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TTT – Tuesday’s Tasty Tip – Understanding and Measuring Grilling Temperatures
Many are intimidated when approaching the task of grilling foods on the family grill. While there is a significant amount of technique involved in grilling, understanding heat transfer and being able to measure it will make grilling fun, and nothing to fear.
Grilling on an outdoor grill is a “dry-heat” cooking method with two potential types of heat transfer, radiant and convective heat transfer. Cooking temperature is critical when grilling, as well as knowing which type of heat transfer is applied and from where. An example of radiant heat is the heat you feel coming from the sun. Convective heat is the type of heat transfer you feel standing under a patio on an Arizona summer day, not directly radiated from the sun.
When grilling, you are using mostly radiant heat, until you close the lids, then you are using both types of heat. Some grills come with thermometers built into the lid. These thermometers provide you with only a rough indication of the internal heat of the grilling chamber, but only with the lid closed. To confound the situation, the top of the food is cooked at a significantly lower temperature than the bottom of the food in contact with the grill, facing the coal. So how do you determine temperature and cook time?
The “Hand Test” is a simple test providing you with a reasonably accurate means of determining temperature. Here’s how it works. Hold your hand, palm down, 2 to 3 inches ABOVE the grating, and do NOT touch the grill! Count the number of seconds before you are forced to remove your hand. Use the table below to determine grilling temperature.
|1||550°F to 625°F||High||Thin skirt meat|
|2||400°F to 550°F||Medium-high||Steaks, burgers, shrimp|
|3||350°F to 400°F||Medium||Fish|
|4 or 5||300°F to 350°F||Medium-low||Poultry|
|6 to 8||250°F to 300°F||Low||BBQ thick tough cuts|
A finer point to remember is that Bar-B-Que (BBQ) is NOT the same as grilling. Grilling utilizes very hot direct heat, whereas BBQ uses lower indirect heat, typically accompanied with smoke for flavor. Grilling times are measured in minutes, but BBQ is measured in hours. Grilling is generally used for the tender cuts often containing a good amount of fat whereas BBQ uses time and low temperatures (250°F or below) to break down the proteins and collagen in the tougher cuts and large roasts.