I love spring and summer. Warm weather, especially after a grueling winter, makes things like flip-flops, maxi dresses, long power walks, sun-bronzed skin and all the other little summer joys a reason to celebrate. The smell of charcoal burning on a Weber grill brings me back to decades of good times at BBQs and beach parties. In my effort to eat clean, however, I investigated whether grilling can be a safe way to eat. The information below guides me to make better informed decisions for my family, while also participating in this spring-through-summer ritual.
1. Grill – Don’t Char Meat
When meat is grilled at high temps for a long duration, a reaction in the food creates a carcinogen, HCA (heterocyclic amines). So the recommendation is to use a gas grill to control the temperature as well as reducing the grill time to prevent high exposure to HCA’s. Remove any charbroiled surfaces before eating helps, too.
2. Choose Low Fat Meat
PAH’s (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) are chemicals created from the smoke of meat fat drippings. When food is on the grill, these carcinogenic PAH chemicals transmit into the meat. Choosing lower fat meat means there is less fat to drip, so less potent PAH’s.
3. Avoid Direct Exposure (or Lessen the Time) on the Flames
Less direct exposure for meat on the metal cooking surfaces can reduce HCA and PAH formation. If possible, insert meat on a grill wrapped in aluminum foil. It also helps to continuously flip the meat, though true grillers may not like that.
4. Choose Veggies
Well-sealed vegetables in foil can provide a strong grill-like taste without the cross contamination or chemical emissions found with the meat. Simply put, brush olive oil on the foil, insert vegetables, wrap the foil around veggies tightly and *grill for 8-10 minutes. (*Note, soft vegetables take no more than 8-minutes each side, squash/hard veggies can take more than 15 minutes each side.) If no meat has been on the surface, vegetables do not emit the same HCA or PAH chemicals when grilled.
5. Create New Grilled Recipes for Veggies, Fruit or Rice
To spice up the produce grilling menu, create wholesome marinades including basil, thyme, garlic or rosemary with olive oil. (Marinate then grill in aluminum foil as noted above.) Ginger, lemon or apple fresh squeezed juices as marinades also give the food a truly naturally sweet and tangy taste. Try exotic fruits, vegetables or even sticky rice on the grill, too. My favorite to date is grilled pineapple. This summer, I’m going to try these grilled creative concoctions such as sweet potatoes and blackened mangos or even watermelon pizza topped with arugula and pine nuts.
What are your favorite tips to make a BBQ tasty and healthy?