How to Drink Whiskey

In preparing to learn a little about one of Kentucky’s grandest enterprises, the art of distilling, I would suggest we all get relaxed and comfortable. I think it would be appropriate that you go get a bottle of your favorite bourbon, pour about three fingers in the bottom of the glass and get ready to enjoy a sip. But don’t do it yet. Not everyone understands how sipping whiskey should be sipped. While everyone has his or her own method, I prefer to drink my whiskey neat—in other words, mixed with nothing and without ice. A great bourbon is like a great cheese: you wouldn’t eat cheese cold because at that temperature you can’t properly taste it. Cheese needs to be eaten at room temperature so you can enjoy the full flavors the maker intended. Bourbon is just the same. If you want to drink something cold, go have an ice-cold shooter of vodka. Vodka has no taste, smell or color, so you may as well fire it down icy cold and get it over with. Bourbon, on the other hand, is to be sipped in small quantities, savored and enjoyed. Here I am going to offer you my method for tasting.

With any luck at all you now have a glass with a splash of whiskey in the bottom, but before you taste it, think about a few characteristics of the bourbon in front of you. The first is the color—the soul of the whiskey. Your bourbon should have a rich and brilliant amber color with a flame-orange glint. Next is the bouquet, or nose. Hold your glass in both hands for a moment to warm the bourbon. Without swirling your whiskey, place your nose just above the rim of the glass and savor the aromas. You are not sniffing wine, so there is no need to stick your nose down into the glass. Bourbon is a “big” drink, not intended for the meek or timid drinker. Open your mouth slightly and breathe gently through your mouth and nose at the same time. Experience the aroma more than once. Did you catch the distinctive vanilla and caramel scent of the charred oak barrel? If it is fine bourbon it should not take your breath away with an overpowering alcoholic vapor, nor should it be without robust scent. Now, sip just enough of the bourbon to cover your tongue. Part your lips slightly and draw in some air over the liquid. Hold it in your mouth for a few seconds and let it wash over your tongue. Your bourbon should be full-bodied, yet soft and well-rounded. It should never bite or burn. Now, take a swallow. Did the taste live up to the promise of the aroma? Was it clean, crisp and smooth? Did you feel it all the way down? Taste it again. Remember this is not the Wild West, where you’re firing shots down because the whiskey is so hot you can’t stand it. Nor are you trying to drink the whole bottle in one sitting.

This is sipping whiskey. Take your time; enjoy it.



Here’s The Scientific Reason It’s Better To Drink Whiskey On The Rocks

Serious whiskey drinkers insist that it tastes better on the rocks — that is, diluted with a little water — and, with the help of computer simulations, scientists now know why.

The distinctive taste of whiskey is largely caused by a molecule called guaiacol, which has one section that likes water and one section that doesn’t like water. In a study published today in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers simulated what happens to guaiacol when there are different concentrations of water, and which combination makes the molecule most potent.

Of course, the liquid in the Jack Daniels bottle isn’t pure alcohol to begin with. By the time whiskey is in the bottle, it’s usually already about 40 percent alcohol, though this can vary. The simulations showed that at the range of 40 percent to 45 percent alcohol, guaiacol is likely to be floating around at the top of the glass, which enhances both the smell and taste. So adding just a little bit of water can improve the taste of the drink because it pushes the molecule to the surface instead of having it dispersed weakly in the rest of the mixture.

But when there’s more than 59 percent alcohol in the drink, the lack of water means that the molecule gets driven away from the surface. It floats around in other parts of the glass, which makes the taste work — and proves that people are right when they say don’t drink your whiskey neat.

One in Eight American Adults Is Now an Alcoholic, Study Says

new study published in JAMA Psychiatry this month finds that the rate of alcohol use disorder, or what’s colloquially known as ‘alcoholism’, rose by a shocking 49 percent in the first decade of the 2000s.

One in eight American adults, or 12.7 percent of the US population, now meets diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorder, according to the study.

The study’s authors characterize the findings as a serious and overlooked public health crisis, noting that alcoholism is a significant driver of mortality from a cornucopia of ailments: “fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, stroke, liver cirrhosis, several types of cancer and infections, pancreatitis, type 2 diabetes, and various injuries”.

Indeed, the study’s findings are bolstered by the fact that deaths from a number of these conditions, particularly alcohol-related cirrhosis and hypertension, have risen concurrently over the study period.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 88,000 people a year die of alcohol-related causes, more than twice the annual death toll of opiate overdose.

How did the study’s authors judge who counts as ‘an alcoholic’?

The study’s data comes from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), a nationally representative survey administered by the National Institutes of Health.

Survey respondents were considered to have alcohol use disorder if they met widely used diagnostic criteria for either alcohol abuse or dependence.

For a diagnosis of alcohol abuse, an individual must have exhibited at least one of the following characteristics in the past year (bulleted text is quoted directly from the National Institutes of Health):

  • Recurrent use of alcohol resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home (e.g., repeated absences or poor work performance related to alcohol use; alcohol-related absences, suspensions, or expulsions from school; neglect of children or household).

  • Recurrent alcohol use in situations in which it is physically hazardous (e.g., driving an automobile or operating a machine when impaired by alcohol use).

  • Recurrent alcohol-related legal problems (e.g., arrests for alcohol-related disorderly conduct).

  • Continued alcohol use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of alcohol (e.g., arguments with spouse about consequences of intoxication).

For a diagnosis of alcohol dependence, an individual must experience at least three of the following seven symptoms (again, bulleted text is quoted directly from the National Institutes of Health):

  • Need for markedly increased amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication or desired effect; or markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of alcohol.

  • The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for alcohol; or drinking (or using a closely related substance) to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

  • Drinking in larger amounts or over a longer period than intended.

  • Persistent desire or one or more unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control drinking.

  • Important social, occupational, or recreational activities given up or reduced because of drinking.

Don’t Mix Those Cool Copper Mugs and Alcohol

Copper mugs are popular for some cocktails, but you may want to think twice before using one.

Iowa’s Alcoholic Beverages Division has released an advisory bulletin on copper mugs and alcohol. It notes that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prohibits copper from coming into direct contact with foods that have a pH below 6.0. So when cocktails like the popular Moscow mule are served in copper, food poisoning is possible.

It’s the acids that are the problem. (Anything below a pH of 7 is considered acidic.) According to the bulletin, a traditional Moscow mule — which contains vodka, fresh lime juice and ginger beer — is “well below 6.0.” If a copper mug has a copper interior and it comes in contact with a beverage like that, the copper may leach into the drink. If the concentration of copper is high enough, it could cause foodborne illness. The risk is great enough that Iowa is limiting the “use of copper and copper alloys as a food contact surface.” Copper and copper alloys, like brass, should not come in contact with food or liquids with a pH below 6.

The end of the copper mug tradition?

Traditionally, Moscow mules are served in copper mugs because the metal keeps the drink nice and cold. Does the copper problem mean we’ll have to drink our mules a little warmer now? Not necessarily. If a copper mug’s interior is lined with another metal like stainless steel, it’s fine to serve beverages with a pH level below 6.0 in them.

If a 100 percent copper mug is the only option, though, it would be safer to drink this refreshing vodka drink out of another type of drinkware, like the rocks glass that the Pistachio Ginger Mule above is served in. The cocktail will taste just as good no matter what you’re drinking it from.

Booze in Space: The Universe Is Drowning in Alcohol

A cold beer on a hot day or a whiskey nightcap beside a coal fire. A well earned glass can loosen your thinking until you feel able to pierce the mysteries of life, death, love and identity. In moments like these, alcohol and the cosmic can seem intimately entwined.

So perhaps it should come as no surprise that the universe is awash with alcohol. In the gas that occupies the space between the stars, the hard stuff is almost all-pervasive. What is it doing there? Is it time to send out some big rockets to start collecting it?

The chemical elements around us reflect the history of the universe and the stars within it. Shortly after the Big Bang, protons were formed throughout the expanding, cooling universe. Protons are the nuclei of hydrogen atoms and building blocks for the nuclei of all the other elements.

These have mostly been manufactured since the Big Bang through nuclear reactions in the hot dense cores of stars. Heavier elements such as lead or gold are only fabricated in rare massive stars or incredibly explosive events.

Lighter ones such as carbon and oxygen are synthesized in the life cycles of very many ordinary stars – including our own sun eventually. Like hydrogen, they are among the most common in the universe. In the vast spaces between the stars, typically 88% of atoms are hydrogen, 10% are helium and the remaining 2% are chiefly carbon and oxygen.

Which is great news for booze enthusiasts. Each molecule of ethanol, the alcohol that gives us so much pleasure, includes nine atoms: two carbon, one oxygen and six hydrogen. Hence the chemical symbol C₂H₆O. It’s as if the universe turned itself into a monumental distillery on purpose.

The spaces between stars are known as the interstellar medium. The famous Orion Nebula is perhaps the best known example. It is the closest region of star formation to Earth and visible to the naked eye – albeit still more than 1,300 light years away.

Yet while we tend to focus on the colorful parts of nebulae like Orion where stars are emerging, this is not where the alcohol is coming from. Emerging stars produce intense ultraviolet radiation, which destroys nearby molecules and makes it harder for new substances to form.

Instead you need to look to the parts of the interstellar medium that appear to astronomers as dark and cloudy, and only dimly illuminated by distant stars. The gas in these spaces is extremely cold, slightly less than -260℃, or about 10℃ above absolute zero. This makes it very sluggish.

It is also fantastically widely dispersed. At sea level on Earth, by my calculations there are roughly 3×1025 molecules per cubic meter of air – that’s a three followed by 25 zeros, an enormously huge number. At passenger jet altitude, circa 36,000ft, the density of molecules is about a third of this value – say 1×1025. We would struggle to breathe outside the aircraft, but that’s still quite a lot of gas in absolute terms.

Now compare this to the dark parts of the interstellar medium, where there are typically 100,000,000,000 particles per cubic meter, or 1×1011, and often much less than even that. These atoms seldom come close enough to interact. Yet when they do, they can form molecules less prone to being blown apart by further high-speed collisions than when the same thing happens on Earth.

If an atom of carbon meets an atom of hydrogen, for instance, they can stick together as a molecule called methylidyne (chemical symbol CH). Methylidyne is highly reactive and so is quickly destroyed on Earth, but it is common in the interstellar medium.

Simple molecules like these are more free to encounter other molecules and atoms and slowly build up more complex substances. Sometimes molecules will be destroyed by ultraviolet light from distant stars, but this light can also turn particles into slightly different versions of themselves called ions, thereby slowly expanding the range of molecules that can form.

To make a nine-atom molecule such as ethanol in these cool and tenuous conditions might still take an extremely long time – certainly much longer than the seven days you might ferment home brew in the attic, let alone the time it takes to walk to the liquor store.

But there is help at hand from other simple organic molecules, which start sticking together to form grains of dust, something like soot. On the surfaces of these grains, chemical reactions take place much more rapidly because the molecules get held in proximity to them.

It is therefore cool sooty regions, the potential stellar birthplaces of the future, that encourage complex molecules to appear more quickly. We can tell from the distinctive spectrum lines of different particles in these regions that there is water, carbon dioxide, methane and ammonia – but also plenty of ethanol.

Now when I say plenty, you have to bear in mind the vastness of the universe. And we are still only talking about roughly one in every 10m atoms and molecules. Suppose you could travel through interstellar space holding a pint glass, scooping up only alcohol as you moved. To collect enough for a pint of beer you would have to travel about half a million light years – much further than the size of our Milky Way.

In short, there are mind-bogglingly vast quantities of alcohol in outer space. But since it is dispersed over truly enormous distances, the drinks companies can rest easy. It will be a cold day on the sun before we figure out how to collect any of it, I’m sorry to say.

Is Your Steak Really Done When Your Hand Says It Is?

When it comes to detecting when your steak is done, there are those among us who eschew meat thermometers in favor of using what’s known as the touch-test method. But does this form of culinary palm reading actually work?

For those unfamiliar, the idea is that you can touch different fingers to each other on the part of your palm below the thumb on one hand, and then push on your palm with the index finger of your other to get a feel for what’s rare, medium rare, medium, and well-done. You then compare that to the feeling of touching the steak while it’s cooking on its second side.

Our colleagues at Consumer Reports and its professional team of testers took this method for a spin by cooking five sirloin steaks — all cut to the same thickness — on a gas grill, and checking the accuracy of the method with a meat thermometer. They put some of the results in a handy video, but here’s a quick rundown of what they found.

The hand method could prevent someone from overcooking their steak — after all, you can always throw it back on the grill a bit longer.

However, an accurate meat thermometer is the way to go: Consumer Reports recommends the Oregon Scientific AW131 meat thermometer for $40. You can also check out their full meat thermometer buying guide here.

And remember, don’t forget to let your meat rest 10-15 minutes before cutting into it. You don’t want to go through all that and lose the juices.

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The Reverse Sear Steak is the Tip to Know this Summer

At this point, we’ve heard—probably literally—a million different ways to grill a steak. Char-grilled, flat top, cast-iron skillet… Hell, we’ve even heard about steak cooked in water. But a “new” method that’s popped up recently and making waves is the reverse sear. We use new in quotes because it actually isn’t new at all, but it is experiencing a resurgence with everyone from DIY kitchen kings to some of the best chefs in the world. Frankly, we’re glad everyone is hopping on the reverse sear bandwagon, and while it sounds a little odd at first, the process does make a lot of sense. And the results are undeniable.

What is a “Reverse Sear”?

For ages, the undisputed king of steak cooking methodology revolved around the following: Take your steak, sear it evenly on both sides (and edges, if it’s thick enough), and then finish it in the oven. That’s an excellent way to cook a steak, and one that ensures perfection just about every time you do it.

The reverse sear, however, flips the script on the traditional sear and instead starts the cooking process in the oven, and then finishes it in the skillet. You season your steak as you ordinarily would, then throw it in the oven at a low temperature for a long time (depending on thickness, you can figure something like 250 degrees until the internal temperature is between 115 and 125 degrees), let it rest on the cutting board for a few minutes, and then finish it in the skillet.

We know, we know… It sounds weird. But, it is, in our humble opinion, the by-far best way to cook a steak we’ve ever experienced—for a couple reasons.

Why Reverse Sear?

The first reason is that the surface of the steak is a lot hotter than it normally would be at room temperature, which makes it a lot easier to get a “harder” sear on it in a shorter amount of time. As most people will tell you, that crust of seasonings mixed with the soft, buttery, tender interior meat are what make seared steaks so special. Reverse searing makes that crust better than ever.

Another reason is raw steaks that have been chilled or frozen for a significant amount of time will “weep” and release moisture/condensation. Unless wiped thoroughly that moisture will wreak havoc on you when you finally drop the steak in your white hot, oiled cast-iron pan.

By allowing the steak time to cook in the oven for a while, that moisture is removed from the surface, meaning a lot less spatter and mess.

Finally, because the steak has already been rested and allowed to cook from residual heat before it hits the skillet, it’s perfectly okay to remove it straight from the finishing sear and start carving nice and hot. It means no more 10-minute wait time for lukewarm steak, which is a huge, huge plus for us.

What, Exactly Makes Reverse Searing So Special?

We already talked about the crispier seasoning sear, but is that really worth all the extra cook time? Eh, maybe not.

But one look at the inside and you’ll understand exactly what makes reverse searing so special.

So, when you  cook a steak—whether you’re searing it, char-grilling it, tossing it on the flat top, whatever—there’s a bull’s eye effect that occurs depending on how well done the meat is cooked. You’ll have either the crust or the char on the edges, followed by a small ring of well done meat, then a small ring of medium well meat, and then finally, a small portion of that perfect medium meat that everyone loves so much. The problem with this is that, when you look at it statistically, only about a third of your steak is actually medium. The rest is varying between medium well, and well.

When you reverse sear, there is no bull’s eye. There’s no gradient between well done and medium. All there is, really, is that deliciously seasoned crunchy crust, and an inside that’s medium all the way through, from edge to center. Right below the crunchy crust lies that buttery tender, perfectly done pink meat that everyone craves so much.



Temple Study: Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Preserves Memory & Protects Brain Against Alzheimer’s

The Mediterranean diet, rich in plant-based foods, is associated with a variety of health benefits, including a lower incidence of dementia. Now, researchers at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University (LKSOM) have identified a specific ingredient that protects against cognitive decline: extra-virgin olive oil, a major component of the Mediterranean diet. In a study published online June 21 in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology, the researchers show that the consumption of extra-virgin olive oil protects memory and learning ability and reduces the formation of amyloid-beta plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain — classic markers of Alzheimer’s disease.

The Temple team also identified the mechanisms underlying the protective effects of extra-virgin olive oil. “We found that olive oil reduces brain inflammation but most importantly activates a process known as autophagy,” explained senior investigator Domenico Praticò, MD, Professor in the Departments of Pharmacology and Microbiology and the Center for Translational Medicine at LKSOM. Autophagy is the process by which cells break down and clear out intracellular debris and toxins, such as amyloid plaques and tau tangles.

“Brain cells from mice fed diets enriched with extra-virgin olive oil had higher levels of autophagy and reduced levels of amyloid plaques and phosphorylated tau,” Dr. Praticò said. The latter substance, phosphorylated tau, is responsible for neurofibrillary tangles, which are suspected of contributing to the nerve cell dysfunction in the brain that is responsible for Alzheimer’s memory symptoms.

Previous studies have suggested that the widespread use of extra-virgin olive oil in the diets of people living in the Mediterranean areas is largely responsible for the many health benefits linked to the Mediterranean diet. “The thinking is that extra-virgin olive oil is better than fruits and vegetables alone, and as a monounsaturated vegetable fat it is healthier than saturated animal fats,” according to Dr. Praticò.

In order to investigate the relationship between extra-virgin olive oil and dementia, Dr. Praticò and colleagues used a well-established Alzheimer’s disease mouse model. Known as a triple transgenic model, the animals develop three key characteristics of the disease: memory impairment, amyloid plagues, and neurofibrillary tangles.

The researchers divided the animals into two groups, one that received a chow diet enriched with extra-virgin olive oil and one that received the regular chow diet without it. The olive oil was introduced into the diet when the mice were six months old, before symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease begin to emerge in the animal model.

In overall appearance, there was no difference between the two groups of animals. However, at age 9 months and 12 months, mice on the extra virgin olive oil-enriched diet performed significantly better on tests designed to evaluate working memory, spatial memory, and learning abilities.

Studies of brain tissue from both groups of mice revealed dramatic differences in nerve cell appearance and function.

“One thing that stood out immediately was synaptic integrity,” Dr. Praticò said. The integrity of the connections between neurons, known as synapses, were preserved in animals on the extra-virgin olive oil diet. In addition, compared to mice on a regular diet, brain cells from animals in the olive oil group showed a dramatic increase in nerve cell autophagy activation, which was ultimately responsible for the reduction in levels of amyloid plaques and phosphorylated tau.

“This is an exciting finding for us,” explained Dr. Praticò. “Thanks to the autophagy activation, memory and synaptic integrity were preserved, and the pathological effects in animals otherwise destined to develop Alzheimer’s disease were significantly reduced. This is a very important discovery, since we suspect that a reduction in autophagy marks the beginning of Alzheimer’s disease.”

Dr. Praticò and colleagues plan next to investigate the effects of introducing extra-virgin olive oil into the diet of the same mice at 12 months of age, when they have already developed plaques and tangles. “Usually when a patient sees a doctor for suspected symptoms of dementia, the disease is already present,” Dr. Praticò added. “We want to know whether olive oil added at a later time point in the diet can stop or reverse the disease.”

Scientists Built a Synthetic Tongue to See if Your Whiskey is Legit

Many snobs will tell you it takes decades of work and expertise to be able to distill, identify, and appreciate a fine whiskey. But now with the power of science you can tell the good stuff apart from a cheap imitator in a matter of minutes. In research published Thursday in the journal Chem, a team of organic chemists from Heidelberg University in Germany outlines the creation of what they call a “synthetic tongue” that can compare and contrast two whiskeys down to the molecular level.

While calling the device a tongue is a bit of a stretch — it’s actually an array of glowing dyes that respond to the different chemicals found in whiskey — it functions in a comparable way to how our taste buds pick up on different substances and trigger a chemical reaction that tells our brain about a food or drink’s flavor.

The idea came to lead author Uwe Bunz when academic journals decided not to publish the process for synthesizing these polymer dyes that he developed two years ago.

“When your papers are rejected, your start to think hard, what the potential of these polymers could be and what they could be used for,” he says.

Further results found that the dyes were good for detecting compounds like proteins and other biological agents, so he set to work developing an array. In his own way, Bunz turned to drink and started testing the dyes on whiskey.

“Whiskies are an almost ideal test bed for our tongues,” writes Bunz. In spite of the variety found in whiskeys based on flavor, ingredients, blends, age, and country of origin, the liquor is made up of compounds that are difficult to distinguish without either a sophisticated palate or chemical analysis.

After pouring some shots onto his tongue (and also his array) Bunz found that his device could not only tell the differences between two different whiskies but it could also group different whiskies by their differences. For example, single malt scotches had a different chemical signature from bourbons or Irish whiskey, and some water and fake whiskies that were thrown in as controls were easily isolated.

Bunz says that his synthetic tongue could be used to tell whether someone is trying to rip you off by labeling cheap whiskey as an expensive brand. But whiskey, as all great endeavors begin, is just the beginning. Bunz writes in an email that there are several different directions that he wants to expand his research, such as red wine tasting.

“It might be possible to look if similar Bordeaux wines can be differentiated and if one can differentiate a Saint Emilion from a Medoc of Pauillac. This could be then counter tested with wines from a discounter to check if their wines are really what they say they are.”

Bunz also envisions that his tongue could be used to weed out fake, expired, or heat-spoiled medications to make sure people are not only being prescribed what they actually need but also not taking drugs that have gone bad.

Since the technology for the synthetic tongue is readily available in an organic chemistry lab, home use might prove difficult. But Bunz suggests that anyone interested in forming such a whiskey watchdog company could get everything they need — including the polymer dyes from his own Heidelberg University — for the low, low cost of fifteen-thousand dollars. To be fair, that’s a small price to pay for anyone who wants to make sure that their one hundred forty-thousand dollar bottle of whiskey is the real deal.

The Best Way to Barbecue, According to Science

Unless you’re master barbecuer Ron Swanson himself, your grill game could probably use a little work — and fast, considering Memorial Day’s just around the corner. Thankfully, science is here to help.

Greg Blonder is an engineering professor at Boston University and author of the science explainer-slash-cookbook Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling. Blonder has patents ranging from green energy to medical devices, but his real passion project is engineering food.

“My wife is a great pastry chef,” Blonder told Inverse. “Sometimes her recipes wouldn’t work and I’d look at the recipe, and say, ‘Well of course, this pastry recipe violates thermodynamics, that can’t possibly work!’” Together, they worked to improve her library of cooking books, with Blonder continuing to apply the same scientific rigor to his grill.

In 2016, his advice ended up in his cookbook, co-authored with rib expert Meathead Goldwyn (yes, that’s his real name). It busts dozens of common myths about meat and aims to ensure readers a perfect rack of ribs or moist drumstick. However, many avid grillers still don’t heed the duo’s advice.

Among all the misconceptions that keep carnivores from reaching their full potential, Blonder says the biggest problem should be the easiest to overcome: resistance to thermometers.

“One of the really big [myths] is that real men don’t use thermometers,” Blonder says, pointing to a sweaty contingent that believes you can tell when meat is perfectly done simply by gripping it between the fingers and sort of just feeling it out.

Blonder doesn’t buy it, though: “That’s all just blatant nonsense,” he says, arguing it leads people to overcook their food so the meat becomes tough.

Instead, people should invest in a reliable modern thermometer, he says, and use it religiously. While tastes vary, Blonder likes his meats on the rare side, so he cooks his pork to about 145, his dark meat chicken to 185, and his white meat chicken to about 150. (Note: Blonder’s recommendations fall well within the range of the USDA’s recommendations for safely cooking meat.) Thermometers are especially crucial for chicken, as “too low is not safe and too high is a doorstop,” according to Blonder.

The second mistake requires a little more foresight to rectify, but it makes a big difference. For the best taste, barbecuers need to brine their steak overnight — or, if it’s a bigger cut, for a full day — before they cook it.

“You’ll see chefs throwing some salt on the meat right before they throw it on the grill, usually in porno fashion these days,” Blonder says. But ultimately that does little for the flavor of the cut. That’s because it takes about a day for salt to diffuse half an inch into a piece of meat, so salting it right before you cook it doesn’t allow time for the salt to soak into the center of the steak or chicken breast. Blonder advises the dry brining technique, with ¼ teaspoon of salt for every pound of meat — and a lot of time.

Like most of his advice, Blonder’s preferred cooking methods go against the grain, too. He likes to cook his meat on a grill in an oily pan. This way, his meat is cooked equally browned all over, instead of the cool — but not super delicious — black streaks barbecuers often aim for. He also loves a technique he calls the “warp 11” maneuver. It requires cooking the steak in a 130- degree bath, then placing it on the chimney of your grill for a quick sear. This last step is “like hitting it with a blowtorch,” Blonder says, and just two minutes on each side will give the already-cooked meat a nice all-over crisp.

While this warp speed method might sound audacious, Blonder actually advocates against showmanship. He promotes instead the virtues of patience and consistency. But not all of his fellow barbecue experts abide.

Hailed as the “Gladiator of Grilling,” Steven Raichlen is one of the pioneers of the so-called “caveman” or “cowboy”-style grilling method. It requires placing meat straight on the coals, with no rack in between the food and the heat source.

This trend has caught on among a range of chefs, including Alton Brown of the Food Network, and been taken to extremes by YouTubers who somehow have access to real, flowing lava. But Blonder’s not sold.

“It’s not crazy,” he says of Raichlen’s methods. “But the problem is, it only takes one bite of off flavor to kind of ruin the steak and I don’t think that’s a good risk to take.” Blonder will concede, however, the cool factor might make up for this potential mouthfeel misfortune. “It’s a great thing to show your guests.”

In the end, the “perfect” barbecue or grilling technique will depend on what works for you and your tastebuds.

Just promise Blonder you’ll never use lighter fluid. “Jesus Christ, that’s a crime against nature,” he says of the pointless and potentially dangerous tool. “Even if that’s what your dad taught you. “