It’s time to dust off the barbecue and start grilling. It’s not that I necessarily love summer, it’s that I love an easy, quick and mess-free way to prepare healthy meals and there’s nothing better than barbecuing to add effortless flavor.
Many people associate grilling with big steaks and burgers. The truth is, everything can be thrown on the grill… meat, poultry, fish and even vegetables. My favorite “sides” are corn-on-the-cob, asparagus, sliced eggplant, bell peppers and onions. I coat them with olive oil and garlic, grill them on both sides and then sprinkle on balsamic vinegar and chopped basil or parsley.
Another one of my favorites is spearing alternating slices of veggies and chunks of lean meat or chicken to make kabobs.
The key to a successful barbecue is in the rub and the marinade. I am not talking pre-made barbecue sauces (think loads of sugar) out of a jar. I am talking about spices and fresh herbs, things you can find in your fridge or cupboards that you never knew could easily add so much zest to your grilling.
Rubs literally involve “rubbing”. Coat with olive oil and rub in fresh herbs such as oregano, thyme, parsley, basil, cilantro, rosemary, garlic, ginger, chili peppers or any spices that appeal to you in your cabinet.
Marinade meats, poultry or fish for a few hours or overnight in liquids to tenderize and add flavor. Try lemon juice, wine, vinegar, beer, soy sauce, tobacco sauce, worcestershire sauce, olive oil, sesame oil or molasses.
Salsas make a great accompaniment to meats, poultry and fish instead of heavy BBQ sauces. Try something light like a salsa verde (made with fresh herbs, lemon, oil & vinegar), tomato salsa, fruit or yogurt based chutneys or a few spoonfuls of guacamole.
Pair all this with a salad and some whole grain bread and you’ve got yourself great meal made in no time!
On a Health Note
You may have heard about some health dangers associated with grilled meat.
Here’s what you need to know:
PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) and HCAs (heterocyclic amines) are substances formed on the surface of well-done meat cooked at high temperatures. PAHs, in particular, come from smoke, which is formed when fat drips from meat onto the grill. But what you grill is more important than how often you grill. Studies show that diets high in red meat and especially processed meats are correlated with a higher risk of colorectal cancer. Grilled vegetables and fruit produce negligible HCAs or PAHs. In fact, diets that are high in plant foods in general are associated with a reduced risk of several cancers.
Other tips to cut risks from grilling.
- Marinating meat can reduce the formation of HCAs. Including garlic and onions in the marinade may also help reduce HCA formation on cooked meat.
- Select leaner cuts (and trim any visible fat), to prevent dripping fat from causing flare-ups, which may deposit carcinogens on the meat.
- Flip the meat on the grill often. This will help reduce the amount of carcinogens that are potentially deposited on the meat.
- Reduce flare-ups by spreading aluminum foil on the grill. Make small holes in the foil to allow fat from the meat to drain