Not too long ago, I debunked six of my most despised grilling and meat myths. It’s once again time to dispel another round of meaty myths plaguing backyards and BBQ circles alike.
Myth 1: If You Cook Briskets Fat Side Up, the Fat Will Melt and Penetrate and Moisten the Meat
This is not a debate on whether you should smoke beef briskets with the fat cap up or the fat cap down. There are plenty of examples of contest winners and BBQ experts using either method, and strong pros and cons exist for both viewpoints. If you’re interested in learning more of these pros and cons, grilling and barbecuing experts Derrick Riches and Meathead Goldwyn have come up with excellent lists and arguments here and here.
What this post is addressing is the question, does having the fat cap up cause it to melt down and soak into the brisket, producing juicier meat?
Meat is not a sponge. Yes it will absorb a TINY bit of moisture (think brining) in small amounts as long as the circumstances are right (like a low temperature, salt content and the right PH). But there is already a high level of saturation of water already in the beef, and you know that water and oil (AKA melted fat) don’t mix. Pus, the vast majority of fat from the melting cap is only going to pour around the meat and drip off the bottom. This action will wash off much your spice rub.
Listen to my interviews with Derrick Riches and Meathead Goldwyn:
The Firecast Podcast Episode #33 – Derrick Riches of BBQ.About.com Offers Grilling and BBQ Tips and Tricks
The Firecast Podcast Episode #57 – Meathead Goldwyn of AmazingRibs.com on the Science of Grilling and Barbecuing
The Firecast Podcast Episode #58 – Derrick Riches on Buying, Maintaining and Cleaning Your BBQ Grill
Myth 2: The Water Pan in a Smoker is Used to Make Most Air
Many of us use upright or “bullet” style smokers that contain a water pan. The BBQ myth is that these water pans exist to add moisture to the air surrounding the meat. In the old smokehouse days when meats were smoked for many, many hours and even days at extremely low temperatures, this was definitely a possibility.
Nowadays with slightly hotter temperature ranges most people smoke at (225 to 275, or even as high as 325 degrees Fahrenheit), the air will not hold the moisture. This evaporated water from the pan will actually end up on your meat, and can result in ash and soot sticking to the surface of the meat.
So what is a water pan for? Water used in smokers is to aid in temperature control of the cooking chamber, helping to prevent it from getting too wildly hot.
Many have started using sand in place of water, which will actually help in the fuel efficiency of your smoker. Keep in mind that it is very easy to burn up a piece of meat using sand in place of water, and you should know your smoker before you try this.
Myth 3: Marinades Soak Deep Into the Meat, Causing Incredible Flavor to Be Added
For the reason mentioned above, which is the fact that very little can seep into a piece of meat because of the super-saturation of water, shows that marinades don’t work as well as we’re lead to believe. Now, a lot of marinades are water-based and mot fat-based (like the dripping fat cap), so they do fare a little better. But, as studies have shown, marinades cannot penetrate deep into the muscle tissue, and acts more of like a surface coating or sauce than anything.
Want deeper penetrating action? Think of making gashes or slices in the meat, or do injection of liquids and spices.
Myth 4: The Shiny Side of Aluminum Foil Conducts More Heat
This is another BBQ debate: if and when you wrap your meat during cooking, does it matter what side is on the outside, the shiny side or dull side of aluminum foil?
Negative. The look of foil has ZERO to do with the conductivity of heat, and only appears that way from the manufacturing process. It doesn’t make one iota of difference. So, wrap up your meat either way you want.
Related: Read about Debunking Six of My Most Despised Grilling and Meat Myths.