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The psychology of grilling

The psychology of grilling

Posted: Wednesday, April 29, 2009 8:01 pm

When the aroma of grilling food comes wafting through your neighborhood this summer, chances are, it will do more than tickle your taste buds. Many people have such a strong sensory response to both the smells and practice of barbecuing outdoors that it stirs actual emotions — especially feelings of connections to family, nature and joyous childhood memories.
A variety of psychological reactions to grilling food surfaced during a consumer study last summer in Denver, Chicago and Tampa, Fla. Participants kept grilling diaries and talked about their sensory responses to grilling food, especially beef. The study was funded by the Beef Checkoff Program, a market development fund that beef producers, including those in Tennessee, pay into.
Among the most common findings about feelings tied to grilling foods:    
• Grilling creates a sense of harmony and togetherness.  
• Grilling is a way to express culture or personality, through the use of ethnic flavors, favorite cuts, secret ingredients and pride in grilling skills.
• Grilling represents freedom, relaxation and enjoyment of being outdoors.
• A lot of grilling is about beef — this survey and a 2009 one from the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association (HPBA) found that beef (burgers, 82 percent; steak, 79 percent) topped the list of favorite grilling foods.Grilling beef in particular drew intense reactions from study members.   
Previous beef checkoff-funded surveys support many of the findings of the HPBA survey, which revealed these top reasons for why people grill:      
• Tastes good
• Easy clean up
• Easy, informal way to entertain
• Fits with a love of being outdoors
• Is a great way to cook and eat a good piece of meat
• Keeps cooking odors and heat outside
Grilling may be an especially hot practice this summer, with more consumers cooking at home these days and with beef prices, including prices of premium cuts of beef steak, expected to be at historic lows. Grilling is a great, lean way to cook, and grilled steak leftovers, for example, can make a second meal for sandwiches or tossed in a green summer salad.
Among its Top Ten Grilling Tips, the checkoff-funded Beef Culinary Center recommends grilling over medium heat to ensure even cooking and flavorful, juicy meat. If beef is grilled over too high heat, the exterior can become overcooked or charred before the interior reaches the desired doneness. Charring meat, poultry or fish is not recommended. 
For complete details on outdoor grilling, savory recipes, food safety and preparation techniques, visit www.beefup.org and BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com.
Published in The Messenger 4.29.09

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