Written by adam on Nov 8, 2005
A Treatise on Grilling, Part 2
Grill marks. It is the Everest of grilling. Every grillmaster wannabe yearns, nay, LONGS for those dark brown lines to be adorning his meat. But as so many of us have done in the past, we throw the grill grate down and put the meat on immediately, only to pull off a stuck-on blackish-brown mess.
So what can we do? How do we obtain this holy grail of grilling? How do we get to the grilling mecca? Where are the 27 virgins and rivers of wine?
The answer? Heat the grill grate. The process by which the grill marks happen? The Maillard Reaction.
The Maillard reaction takes place when components like reducing sugars and amino acids or proteins react together. It occurs in most foods on heating and also takes place in the human body.
In food technology the Maillard reaction plays a central role in the development of color, aroma, flavor, texture and nutritional value of cooked and processed foods.
In humans, the Maillard reaction contributes to the increased fluorescence, color and cross-linking of extracellular proteins during normal aging. Acceleration of these reactions is implicated in the development of diabetic complications and in inflammatory processes linked to neurodegenerative diseases and atherosclerosis.
The simple answer is this: Let your grill grate get hot. You need to give the grate about 5 minutes to totally heat up before you starting slapping down the meat. The grate needs to be smoking hot ... hotter than the fire down below.
Just think about it logically. Cold meat on a cold grill can't be good. When the grill grate slowly heats up, the meat will slowly start sticking to it, no matter how much lube you put on.
(Is it me or is there just so much sexual innuendo in this post?)
So when you put cold meat on a hot grate, you get that instantaneous reaction when the meat hits the metal. You can hear this by that sizzling sound. It's theat instant maillard reaction that the happening; essentially it's a conversion of sugars or amino acids react with the proteins in the meat and basically caramelize. See, it takes time for heat to get from the coals to the meat. But when the grill grate is hot, the time is zero.
Boom! Instant reaction!
After you put that meat down, let it sit for a few minutes. Don't be afraid, It's not going to burn. After about 2 minuntes, lift up the edge of one and check to see how the lines are coming. If they are not coming along, set it back down to continue reacting. After you are satisfied with the grill marks, flip it over and do the same.
When you become comfortable with this basic grilling manuever, try doing the forty-five turn flip. And don't forget to lube the grill grate!