A pitmaster shares 5 mistakes you're making that are ruining your at-home barbecue, and offers advice on how to fix them
- Pitmaster Matt Horn shares his tips for home
- He says it's common for home grillers to start cooking their meat before the coals are fully hot.
- To avoid dried-out meat, Horn suggests letting it rest before slicing and serving.
Matt Horn, chef and owner of Horn Barbecue in Oakland, California, grew up surrounded by people who respected the practice of barbecue, which he calls "the great unifier.""It brings people from all walks of life together," he said. "Whether it be by live fire or whether it be in the backyard or a restaurant, it's always been the one thing that despite our differences it brings us all together."
1. Stop washing your meat
"You never want to wash your [meat]," Horn said. Not only does it present the opportunity for bacteria to spread over your kitchen from the splashing water, but it also waterlogs your protein, which will dilute the natural flavors.Instead, he suggests dabbing the meat with a paper towel to remove any unwanted moisture from the packaging before seasoning.
2. Avoid over-seasoning
"One of the real key elements of cooking barbecue and cooking over a fire is being able to really get that smokey flavor," he said. Seasoning your steaks, chicken, or burgers with too many flavors can take away from that cornerstone characteristic.Horn told Insider that adding other flavoring agents takes away from the flavor that the cooking method naturally offers. "You'll still get smokiness," he said, "but you really want to taste the meat and let that shine." He said his seasoning method usually includes a very simple salt and pepper base. Sometimes, though, he "may add something like granulated garlic or onion to it just to add a little additional flavor."
But what he really needs for flavor is what's known as the Maillard reaction - part of the rule that in cooking, color equals flavor.
Maillard in particular, though, refers to the reaction between sugars and amino acids of proteins, according to The Washington Post. Horn says home cooks can make sure they're allowing for this to take place by letting the fats of the meat interact with the heat source.
3. Let your coals get hot enough"Whether you're using lighter fluid or you're using wood, you have to allow those coals to get completely hot to the point where they're completely white," Horn said. "If they're black at all, the charcoal still needs to burn off,"
The pitmaster says he's seen people make this mistake quite often. If you start to cook your
4. Don't crowd your pan and avoid flipping your meat too soon
"Allow that Maillard reaction to happen," Horn said. "It creates this really great texture on the meat."His advice for achieving the reaction is to allow each piece of meat to have its own space where it doesn't need to compete for attention from the grill's heat source. Horn also advises against flipping your meat before it gets that dark, charred, outside detailing.
5. Give it time to restAfter cooking your barbecue, it's very important to let all of your food rest and give it time to reabsorb moisture.
"People [know to] do it a lot with steaks," he said. "The same thing goes with [all] barbecue. If you're doing steaks, chicken, or whatnot, you want to let that meat rest a little bit before you cut into it."Doing so will keep your protein from drying out when any un-absorbed juices spill out onto the cutting board instead of getting naturally distributed back into the meat.
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