BBQ and modern science: a perfect match?

At first sight this may seem a strange comparison. But if you compare the most important ingredients of both you will be positively surprised.

Best practices

It already starts when comparing methodology. One could describe scientific methods as a set of techniques for investigating circumstances observed, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge, commonly based on an empirical approach.

If we transpose this to good BBQ practice, we see exactly the same: it’s a combination of different (grilling) techniques, while observing the changing circumstances of the meat or vegetables, acquiring new knowledge on cooking times or correcting and adapting previous BBQing skills. I believe it needs no explanation that BBQing or outdoor grilling is in no way theoretical but qualifies as an empirical approach.

Building on centuries of knowledge

Obviously it is essential to get acquainted with background information in both situations. On one hand it is needed to acquire a solid knowledge of what has been published already on the scientific topic of interest an on the other hand getting familiar with the different grilling techniques and recipes also demands preparation.

Peer review – only faster, and louder

Is that all? you might say? No, the similarity goes further.

When it comes down to the proof of the results there is a clear similarity. To ensure the quality of scientific articles and to prevent misconduct, publications in scientific journals have to be reviewed by other scientists.

Results of BBQ experiments are also judged by your “peers” – in this case your table guests – and there is no way of hiding unsatisfactory outcomes of your practices as the time difference between the end of the culinary exercise and the review is way shorter and the comments definitely noisier than the review for scientific journals.

Grilling like Barbara McClintock

Nobel Prize-winning geneticist Barbara McClintock once said, “I was so interested in what I was doing I could hardly wait to get up early in the morning and get at it. One of my friends said I was a child, because only children can't wait to get up in the morning to get at what they want to do” (National Academy of Sciences, 1995). And despite the fact I will not earn a Nobel prize for this post, I will rest my case with Barbara’s quote, as it is also completely valid for us BBQ fanatics.

In my humble opinion BBQing or outdoor grilling is like science. It is all about good preparation, commitment to practice and being proud to show your great results to the world. That could lead to the hypothesis that most scientists are good cooks as well, while most good cooks could have been good scientists, if only they had wanted to pursue such a career.

Written with pleasure and passion.