July is perfect for summer vacations and outdoor parties, so it’s no wonder it also holds the National Grilling Month title. Whether you prefer meats or veggies, this method of food preparation works for almost everything. Not only is the smoky flavor the grill produces almost unbeatable, it’s also one of the healthiest ways to cook. So in honor of your backyard grill, here are a few great grilling tips and a few recipes worthy of firing up the grill.
Having Meat Sense
Before you get to grilling, it’s good to know the best ways to keep the meals you prepare in the healthy category. And there are a few must-knows. For example, grilled meat that has been cooked to the point of charring can actually have cancer-causing effects, according to the National Cancer Institute. In short, fat from the meat drips onto the coals, forming smoke that contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). Sadly, a flare-up that contains this chemical can leave residue on your cut of meat. Also, the smoky char on the crust contains another substance, heterocyclic amines (HCA). Both of these substances have been found in studies to contribute to the growth of cancer cells.
Not to worry. Here are some great tips for better grilling:
- Cook meat only until it’s done; avoid charring.
- Don’t press down on cuts of meat on the grill—that can cause flare-ups, and it’ll dry out your steak, too.
- Grill leaner cuts of meat and always include vegetables.
- Line foil underneath the meat to avoid dripping juices onto the fire.
- Marinate meat before cooking—it reduces the formation of HCA and makes your meat more flavorful.
- If you do get a flare-up, shut the cover to deprive it of oxygen and put it out.
Fish: Start with a medium-high fire and greased grill rack. Brush filets with oil and season with salt and pepper or whatever you prefer. Put the fish, skin side down, on the indirect heat. Grill 8 to 10 minutes total for every inch of thickness. (Wrapping the fish in aluminum foil first is helpful for more delicate fish but will add cook time.)
Chicken: For even cooking, pound boneless filets to an even thickness. To avoid dryness, marinate for one hour, or more, in your favorite mix. Grill on direct, medium-high heat for about 10 minutes on each side, flipping it once. Allow cuts to rest about five minutes before serving.
Pork: Pat chops dry with paper towels and season them generously. Set them in a baking dish in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Cook chops over direct medium-high heat with lid closed for 8 to 12 minutes depending on thickness, turning once. Rest for 5 minutes to let juices settle.
Brush both sides with everyday oil and season generously with salt. Cook directly on medium-high heat without disturbing for 3 to 4 minutes on one side (for grill marks), flip them and continue to cook for a few more minutes as is detailed below.
Here are the secondary cooking times for some favorites:
- Bell peppers and onions: 5 to 6 minutes
- Yellow squash, zucchini, eggplant and mushrooms: 4 to 5 minutes
- Asparagus, green onions and tomatoes on the vine: 1 to 2 minutes
Now that you’re ready to grill, here are three healthy recipes, perfect for the summer.
- Easiest-Ever Grilled Veggie Burgers Try this recipe for a protein-packed, healthier version of the good old American hamburger. Top with all of your favorites and don’t forget the pickles!
- Grilled Chicken Skewers With Toum (Shish Taouk) Looking for something to spice up your life? Check out these chicken skewers for something both flavorful and new! The marinade means it’s healthier, and it packs a flavorful punch, too.
- Grilled Pineapple With Vanilla Ice Cream and Rum Sauce If you’re looking to give grilled fruit a try, start with this.
Grilling is a fun, healthy, and delicious meal-preparation method, especially when it’s done the right way. It also provides a fertile ground for experimenting with new foods and cooking techniques. So why not invite some friends over for a barbeque? You can celebrate National Grilling Month and become a grill master!