The warm weather signals the beginning of barbecue season. Besides delicious taste, there can be some potential benefits to foods off the grill when it comes to calorie and fat control. There are also some cautions that are important to consider. So, here are tips for a healthy barbecue season.
- You’ve likely heard that eating blackened, charred meat is a health risk and it’s true. Compounds that are produced when meat is cooked at very high temperatures can increase the risk of cancer and potentially other chronic diseases. Best advice is to use leanest cuts of meat (the extra fat in meat can drip on the coals and cause an increase in flames) and avoid letting juices drip onto the coals or flames. If you do have a piece of charred meat, throw it away.
- Using smaller portions of meat cuts down on the grilling time, leaving less exposure to high temperatures. Making kebabs is one strategy for smaller portions. And, as you make kebabs, combine them with lots of colourful grilled vegetables – onions, peppers, carrots, eggplant, zucchini, endive and more.
- Marinating meat and poultry before grilling is wise. A marinade that contains acids like lemon juice or vinegar may act as a barrier to the flames and to some of the harmful compounds that are produced at high temperatures.
- Grill vegetables that are brushed lightly with a marinade of balsamic vinegar, fresh herbs and a touch of olive oil.
- Try grilling fruit. Peaches, mangoes, pineapples. pears are yummy when cooked on the grill.
Remember food safety:
- Wash your hands before, during and after cooking. If you leave utensils like tongs or spatulas outside, wash them thoroughly before you use them.
- Separate raw and cooked: Raw foods and cooked foods should not come in contact with each other. Use one plate to carry food to the grill and another to put the cooked food on. Separate the utensils as well. When tongs pick up the raw burger, they must be washed before they are used for the cooked. Make sure that even condiments like ketchup, tomatoes, pickles, lettuce don’t come in contact with the uncooked meat. It helps to have two separate cutting boards – one for raw, one for cooked.
- Foods that must be refrigerated should not be left at room temperature more than 2 hours. If it’s warmer outside, limit it to one hour. This includes leftover meats, salads, dips, cheese.
- Cook your ground beef thoroughly to 71C/160F. Rare burgers have the potential to cause problems. Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness.