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Microwaves are not, strictly speaking, heat. They generate heat within
meat by the agitation of its molecules of water. This is the only cooking
(?) process in which meat does not depend entirely upon conduction from its
exterior to raise the temperature in the center.
As a practical matter, in an enclosed grill, unless meat is suspended from
or resting upon a non conducting surface, it is at all times receiving heat
by all three transfer methods.
What does all this mean to the barbecuer or the griller? Meat does not
care how it receives the heat. What is essential in barbecuing is that the
exterior of the meat does not over cook, dry out, burn, blacken or char
before the interior reaches an acceptable temperature. This requires that
meat receive a constant flow of heat, in any form or forms, at a
temperature low enough to permit conduction, within the meat, time to work.
In this respect, water is the great ally. Water absorbs and conducts heat
much better than dry tissue. Therefore, the more moisture that we can
retain within the meat, the faster it will conduct and the more tender it
will be when it is finished. Everybody knows that, at sea level, water
boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. It, therefore, follows that, if we keep
the temperature of the exterior of the meat a slightly below the boiling
point of water, conduction is improved and tenderness is retained.
The one saving grace of the ubiquitous, tin can "water smoker" is that, as
long as there is water in the pan, the temperature at the surface of the
meat cannot rise above 212 degrees. Among its numerous defects is that it
encourages neophytes to overpower the taste of good meat with excessive
smoke and has confused many about what is meant by "smoking".
For a barbecuer, the effective grill is one which will allow its operator
to present heat by all three forms in a controlled fashion over long
periods of time and have ready access to the meat and to the coals -- each
without disturbing the other. The greater the mass of the cooker and the
coal bed, the more consistent the transfer of heat and the more time for enjoying
all the ancillary activities for which barbecue has become famous.
In the final analysis, there is no direct heat. There is no indirect
heat. There is only heat. The judicious use of heat in any form and the
creative us of the time during which it is applied is what barbecue is all
C. Clark Hale
8168 Hwy 98 E.
McComb, MS 39648
Smoky's 5th basic position for really great barbecue'n.
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