Barbecue tips to try this weekend

For most Americans, the Fourth of July means a backyard cookout. Yet many a meal may go up in smoke, according to Mr. Barbecue, a nationally known outdoor cook, because people don't know the barbecue basics.

Part of the problem is the "expert advice" people read in gourmet magazines, says Mr. Barbecue (aka Bruce Bjorkman), author of "The Great Barbecue Companion." "The grilling tips you read are almost always woefully wrong!" he says.

Here are four myths that Mr. Barbecue would like to bust.

MYTH 1: Don't use a fork to turn meat on the grill. You'll lose all the juice.

Nonsense! Meat is composed of multicellular tissue. Even if you pierce a few hundred of these cells - all of which contain water - billions of other cells still hold liquid. What's important is to sear the meat to help lock in the juices. Forks, tongs, and spatulas can all be used to turn your meat.

MYTH 2: Apply barbecue sauce during the last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking.

Never add sauce to meat on the grill. The reason: Most barbecue sauces contain a lot of sugar, which caramelizes and burns when exposed to high heat. Instead, warm up the sauce and then brush it on after the meat has been pulled off the grill.

MYTH 3: Marinating meat is a great way to tenderize it.

Marinating meat only tenderizes an eighth to a sixteenth of an inch of the meat's surface. The acidic liquids used in marinades usually are not strong enough to truly break down the meat fibers.

MYTH 4: For extra flavor, place herbs onto the coals or burners.

Put your herbs and spices on the meat, not into the fire. Herbs contain volatile oils that will burn when exposed to direct high heat, causing a bitter flavor.

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