Fire up the grill – it’s barbecue season!
By Jodie Shield, RDN
Hey, moms! How would you like to take a vacation from cooking? Now that I’ve got your undivided attention, let me share a little secret with you. After 27 years of marriage, there’s one thing I know for certain: No man can resist the thrill of the grill! (Dads if you’re reading this, back me up!)
On a sweltering summer night, my husband, armed with his favorite basting brush, will spend hours outside sweating over a hot fire until our chicken is perfectly barbecued. Meanwhile, I’m inside a cool, air-conditioned kitchen leisurely tossing together a few quick side dishes – Lightened Up Layer Salad, Baked Beans – and a cool dessert like Peanut Butter Pie. If only my husband’s interest in cooking was year-round!
While there’s no denying that food tastes better when cooked over an open flame, grilling is surprisingly healthy, too. That’s because the fat drips away from meat (and other foods) while they’re being cooked. As an added bonus, kids usually enjoy the flavor of grilled foods, which is a positive step toward healthy eating. Healthy Benefits aside, most people grill because it’s a fun – and tasty – summer tradition. In case your grill skills are a little rusty, here are a few tips to help you brush up on healthy barbecuing.
- Start out lean. Use the leanest cuts of beef and pork, and trim away any excess fat. Lean cuts of beef include sirloin, rib eye, and flank steak; the leanest cuts of pork are the tenderloin and rib chop. Also, be sure to remove the skin from chicken before grilling. This will reduce the amount of fat and calories by half.
- Eat your veggies. Naturally fat free, vegetables taste great grilled. Clean and slice veggies, such as eggplant, sweet potatoes, squash, bell peppers, and mushrooms; then grill for about 10 to 15 minutes in a basket or on a skewer to ensure even cooking. Try my Grilled Mixed Veggie Bundles they’re so delicious!
- Give it a dunk. Marinate foods in wine, vinegar, or lemon or lime juice and toss in some herbs like rosemary, tarragon and sage. It will enhance the flavor and tenderize tougher cuts of meat. In addition, marinades may prevent cancer-causing compounds from forming in grilled meat. As a rule of thumb, meats and poultry can be marinated in the refrigerator anywhere from 15 minutes to overnight. Fish, which is already tender, should be marinated for no more than two hours. Be sure to discard any unused marinade, or boil it for several minutes if you plan to to use it again.
- Rub it on. Seasoning blends that contain herbs and spices can be rubbed onto various meats without boosting the fat content. You can find prepackaged seasoning blends in the spice section of your grocery store or search online for recipes on making your own. My favorite site is www.cookinglight.com.
- Baste without burning. Always add barbecue sauces during the last five to ten minutes of grilling to prevent them from burning. Use a basting brush to apply the sauce, which will allow you to coat the grilled foods evenly.
- Watch the temperature. Always use a thermometer to check if meat is thoroughly cooked. When cooking chicken breasts, insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat. For burgers, insert the thermometer into the side, and for steaks, insert it into the top center, where the meat is most like to be undercooked. Foods are safely cooked when they reach the following internal temperatures:
Beef, lamb, veal, hamburger patties, roasts and steaks
Medium-rare (not recommended for ground meats): 145°F
Chicken Breasts 170° F
Chicken Thighs and Drumsticks 180°
Whole Chicken or Turkey 180°F
Well-done: 170° F