Don't let myths about flipping steaks and other meats keep you from getting those appealing BBQ grill lines.
A BBQ grill can make food taste better than traditional stovetop or oven cooking. And good steaks or chops off the BBQ grill not only taste fantastic, they look great too. They have an even brown, slightly crispy outside with clear, well-formed grill lines.
If you really want to get fancy, you can sear in the crisscross lines like the pros do. Yes, this involves flipping the meat, but all that advice about flipping and poking making grilled foods tough is really just a myth.
There is a wealth of information out there offering tips and rules for cooking on a BBQ grill. Some of it is very helpful, while some verges on myth because it is exaggerated or based on gut instinct rather than tried and true comparative testing. The rule that says you should avoid poking or flipping your grilled meats falls in the latter category.
Your Steak Is Not a Balloon
Meat is made of many small cells, each filled with moisture or juices. If one cell pops, the others remain intact, separated by cell walls. So poking a fork in a steak while it's on the BBQ grill doesn't let all the juice out, it only affects those cells you puncture. Of course, if you stab it repeatedly like a pincushion, you could damage enough cells to cause the meat to become dry and tough.
Flipping doesn't penetrate the cell walls at all, so as long as you are gentle and don't flip your burger like a pancake, you shouldn't damage the meat.
What does cause problems is when cooks using BBQ grills squish the burgers or other meats in an attempt to squeeze out grease. This flattens cell walls and causes moisture and juices ooze out, which can leave the meat dry.
The Key to Great Grill Lines
What is important is to start out with a hot grill so that you sear in the juices right away. And well-defined grill marks are a sign that your BBQ grill is hot enough.
You can move the food to a cooler part of the grill after the desired outside color and appearance are achieved. It's important to note that stainless steel grill grates or those that are extra thick may not conduct heat as well as cast iron and other grill materials.
So how do you get those crisscross grill lines? It only takes two turns on each side of a steak or chop. Let the meat sear on the grate for a couple minutes, then gently pick it up and turn it 45 degrees for angled lines or 90 degrees for squares.
Because the grill cools when the meat sits on it, you should move the meat to a new, hot area of the BBQ grill for the second set of lines. Once you have seared your lines on one side, gently flip the meat over and repeat on the other side.
If you want the foods you cook on your BBQ grill to look as good as they taste, try searing in crisscross grill lines. Don't let those myths about too much turning and flipping keep you from getting a bit creative. This hands-off rule is only meant to keep fidgety cooks from mauling their food while it cooks. Minor handling will not have any noticeable affects on the flavor of food cooked on your BBQ grill, but it can do wonders for your presentation.