Summertime brings the tantalizing aroma of outdoor grilled hamburgers, barbecued chicken or vegetables throughout the neighborhood, reminding us of the thrill of grilling out.
Grilling is one of many people’s favorite parts of summer, but it doesn’t always have to involve hamburgers, hot dogs and barbecue. There are plenty of creative ways to grill that can be healthier for you too.
We all know, to be healthier, we should choose healthier foods. When grilling, you can think beyond the staples by preparing more nutrient-dense foods on the grill. You can successfully grill a variety of fruits. Peaches and pineapples both work exceptionally well on the grill as they can be used with meat as a main dish or with some cinnamon and low-fat whipped topping as a dessert.
Numerous vegetables can be grilled including zucchini, squash, eggplant, tomatoes, onions and peppers. Some of these you can place right on the grill, but for others, you might want to purchase a grilling basket. These are relatively inexpensive and usually available at any large grocery or hardware store.
While grilling fruits and veggies may sound simple enough, remember that you can make any food healthy or unhealthy by the way you prepare it. Good examples of this are fried chicken compared to baked chicken and a raw apple versus an apple pie.
Hamburgers, chicken and steak are great grilling options, but so are fish and pork chops. If you’re worried about your family turning up their noses at fish that is not breaded, try grilling fish they may be already used to, like catfish or cod. They may end up liking it more than the fried version.
Many of you are interested in getting the most from your food dollars, and you can grill on budget. Look for potential grilling items on sale at the grocery store. When you find a good deal, buy multiples. Chicken and less expensive cuts of beef that can be used over several meals in salads, fajitas and stir fry dishes are great grilling options. When you fire up the grill, you can use the surplus to prepare all your meals for the week at once and save yourself time during the workweek.
Put foods that cook quickly directly on the grid above medium coals or heat. You can leave the grill open or closed when using this cooking method. Use the indirect method to cook roasts and large foods that require a longer cooking time at a lower temperature. Put a drip plan with coals on each side of the pan beneath the grid; then put the food on the grid above this pan.
Cover the grill and cook with vents open.
Meats and poultry tend to brown quickly on the outside, but may not be thoroughly cooked on the inside. Use a thermometer to ensure foods have reached a safe internal temperature.
Whole poultry should reach 180 degrees Fahrenheit; breasts, 170 degrees F. Poultry flesh should not be pink and juices should be clear. Hamburgers should reach 160 degrees F, or be brown in the center with no pink juices. All pork cuts should reach 160 degrees F. Beef, veal and lamb steaks, roasts and chops should be cooked to 145 degrees F.
Here are some more grilling tips.
Keep the grill grate clean by scrubbing with a wire brush after each use.
Oil the grill grate and lightly spray non-marinated food with nonfat cooking spray to reduce the likelihood of food sticking. Don’t use aerosol spray while the grill is lit, because the can might explode.
Have the grate hot before putting steaks and hamburgers on the grill. Sear foods that need to retain their juices over a fairly hot fire; then cover them to finish cooking on lower heat.
Trim visible fat that could make the fire flame up and char food. Raise the cooking level of the grill to reduce the risk of charring food. You can pre-cook foods in the microwave to reduce grilling time. Grill chicken or fish on low heat.
Since barbecue sauce burns easily, use it only during the last few minutes of cooking. Marinades add flavor and can tenderize some meats. Marinate foods from six to 12 hours. To add flavor, marinade for 15 minutes to two hours; the thicker the meat, the longer you’ll need to marinate. Always marinate food in the refrigerator in a covered container. Before putting food in a marinade, save some for later use to baste or as a sauce. Don’t reuse marinades without first bringing them to a steady boil.
Some studies have indicated a possible cancer risk from eating food cooked by high-heat methods such as grilling, frying or broiling. However research shows that eating moderate amounts of grilled fish, meat and poultry cooked to a medium temperature without charring does not pose a health risk.
Follow these food safety principles when grilling out to ensure a fun experience for everyone.
Use separate platters and utensils for raw and for cooked meats. Never put cooked meats on an unwashed platter previously used to hold raw meats.
Keep grilled meats and poultry hot until you serve them. You can put them to the side of
the grill, but not directly over the coals, or keep them in an oven set at 200 degrees F, in a chafing dish, slow cooker, or on a warming tray.
For more information, contact your Harlan County Cooperative Extension Service.
Educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability or national origin.