Cooking outdoors is one of the greatest joys of summer, and some precautions can make it a healthy as well as happy way to savor the great fresh produce of the season. Grilling brings out the flavor in everything. Take the worry out of grilling with these tips.
Start with the fire. If you use charcoal, make it the lump charcoal that is free of additives. Briquettes may contain unpleasant things in addition to sawdust and wood scraps. Lurking within those innocent-looking squares may be sodium nitrate, coal dust and borax. You might even find paraffin or lighter fluid. Lighter fluid is something you can skip altogether. The untasty residue deposited on your food is just one drawback to using lighter fluid. Another is the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that lighter fluid can release into the air. Do your taste buds and the environment a favor and stick to lump charcoal, which is just charred wood.
Something about cooking outdoors entices us to char steaks and pile lamb merguez sausages onto the grill. Maybe it’s the sizzle and the aroma and the lovely smoke wafting across the backyard. The American Institute for Cancer Research reminds us to go easy on loading our plates with large portions of red meat and processed meat. Scientists have concerns about the link between too much of those good things and colorectal cancer.
The simple step of cutting back will let you still enjoy red meat and processed meat and at the same time manage cancer risks, according to the AICR. Plan a cookout around grilling colorful fruits and vegetables, which are chock full of phytochemicals. Phytochemicals, which are natural compounds found in plants, offer protection against cancer.
Toss eggplant, asparagus, onions, mushrooms, zucchini and eggplant with olive oil and cut into chunks for kabobs or grill whole. Corn on the cob is everybody’s favorite. Select fruit that is not yet fully ripe so that it holds its shape. Apples, bananas, peaches and pears won’t stick to the grill if you brush halves with a little bit of oil. Double the recipe and you’ll the makings for a great salad tomorrow.
Don’t throw out everything you know about the nutrition just because you are cooking outdoors. Everybody loves a taste of hamburgers and hot dogs, but remember the value of chicken and fish. Plus, chicken and fish are some of the most delicious dishes you can bring to a barbecue.
Leave the steak, fish or chicken marinating in the refrigerator in a mixture of herbs and either vinegar or lemon juice while you fire up the grill and prepare the potato salad. Even if you marinate for only 30 minutes, you will help reduce the formation of heterocyclic amines (HCAs). These are compounds that cause cancer. They form when meat, fish and poultry is charred during high-temperature cooking.
Researchers don’t know why marinating helps, but they have evidence that the acids in vinegar and citrus or the antioxidant content of the marinade may provide protection. Reduce the time meat is exposed to high heat by partially pre-cooking and then immediately moving it to the preheated grill. Take a cue from the old style barbecue masters who take it slow and low. Using a low flame and cooking meat longer holds down the burning that produces HCAs and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs also can make cancer more likely. Avoid charring poultry and fish by cutting off fat and retarding flare-ups.