You have many options when it comes to cooking meat, they typically fall into one of two categories: hot and fast or low and slow. When it comes to barbecue, the low and slow method is preferred by barbecue aficionados.
What does it mean to cook low and slow?
The phrase means exactly what it says: you cook food — usually meat — at a low temperature and you do it over a longer time. When it comes to cooking meat on the grill, the point is usually to get a dark and flavorful crust and a moist, tender interior. How you do this will differ depending on the cut of meat. The need for exterior caramelization and internal tenderness is great for vegetables as well. Low and slow cooking is the best way to achieve this.
What are the pros and cons of cooking low and slow?
It makes meat tender
Cooking low and slow breaks down tough muscle fibers and connective tissue to tenderize meat. Low and slow cooking is the only way to get a fall-off-the-bone texture in tough cuts of meat. Cooking low and slow works because it melts the collagen in tough meat. Collagen is a connective tissue that turns into gelatin when it melts. It is what gives a well-cooked brisket that melt-in-your-mouth unctuous texture. You need to expose collagen to low heat for an extended period to turn it into gelatin.
It keeps meat flavorful
Your meat won’t dry out but will instead retain its juices, which means that it will also retain its flavor. Not only is gelatin from collagen responsible for a tender texture, but it is also important for the meaty flavor.
It results in even cooking
Trying to cook thick pieces of meat hot and fast can result in an excessively charred exterior and an undercooked, tough interior. The reason for this is that it can take a long time for the heat to be conducted to the very center of the meat. Cooking low and slow ensures that the center is heated without burning the exterior.
It’s a healthier option
According to some studies cooking over a high temperature creates a carcinogen called acrylamide in food. Low-temperature cooking keeps acrylamide from forming and results in food that is better for you.
It’s great for inexperienced cooks
Cooking meat is all about getting it to the right temperature and then not cooking it any further. When you cook meat hot and fast, you narrow the window for getting it to the right temperature. You can easily overshoot it since the meat may only remain at that temperature for a short period before going higher and overcooking. You also raise the risk of burning the meat. A low and slow temperature allows the meat to sit at the right temperature for a longer period lowers the risk of burning it.
It’s not a fast process
Low and slow cooking takes much longer to get meat to a temperature where it’s safe to eat, which means it is not the best method if you need to fix dinner in a hurry.
What are the best cuts of meat to cook low and slow?
Cooking low and slow works best on tough, fatty cuts. Pork butts, beef shoulders, and dark meat poultry all do well at low temperatures and with longer cooking times.