Method matters as much as ingredients

I was making grilled chicken yesterday and realized that my chicken was reasonably good. It’s kind of a funny method, but one I discovered after years of eating other people’s bad chicken. Here’s the thing about chicken: as a meat, it tends to dry out really fast, especially on the grill. Having thoroughly cooked chicken also tends to mean having dry, tough chicken unless you specifically focus on chicken that isn’t dry or tough.

So, to prepare chicken well, here’s how I handle it. First, I use chicken thighs rather than other parts. Thighs are inherently higher fat, about 6% fat rather than breast meat, which is about 1% fat. The higher fat content means that it takes longer to dry out and is more forgiving of mistakes with heat. It also, at least to me, has a better texture.

Typically I mix some barbecue sauce with an equal volume of water and let it marinate for a minimum of 4 hours. After that, it goes in a baking pan and on the grill over low heat for 12 minutes, 6 minutes per side. The goal here is to get the sauce and chicken to a simmer, about 170 degrees with a thermometer. This is essentially poaching the chicken to achieve sterilization and cook it thoroughly without denaturing the meat proteins (which causes toughness).

Grilled chicken

Once I’ve gotten the chicken simmered for about 12 minutes, I move it out of the pan and crank the burners to OMGHOT, 3 minutes per side, while dumping the contents of the pan in the flowerbed. This puts a nice sear on the chicken, giving it that “barbecue” look and taste, but 3 minutes a side isn’t long enough to toughen it up.

Grilled chicken

After it’s done, it goes in the now-empty pan and rests for 5 minutes to normalize the heat and let the meat re-absorb moisture that it would lose if you cut it open right away. After a rest, it’s ready to eat and is a wonderful flavor and texture while still being safe from food-borne bacteria.

What does any of this have to do with marketing, besides possibly making lunch for your team? Simple: if you looked at the final product, there’s a very good chance that you would be unable to reverse-engineer the process. You could definitely copy the ingredients, but the method is largely invisible. That’s what makes a successful marketing secret recipe.

Everyone has the same marketing ingredients. We all have websites. We all have social media. We all have SEO. We all have email marketing. Some marketing ingredients are slightly better than others, but it’s not the ingredients that matter as much as it is the proficiency of the chef and the methods that you use to cook with. Great ingredients in the hands of an incompetent chef are just wasted. Great tools in the hands of an incompetent marketer are wasted or worse, are abused and cause damage to your company.

Conversely, mediocre ingredients in the hands of a great chef sing to as much potential as they can offer, and will often make a memorable meal even if they’re not top quality. Even on a relative shoestring, a terrific marketer will be able to generate some results, enough to pay for additional investment (better ingredients) in a virtuous circle.

If you want to be a successful marketer or a successful chef, get what you can afford for ingredients, but spend the majority of your time and efforts focusing on improving your methods, how you use those ingredients, for maximum results.


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  • http://www.facebook.com/liz.karschner Liz Karschner

    Great post! I really like how you can relate such a standard act such as cooking to the marketing world. Thanks for sharing. Now I have great advice not only for my marketing plan, but also for my bbq chicken ;)