8 Things that affect meat cooking times

Jason Webster
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1) The Thickness and Diameter

It is a common misconception that if you use smaller meat cuts (think stewing meat, short ribs or flank steak) that the meat will cook faster than larger cuts.

In fact, it is actually the opposite!

Smaller cuts of meat have a higher percentage of water to meat than larger cuts. I call these moisture loving cuts.

The extra moisture must be cooked out before the meat can begin to brown. Therefore you will need to season, marinate and cook moist (think brown sugar, soy sauce) long and slow for these cuts.

Then there are cuts that I call water lovers which have lots of connective tissue. These include pork shoulder, pork ribs, beef short rib and chuck. These cuts will need less time cooking and can take on and withstand bolder flavors as well as sear better when you grill or roast on high heat. These cuts will still tenderize while cooking.

You don’t want to cook them neither too fast nor too slow. They will also need a longer resting time when done. Go figure!

My best advice, choose the best cut for the job and then prepare it with care.

2) How Much Connective Tissue and Fat There Is

Connective tissue, also called collagen, is the connective tissue that composes the muscles and tissues of your meat, including your face and skin. It is made from twisted bundles of proteins and is gel-like in texture when the meat is raw.

When you cook a meat cut that has a lot of connective tissue, its proteins break down in the heat and soften the meat making it juicier. Red meat cuts tend to have a large amount of connective tissue. It is one reason people often prefer beef over chicken even though chicken contains less fat.

This connective tissue contains collagen, which breaks down and softens the meat when cooked. This is why you can make hearty soups out of cooked chicken bones. If you marinate your chicken for a long time, or keep it in a warm place before cooking, the connective tissue will soften. This will make your pork or chicken meat juicier, tastier and healthier.

However, connective tissue does not dissolve in boiling water, not even in high cooking temperatures. In the simmering heated liquid, the connective tissue will just dissolve a little instead of breaking down. Make sure to use the low or medium heat settings when simmering to avoid overcooking your meat.

3) How Hot You Are Cooking

Cooking meat over high heat allows your proteins to coagulate quickly. Since with proteins, the more they coagulate, the more they make the meat tough, and allow juices to be lost, this is a no-no when cooking meat.

The dry heat of the oven helps ensure that the proteins don’t coagulate, which makes it a great choice for cooking roasted meat.

However, that’s not to say that cooking meat over high heat is never a good idea. If you’re cooking over high heat, be sure that your meat has enough fat to prevent it from drying out entirely.

The downside to cooking over too-high heat is that the meat can burn on top before the inside cooks completely, the meat is exposed to harmful grill/stove burners to the point it soaks up a lot of the grease, it dries out and burns before it is cooked through.

Cast iron pans. Some skillets, such as cast iron skillets, get better as they rust (season). The handle can be quite comfortable, especially if you use sauce for lubricant. Some people find cast iron pans easier to clean, others don’t. Some people think cast iron pans add iron to the food, others think it’s too small an amount to matter.

4) The Weather and Your Smoker’s Insulation

Regardless of how good your smoker is insulated, all smokers lose temperature at a certain rate due to the simple mechanics of conduction and convection, which are the heat transfer principles that you can blame for the heat loss. So when the temperature drops by a certain margin, we say that the room is “settling”.

The cooler the air is, the easier it is to heat it up, especially in the first steps when the smoker is cold.

When there’s more heat, conduction and convection are more effective, which allows the heat to better maintain the smoker’s temperature.

Convection means that the smoke from the fire travels up and turns into water vapor. Conduction is the heat transfer from the hot item that you placed on the smoker’s grates. The most important factor here is the difference in temperature between the hot item and the surface that the hot item is in contact with.

If the hot item is colder than the temperature in the smoker it’s placed on, it will transfer heat at a slower rate, which will affect cooking times.

In a way, water vapor is a kind of smoke, and therefore it’ll affect the flavor of your meat by providing moisture and balancing the hot.

5) Humidity Levels

Higher humidity levels in the air can make your meat cook quicker and vice versa. If you’re doing your BBQ outside, this is one of the most important things to keep in mind.

The amount of moisture in the air directly affects the way heat transfers to the meat. If it is humid, the water in the air forms a layer of insulating air around the meat that prevents heat from getting into the meat.

The good news is, cooking time is not much affected by humidity levels under 70% according the Meathead Goldwyn in his book “It’s better than good BBQ”.

6) Whether Your Meat is Boned or Deboned

Meat on the bone will typically take on average 5 to 10 minutes longer to cook, as it takes longer for heat to penetrate through the bone.

The cooking time will vary due to the shape and thickness of the bone, as well as whether the bone is removed from the meat or not.

Also, meat with the bone still in will take longer to cook because the bone will conduct heat.

By freezing meat before cooking it, up to 95% of the bacteria present in it dies. Bacteria, however, is not the only threat in raw meat, as there are some risks of food poisoning associated with uncooked meat.

7) Type of smoker your cooking with

A charcoal smoker is equipped with a ceramic cooking chamber. This means you can use lighter fluid to ignite the coals. Old-fashioned charcoal chimneys are the best. They are inexpensive and turn light briquettes into red-hot coals within five to ten minutes.

The problem comes when you are cooking on a gas grill. If you light the lighter gas, it coat the surface of the meat with a film of lighter gas. This results in burnt, bitter tasting food, because the lighter gas does not penetrate the food. Use a charcoal grill for cooking, and charcoal briquettes for the heat source. This allows you to control the heat more easily.

Wood chips or pellets also add flavor to the meat without making it taste smoky. They are often used as the flavor-enhancing wood.

When using part of an entire carcass as one (here, we are talking a whole chicken), the cook needs to adjust the heat according to how the bird is positioned in the grill. When the whole chicken is positioned breast side down, the hot air can more easily flow through the body cavity to the legs and grill (and hence cook) the breast while the heat more easily penetrates the backside of the bird.

8) Altitude

At higher altitudes the temperature lowers, but the pressure is the same. So the effect is that it takes longer for moisture to leave and for the meat to cook through.

Also, barometric pressure changes can cause fluctuations in cooking time that correlate with the weather.

Try to be aware of these changes and adjust accordingly.

7 Types of Smokers (And Which One You Should Buy)

{ Smokers, also called “pits”, are ideal if you are planning on smoking larger cuts of meat like chicken, turkey, pork shoulder, brisket or whole pork or beef ribs.

They will also give you more flexibility for smoking small items like seafood, vegetables and cheese.

There are several types of smokers available on the market, each offering a unique set of features.

In this tutorial I am going to guide you through the different types of smokers available on the market, and I will also share my favorite type (and smoker brand) that I recommend you buy.

You may find this knowledge useful if you are planning on buying a smoker.

Whether you need to smoke fish, meat, veggies or cheese, here are several types of smokers you will find on the market that will do the job.

Is it a good time to buy a smoker? That depends.

First you need to know for what are you planning to use it. Is it for a small townhouse or a log cabin? Should it be for a backyard BBQ or for competitions? Are you a month-end BBQ fanatic or a Sunday Picnic griller?

It goes without saying that a cheap Chinese unit is not what you’re looking for if you’re planning a competition, or a backyard BBQ every week with your friends from work.