With the start of summer comes cookout season. And while the grill can sometimes get a bad rap, there are plenty of ways to make a summer cookout health-friendly and hygienic.
Use these tips ensure delicious, healthy eating all summer long.
“Mise en place” is just a fancy French term for something simple: Have everything ready. Professional chefs swear by it, and you should too. You’ll spot missing ingredients and utensils before it’s too late, contributing to a seamless grilling experience.
Before you spark the fire, gather everything you need including food, marinades, utensils, pans, plates, towels, mitts, and a fire extinguisher. Of course, a cold beverage never hurts either.
Avoid cross contamination
Set aside unused marinades and extra plates for cooked food to avoid contamination.
Basting with used marinating liquid or putting cooked chicken on a plate where raw chicken once sat is a food illness waiting to happen. That plate is probably filled with raw bacteria. Any leftover marinade should be thrown out.
In addition to having separate plates for raw and cooked food, make sure you use separate utensils and cutting boards for raw and cooked foods.
Oil the grill
Before you start the grill, coat the surface with oil to prevent sticking. Dabbing oil on a paper towel and then running it over the grill grate does the trick. Hold the paper towel with tongs to quickly coat the entire grill surface.
Use a high-heat cooking oil, such as avocado, canola oil or peanut oil.
Apply another coat of oil after cleaning the grill to prevent rusting.
The same way you preheat an oven before cooking, make sure you preheat the grill. Grills use an open flame, but it takes time for grill grates to heat up. If you place food on a cool grill grate, the food may stick to the metal. Preheat grills 5 to 10 minutes before using.
Remove old food
Preheating is also the perfect time to clean and remove old food from the grill. Warming up the grates can loosen stuck-on food. After preheating for a couple of minutes, use a grill brush to scrape debris from the grate.
Cancer-causing compounds, or carcinogens, called heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons can form on charred meat cooked at a high temperature. To minimize the risk, marinate meat in vinegar, lemon juice, orange juice, or green tea for at least 30 minutes before grilling.
Also, consider serving your barbecued meat with dark leafy greens or other vibrantly colored vegetables. These antioxidant-rich foods can help offset some of the effects of the barbecued meal’s carcinogens within your body.
Check the temp
Cook meat and poultry at a safe temperature to avoid consuming harmful bacteria. Use a food thermometer. Pork, beef, veal, lamb chops, and steaks should be cooked to between 145°F and 160°F. Other meats require a temperature up to 180°F.
Cover your food
It's easy to get caught up in the fun of a barbecue, but make sure food stays covered while outdoors to keep bugs and bacteria away.
Putting a lid on it doesn’t only apply to cooked food. Don’t unnecessarily open the grill lid while cooking. This can make a gas grill cooler and a charcoal grill warmer, causing your food to cook too fast or too slow. Only open the lid when turning or removing food from the grill.
Use tongs when grilling. Puncturing your food with a fork lets the delicious juices out. And nobody wants a stabbed turkey dog. Tongs give you a better grip on food, and are safer than an ordinary kitchen fork. The length of tongs puts distance between your hand and the open flame.
Add sauce later
Sauces can add an abundance of flavor to grilled meats like ribs and chicken, but sugar- and tomato-based sauces burn quickly, so wait to add them until the end of the grilling process — about 30 minutes before removing food from the grill. This will keep your sauce glossy, not charred.
Let it rest
The aroma of grilled meat or poultry is appetizing, but don’t tear into the meat as soon as it comes off the grill. Let meat rest for at least five minutes before slicing. The meat will reabsorb moisture and become juicier.