smoke? For a moment there, your breathing cleared up, didn't it?
No doubt about it, barbecuing produces miracles. It also can be challenging, but it's not rocket science. Even so, I decided to run the tips I'm about to pass along past Marty Marchello, a professor in the animal and range science department here at North Dakota State University. Marty knows meat.
My first tip involves dry rubs, those powdery concoctions that can be as simple as store-bought seasoned salt or as elaborate as a painstaking blend of fresh herbs and spices. It's a good idea to use a dry rub, but there's no reason to put it on the meat hours in advance.
Is there a difference between a marinade and a basting sauce? As far as I can tell, not really. The acid (vinegar, wine, lemon juice etc.) in marinades and basting sauces helps tenderize meat, and the oil keeps meat moist. If you're grilling with wood or a wood-charcoal combination, you'll want to dab the marinade off your meat because smoke won't penetrate moisture. To achieve that just-right smokey flavor and color, your meat should feel tacky, not wet, when it goes on the grill.
Real barbecue enthusiasts cook with a basting sauce, but they eat with a finishing sauce. Most of the barbecue sauces you see in grocery stores are finishing sauces.
Cooking time is critical for good barbecue. For more tender cuts of meat, like steaks and chops, you'll want to use a higher temperature for quicker cooking. The time-temperature relationship flip-flops for roasts and tougher cuts of meat; turn down the heat and tune up your patience. Roasts and tougher cuts of meat simply take longer to barbecue.
Steaks can go directly over the heat source (gas, charcoal or wood), but for chicken breasts and pork chops, I'd opt for the indirect method, so flare-ups don't burn the outside of the meat before the inside reaches a safe temperature. To cook by indirect heat, you need a covered grill. Bank your charcoal or wood around the edges of the grill or on one side so the meat is not sitting directly over the heat. A friend of mine from Iowa who eats a lot of grilled pork says the best way to prepare a 2-inch-thick chop is to stand it on end after it's cooked on both sides. That way the "T" bone is closer to the heat source during part of the cooking time and can help raise the internal temperature.
Hickory works well with most meats, and mesquite works well for pork or beef. Apple is good for pork and poultry, and the robust flavor of cherry best matches beef and wild game. Remember, you can use wood on a gas grill too. One final note: perfectly barbecued meat is not fall-off-the bone tender. You should still be able to slice it.
Here's a recipe for marinade I adapted from a "Family Circle" insert that's decades old. Food writer Marion Burros credits the original recipe to Texas barbecue king Walter Jetton, who made spareribs that President Lyndon Johnson was especially fond of.
Yield: 6 servings
1 tablespoon dry mustard
4 cloves minced garlic
1 tablespoon ground chili pepper
2 teaspoons liquid hot pepper sauce
½ cup Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup each cider vinegar and vegetable oil
2 cups beef, chicken or vegetable broth
Procedure: Prepare basting sauce at least 24 hours in advance; mix ingredients thoroughly and refrigerate. Use as a marinade to grill your favorite meats or vegetables.
What's Your Take on This, Julie?
Now that the great outdoors is no longer a walk-in freezer and the grills are firing up, it's time to think about summer food safety. Don't let your grill make you ill. Safe food handling is important for all seasons but especially during the warm summer months when cases of foodborne illness rise. You've seen the headlines.
As with any food preparation, begin by washing your hands20 seconds of scrubbing with soap and water goes a long way in preventing food poisoning. That's about the length of time it takes to hum "Yankee Doodle."
If you choose to marinate meats, do so in a glass dish in the refrigeratornever at room temperature. Room temperature is a preferred "vacation spot" for bacteria, which grow at varying rates in the temperature danger zonefrom 40 F to 140 Fbut grow best from 60 F to 120 F. If you plan to use the marinade as a dip or sauce with the meal, it's safest to set aside some of the marinade before adding the meat to it. Never reuse marinade that has been in contact with raw meat unless you boil it for several minutes.
One-sixth of this recipe, about 1/3 cup, contains 130 calories and 10 grams of fat. If you're watching your calorie and fat intake, choose lean cuts of meat or trim the fat from higher-fat meats such as spareribs. Another option is to cut back on your portion size.
Partial cooking is not safe. If you're short on time and plan to precook the meat, you should cook it completely, cool it quickly and then reheat it so the internal temperature reaches at least 165 F, as measured by a meat thermometer. Microwave-thawed foods should go directly to the grill.
Cook grilled foods thoroughly. It's best to use a meat thermometer to gauge doneness because research studies have shown that brown color does not necessarily ensure safety. Ground beef patties should be cooked to at least 160 F. Chicken breasts should reach 170 F. Always look for clear juices as well, and use a clean plate to collect your cuisine from the grill.
Serve grilled foods hot, and keep all the salad accompaniments on ice or in a cooler. On mild or warm days, risky foods such as meats and salads should remain in the danger zone for only two hoursthat includes preparation time. When outdoor temperatures are higher than 90 F, foods should be consumed within an hour.
Remember, just a few preventive steps can help keep you and your guests from becoming headline makers in a story about foodborne illness.
Sources: Dean Hulse (701) 231-6136
Julie Garden-Robinson (701) 231-7187
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