By Jessica, Pure Matters
It's officially the summer grilling season, and whether you’re entertaining a big crowd or having a family meal at home, chances are you’ll be firing up the grill. You’ll also be getting the yearly warnings about how grilling can produce cancer-causing substances, also known as carcinogens.
Don’t worry: I’m not going to tell you that grilling is bad and you should never do it. Grilling is delicious! With a few small tweaks, you can minimize the risks associated with backyard barbecuing. Read on for my five tips every healthy grill-master should know.
Keep it Clean
The grill, that is. Give the grates a good scrub with a brush or scrunched-up aluminum foil after every use to keep from transferring burnt bits to your food the next time you cook. Or try the foil method: Cool grill rack and place on a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil, shiny side up. Wrap the foil tightly around the rack, and seal, then place on a heated grill for 15-20 minutes. The food and grease will bake right off.
Look for Something Leaner
When fat drips onto a hot grill, it makes smoke … and carcinogens. Less fat means less smoke, so choosing leaner cuts of meat, fish and poultry cuts down on the risk. Also, the less time spent on the grill, the better, which makes quick-cooking fish and seafood a healthy, tasty choice for outdoor cooking.
Something to Marinate On
Studies have shown that marinating meat before grilling it can reduce carcinogens by up to 90 percent! The jury’s still out on whether it’s the antioxidant properties of the marinades or that they simply create a protective layer from the heat, but it works. Plus, meats marinated in herbs, spices, citrus and healthy oils just plain taste better. Don’t try this with sugary marinades, though, as they make the meat burn faster. Save the sweet stuff for a baste or two at the end of cooking.
Take Your Meat’s Temperature
It’s no secret that charred meat is higher in carcinogens than its lightly-browned counterparts, but where does a grill-master draw the line? That’s where your trusty meat thermometer comes in. Cook burgers to an internal temp of 160 degrees, poultry to 165 degrees, and steaks or chops to 145 degrees, and no more. If the outsides start to burn before the insides are cooked, move meat farther from the coals, or turn down the temperature on a gas grill.
Think Beyond Meat
Not only are grilled vegetables delicious, but those grill-marks don’t leave a lasting impression. That’s right -- no carcinogens are produced by throwing vegetables on the grill. Some of my favorites are asparagus, red peppers and eggplant. And fruit is delicious on the grill, too, especially stone fruits like peaches, apricots and plums, served alongside ice cream or frozen yogurt. And grilled pineapple is always a winner.
Try This: Grilled Salad
Instead of serving up a plain old garden salad at your barbecue, grill one with more pizazz. Romaine lettuce is a sturdy salad base that will hold up well on the grill. Simply halve or quarter whole heads, brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, and grill until lightly charred. You can use this as the base for a typical grilled garden salad, or serve it drizzled with blue cheese dressing (I like to swap out the mayo and sour cream in most recipes for plain yogurt and cut down on the amount of cheese) for a summery take on the classic wedge salad. Halved, grilled tomatoes dress up your typical tomato, mozzarella and basil salad. And grilling onions brings out their natural sweetness. You can even grill radishes -- just slice them and cook them in a foil packet with some fresh herbs (dill is great) and a drizzle of olive oil. Peppers, carrots, even cucumbers -- you can grill them all!