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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Subtle Differences - the Rotisserie

Anyone that has any experience with real barbeque knows that there are little things that make open pit cooking more of an art than science.  If you use just embers as the heat source, you don't need a rotisserie, but with an open flame, a rotisserie can produce the same slow cooking quality.  Think Southern Barbeque versus Western Barbeque.

With Southern Barbeque a pit master can use a heat source just lower than the boiling point of water, about 200F, and slowly cook a whole hog over 8 to 12 hours with just one turn, producing moist, tender pork that falls off the bone.  A Western Barbeque master can use a fire or hearth and slow cook a side of beef using a rotisserie and get similar results even though the heat source is closer to 500 degrees.  The Southern method is less complicated leaving more time for imbibing while the Western method requires someone reasonably sober in comparison.

 Since the Earth rotates while the Sun could produce nearly 200F at the equator, you can consider which type of cooking method is the more appropriate analogy.  In both cases, the skin can look done only to find a tough nearly raw main course if you try to rush the process.  Earth has different layers that warm at different rates and due to the orientation of the flame to the rotation, different times.

The heat distribution looks something like this.  The orange curve is Cosine squared showing that the equator gets the highest heat when the flame is directly over head.  The yellow curve is the atmosphere which tends to gain more energy when the angle is just right.  Even when the flame is not directed at the surface near the poles, the atmosphere allows there to be some indirect effect.  Not enough to cook, but enough to help retain heat.

Near the equator the heat distribution would look more like this.  There is indirect preheating in the morning and indirect heat that helps retain heat in the evening.  The combination shifts the peak heat intensity to after the highest direct heat intensity at local solar noon.  The atmospheric skin, just like the skin or sear on a slab of meat, helps retain heat and moisture.  Even after you take a slab of meat off the fire, it keeps cooking the bulk while the skin temperature is higher than the bulk temperature.  That is why you let meat rest before carving, to let the moisture that is transferring the heat internally temper with the protein.  Load a plate with some corn on the cob and potato salad then heap on the meat.

Climate science tends to neglect the subtle differences that make for a quality meal.  By neglecting the skin and most of the meat in their models, they will never be pit masters.

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