Grilling is NOT barbecue
A Quick Primer on Types of Heat
Heat transferred through contact. A pan on a stovetop being heated by a gas flame.
Most cooking processes involve a combination of heating methods. As an example, let’s boil some potatoes in a pot filled with water.
The pot is warmed by the conductive heat of a direct flame; the pot transfers (conducts) heat to the water; the hot water rises and circulates (convection); as this hot water comes into contact with the potatoes it warms them by transferring heat via conduction.
Let's compare that to cooking in my offset smoker
The logs directly touching the coals catch fire via conduction and radiant heat. Eventually all the wood burns; as it’s burning the hot air rises and travels through the (separate) cook chamber. Convection at work. The hot air (and smoke) flow through the cook chamber above, below, and around the food resting on the grates. The hot air transfers heat (via conduction) to the cooler food and to the grates and to the metal shell of the smoker itself. The surface of the food gets warm and begins to transfer heat to its cooler interior (conduction).
We’ll get to barbecue in a moment. First, a mini rant.
I’ve never understood the reasoning behind grill pans. A grill pan uses conductive heat; grilled food is cooked over radiant heat. The different heating methods create different-tasting food.
One reason for this is when you burn wood down to coals you can achieve temperatures much higher than most ovens can reach. The surface of a hot coal can be 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, though that heat dissipates quickly as it gets further from the coal. A grill grate set two inches from the charcoal might be 600 degrees.
Broiling is more akin to grilling than cooking in a grill pan.
So…what exactly is barbecue?
We’ll talk about that next time 🙂