10 Grilling Tips For a Healthy Barbecue

Grilling for the Fourth? Keep these tips from Self in mind while you prep for next week's holiday so you can have a healthy celebration.

Summer means grilling season! Whether you're cooking up burgers, chicken, or veggies, grilling will add loads of flavor. This All-American cooking method can be one of the leanest ways to prepare foods as well as you don't have to add loads of oil or other fats. Conquer your 'cue with these tips for keeping grilling healthy and delicious.

  1. Clean your grill. Scrub your grill with a grill brush or rag dipped in oil before and after cooking to reduce the buildup of char, bacteria, and other residue on the grates.
  2. Take temps. Have a thermometer handy to measure the internal temperature of meats when grilling. Cooking to proper temperatures can reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses.
  3. Don't burn it. Blackened and charred meats may contain harmful heterocyclic amines (HCAs) that are chemical compounds which may be carcinogenic. Avoiding char on meat is an easy way to reduce HCA formation.
  4. Use a marinade. Using a marinade will not only improve the taste and flavor of your foods, but will also reduce HCA formation by up to 90 percent. Try marinating meats in a light vinaigrette salad dressing to keep things simple.
  5. Use a grill rack. Using a grill rack vs. a flat-top grill or grill pan allows fat to drip away from food and thus reduces the total fat in the food while still retaining plenty of the flavor.
  6. Trim the fat. Buy leaner cuts of meat to limit saturated fat, which is less heart-healthy than unsaturated fats. In addition, trim away any excess fat before cooking to prevent grease drippings from reacting with smoke to generate harmful polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
  7. Wrap it up. Wrapping foods in foil can decrease formation of PAHs from fat drippings and reduce harmful smoke production from being inhaled. Plus, grilling foods in foil is a foolproof method that reduces the likelihood of overcooking or burning foods.
  8. Partially precook meats. Microwaving meats on high for a few minutes before grilling can reduce grilling times and HCA and PAH production.
  9. Cook slower. Lower grill heat (medium recommended) may take longer but reduces the amounts of HCA and PAH produced. Plus, cooking meats low and slow (make that your motto!) is the best way to achieve tender barbecue.
  10. Grills aren't just for meats. Try cooking nonmeat items such as veggies, fruits, flatbreads, and even salad on the grill. These delicious recipes can give you some ideas of outside-the-box grill recipe ideas your family is sure to love!

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