Ultimate Meat Guide: A Scientist Busts Myths

Michelle Sullivan

"Marinades do tenderize meat, some more so than others," says Dr. Lynn Knipe, a professor in the College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Science at Ohio State University. "Acid-based marinades tenderize better." Marinating adds moisture, which can give the perception of tenderness. "Most people would marinate overnight," Knipe adds. "You need to do it for at least a couple of hours."

When cooking meat on the grill, people tend to stick the thermometer in from the top, which is incorrect. "The target is to get to the geometric center, and from the top you can't do that," Knipe says. "So you come in from the side. You really need to lift it up off the heat source with a pair of tongs."

Meat is a natural material, and its reactions to heat can vary. This is especially true of ground beef. "Some ground beef turns brown before it's fully cooked, and some will refuse to turn brown because of its enzyme compositions," Knipe says. Bottom line: Always use a thermometer.

Grilling is a high-temperature, short-term process. It's an interaction with the protein and sugars, which creates the color and flavor we like, Knipe says. Because of the high temperature, use thinner, flatter pieces of meat. Tougher cuts aren't great for grilling because no moisture is involved.