Mythbusting Steaks on the Grill

A very smart list about common steak cooking myths.

From Serious Eats:

Myth #4: “Only flip your steak once!”

The Theory: EVERYBODY says this one, and they say it not just for steaks, but for burgers, lamb chops, pork chops, chicken breasts, you name it. And to be honest, I… I’m not sure what the theory behind it is. It’s just something people are taught and do. Perhaps it’s an extension of the “searing locks in juices” myth and the belief that one must form a tight seal on the first side so that they can then cook the second side without any juices leaking out the top. Perhaps it’s the belief that a better crust can be formed by letting the meat sit longer on one side, or perhaps that the insides of the steak will cook more evenly. But…

The Reality: The reality is that multiple flipping will not only get your steak to cook faster—up to 30% faster!—but will actually cause it to cookmore evenly, as well. This is because—as food scientist and writer Harold McGee has explained—by flipping frequently, the meat on any given side will neither heat up nor cool down significantly with each turn. If you imagine that you can flip your steak infinitely fast,* then you can see that what ends up happening is that you approximate cooking the steak simultaneously from both sides, but at a gentler pace. Gentler cooking = more even cooking.

*and we, for a moment, forget that physical properties such as air resistance, friction, and, oh, the speed of light exist.

What’s more, as Russ Parson’s noted in the LA Times, you’ll also minimize the curling and cupping problems that can occur when fat and connective tissue shrinks faster than meat as it cooks.While it’s true that it takes a bit longer over the hot side of the grill to build up the same level of crust in a multi-flipper steak, the fact that it cooks more evenly means that you can cook over the hot side a bit longer, without the risk of burning the outside before the center cooks. You can also avoid creating a harsh temperature gradient inside the meat, as you would if you were to cook it entirely over the hot side without flipping.

There are two possible advantages to the single-flip method. The first is that if you like pretty grill marks, you won’t get them with multi-flipping. The second is that multi-flipping can be a pain in the butt if you have a ton of meat on the grill.

The Takeaway: You don’t have to flip your steaks multiple times, but if someone tells you that you’re ruining your steak by flipping it over and over, you can assure them that science is on your side.

Read the rest of the list here.