While we are all excited that grilling is healthy it is important to note that there are two nutritional downsides to grilling.
Grilling favorites often include very high-fat meats and sausages. These grilling choices add more calories, fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol into our diets.
Grilling also presents the potential risks of cancer-causing compounds: polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic amines (HCAs).
PAHs form when fat from the meat drips onto the hot coals or grill element. They end up on the food when flames shoot up and smoke forms. Charred meat can contain PAHs as well.
HCAs, are result when red meat, poultry and fish meet high-heat cooking, like grilling or broiling.
However, have no fear! Hang on the your spatula! You don’t have to give up grilling. You can fire up that grill and cook without guilt by following these tips:
Use Gas Rather Than Charcoal
There is some thought and research that using charcoal during the grilling process can expose you and your food to cancer-causing chemicals. If you want to use charcoal to cook, it’s recommended that you don’t overcook the meat and keep it out of the smoke as much as possible.
Avoid high Flames and Flare-Ups
Just because you are grilling doesn’t mean you have to cook over huge flames! Grill on low or medium heat to avoid flare-ups, burning and charring. Also keep a spray bottle of water with you to put out flare ups.
Woo hoo! HCAs do not affect vegetables as they do meats! So enjoy those grilled veggies such as eggplant, zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus or even tofu! BONUS: Vegetables retain their nutrients during grilling!
Marinate Marinate, Marinate
You can still eat meat cooked on the grill and reduce HCA’s! Marinate meats for 30 minutes to 3 hours in marinades that are citrus based or include wine, vinegar, or low-sodium soy sauce. Marinades should be fat free or low fat to reduce flare ups. The simple act of marinating before grilling has been shown to reduce the formation of HCAs by as much as 92% to 99% in some studies. (NOTE: Don’t baste foods with the same marinade it was soaking in. Set marinade aside for basting purposes).
Clean Your Grill
After grilling, be sure not just scrape your grates but actually clean them! This keeps any leftover (potentially carcinogenic) bits from previous entrees that are lingering on your grates from latching on to your food the next time you use your grill.
Choose your Meats Wisely!
meats higher in fat as well as larger pieces of meat have greater chances of charring. Fattier meats drip more fat resulting in flare-ups and larger pieces of meat often cook longer resulting in more opportunities for scorching flames. So try using smaller pieces of meat that require less cooking time. Good options to look for are thinner, leaner cuts of meat and kabobs. You can also pound your meat before cooking making it thinner and more tender.
Pans and indirect Grilling
Cast iron griddles and frying pans work well on the grill. You can also turn off one side of the grill, close the lid and cook meats on the cold side of the grill to avoid direct flames, charring and smoke.
Choose fish! Especially lean fish! It cooks faster and contains no visible fat that could otherwise cause flare-ups.
If your meat does get charred… Don’t fret! Don’t throw it out!
Trim off and discard charred bits on the outside! Enjoy!
Trim and Flip
Trimming excess fat helps reduce flare-ups and char. Flipping meats once a minute or so instead of just once during cooking helps prevent charring!
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