When it comes to the science of barbecue and grilling, there’s one person you must meet — Meathead.
The legendary Meathead Goldwyn was a guest on our Digital Hospitality podcast to talk about his Amazing career, his Amazing insights, and his AmazingRibs.com website.
In this conversation between Meathead and podcast host Shawn Walchef, you’ll learn all sorts of great BBQ advice and grilling tips from his well-tested and highly-respected methods.
Amazing Ribs Made Easy | Meathead’s Methods
For the full Meathead interview and article visit https://calibbq.media/changing-lives-with-amazing-ribs-meathead-goldwyn-podcast-interview-dh040/
Shawn Walchef (Digital Hospitality podcast host) — When did you start actually making money off of the site (AmazingRibs.com)? How long did it take?
Meathead Goldwyn (AmazingRibs.com owner) — Until around 2010. It took about five years, but it started making money fairly early. We started taking ads. Then we discovered if you recommended books that were on Amazon, Amazon would pay you a finder’s fee. And then as Amazon expanded beyond books, you know, tongs, spatulas. So we started testing products like that, you know, lights. And thermometers.
Importance of Thermometers:
Meathead — I mean, early on, I became a great fan, an advocate of thermometers. My wife worked for the FDA for a number of years in the food safety world. And she once told me she thinks that we have probably been responsible for more thermometer sales then the USDA. We just preach thermometers on every page. When you go back to 2010 or so, competition chefs weren’t using thermometers, they were all, you know, poking the meat and, you know, you can tell when brisket is done, you stick a fork in it and twist it. And it’s got to have the ‘wubba wubba.’
I think we get a little bit of credit for teaching the world that they’re not the end-all-be-all for things like brisket, but for things like steak and chicken.
Meathead — Absolutely, there’s nothing better than a thermometer to get you where you want to be.
BBQ Myth Busting:
Shawn — One of the things that impressed me significantly is the amount of media that you’ve been able to leverage from your book, but also on the myth-busting side.
Meathead — Yeah.
Shawn — Of really taking something that, you know, is maybe, let’s say in popular culture, this is what people think is right, but then actually showing the science behind it to prove it wrong? And it’s gotten you a lot of significant media coverage and I’d love for you to tell us a little bit about that journey.
Meathead — Well, as a journalist, also as a person with an interest in science, you are trained to ask, how do you know that to be true? I mean, that’s the most important question. Yes, somebody says something. How do you know that to be true? You know? Well, you’ve got to soak the woodchips, makes more smoke. How do you know that to be true? So you test it and you think about it and you say, now, wait a second? Water boils at 212 degrees.
What temperature does would burn at? 500 or 600 hundred. So if you’ve got woodchips that are wet, they can’t burn until the water boils off. So what is that stuff that when you throw the woodchips on so you get a mirror and you hold a mirror over and it’s fogs up and you realize, ‘Holy cow, that’s steam!’
Meathead — Then you call up the physicists. I met this guy — great at barbecue. He came to the website. He was interested. And I started bringing physics and chemistry questions to him and contests.
Shawn — What was his name?
Meathead — Greg Blonder, B L O N D E R. His name is on the cover of our book. He’s the the science adviser to amazing ribs dot com. And I put him on the cover of the book because he’s the one who really helped guide me down the science path.
Vacuum Tumblers and Marinade:
Meathead — In my life right now, one of the questions I’m struggling with are the vacuum tumblers. People want to put meat inside of a vacuum tumbling machine with a marinade. And the idea is it’s gonna suck the marinade in. Wait a minute… If you put something into a vacuum, you’re sucking the air out. You’re going to suck the moisture out. How is the marinade going to go in? I mean, just logically.
So you start questioning this and I called up the chef at Buddig, which is a large meat processor. He used to be my sous chef. And he’s now down there full time. They do tumbling vacuum tumblers. And I call. I’ve got another guy, Dr. Mike Antonio Motta from used to be at Oklahoma State. I meet scientists. I call him up and ask him. And then I call Blonder up. So I get the physics, the meat science and everything.
And it turns out it works — if you’ve injected the meat. But it’s of no value, and in fact, if you’ve ever done sous vide, you put meat in this sous vide bag and you put it on the vacuum. You can see all juices coming out of the meat.
Shawn — Yeah.
Meathead — In fact, if they get into the sealed area, you’re screwed. You can’t seal the meat. So vacuum tumblers of themselves don’t work unless you’ve injected first. And that helps distribute the meat because of the tumbling and the vacuuming and so on.
Don’t Soak Woodchips Before BBQ:
Meathead — So you start asking these questions. How does how do you know it to be true? How does it work? And you learn that soaking woodchips… Well, the other thing we did was we took the woodchips and I took chips and chunks and weighed them. Then I soaked them, not for an hour, like all the books said, but overnight, and then padded the surface dry and weighed them again. And they are only about a three percent gain. Then I took the chunks and cut them in half on my tablesaw downstairs. And the inside is bone dry. It’s the exterior where it’s kind of fuzzy. It held on to some water. The interior is bone dry.
And then you start thinking about it. Well, if you’re trying to get a stable temperature — because cooking is all about temperature control — and you throw wet wood on your charcoal. What happens to your temperature control?
Meathead — So the bottom line is, is all the books, you can’t see here, but I have maybe every barbecue book that’s ever been written on the bookshelves here. And 90 percent would tell you to soak the woodchips. It does no good whatsoever.
Crowdsourcing AmazingRibs.com Questions:
Shawn — Do you crowdsource the questions or do you do that intuitively? How does your team collectively choose “this is a myth or this is something that is a trendy concept?”
Meathead — We want people to ask us, you know, hey, there’s this vacuum tumbling machine on Amazon and it gets the marinade inside the meat better. They say, what do you think? And I start thinking and then, you know, and so then we buy one and we start playing with it. We start asking around.
Meathead — But, you know, I’m kind of running out of myths, right? (laughs) I mean, there were about 50 or 60 of them that we attacked.
Shawn — (laughs) It’s okay. Everything is truth in the world these days.
What Causes Meat to Stall:
Meathead — Well, I mean, for example, one of the first things Blonder and I did together was we wanted to know what caused the stall. We went to the BBQ Bretheren website (www.bbq-brethren.com) and went, researched and everything. They were all convinced it was either the liquefaction of fat or the phase change and connective tissue to gelatin. And I bring this to Blonder and he does the math and he says, no it can’t be. And he does a series of experiments in which we proved, without a doubt, it’s really simple, that when the surface of the meat is wet, if you’re cooking at a low temp around 225 to 250 (degrees), that the evaporation from the surface cools the meat at the same rate as the heat warms the meat.
And so it sticks at that temperature until the surface dries out. When the surface dries out, it’s like making jerky. Then the interior, the meat temp can go up.
Meathead — It’s a really basic concept that a lot of people don’t think about. It’s like the question of if you’re looking, you ain’t cooking. Well, all right. You put meat into a smoker. The warm air heats the outside of the meat, but it doesn’t heat the inside of the meat. It can’t get inside the meat. What cooks the inside of the meat? The heat builds up in the surface like a battery or a capacitor.
As the heat, the energy — it’s much better to think of it as energy than heat — the energy builds up in the surface and the energy, slowly because meat is 70 percent water, it slowly moves towards the center.
Meathead — So we stuck a bunch of probes in the meat and open and close the lid open and close the lid. You put a probe under the surface in the center. And lo and behold, the meat hardly notices when you open and close the lid because the interior of the meat is being cooked by the exterior or the meat, not the air.
Shawn — Interesting.
Meathead — So you see the air temp goes off the edge of the table, and the exterior of the meat takes a slight dip. But the interior just keeps on chugging. It doesn’t notice. And we’ve got charts and graphs. We did the same kind of experiments with the stall where we definitely prove that the stall is evaporative cooling and that’s why the Texas Crutch works, because when you wrap it in foil, you stop evaporation. So it stops cooling the meat and continues to cook. It goes right on through.
It’s also why if you take your brisket up the 300, 325, 350 (degrees), the warm air overcomes the cooling effect of the evaporation. So you bust through the stall faster that way. This is all just really easy to answer, easy to learn science. And when we went to the Barbecue Brethren and we said we have it, we figured it out, I got called every name under the sun.
Shawn — Really?
Meathead — It was like saying there is no God. I mean, it was like, ‘what the fuck do you know?’ You know, ‘who’s ever heard of you?’ And ‘don’t give me that…’ And the fact — the truth — was met with great hostility, as it often is.