Written by Cara Rosenbloom
3 min read
Summertime means the official start of barbeque season. What’s better than a grilled dinner on a warm summer evening — we’re talking grilled vegetables, corn on the cob and farm-fresh strawberries. Yum!
Grilling is a convenient, quick, and relatively simple cooking method. It brings out a delicious smoky quality to foods, and makes fruit taste sublime. It also reduces fat – for two reasons. Fat is not added to a pan as it would be in a stovetop method, and fat drips off when you grill meat. (You still need fat! But instead of saturated fat from meat, it’s better to get fat from other places – like olive oil in salad dressing, guacamole as a dip, or a handful of almonds as an appetizer).
When cooking meat
If your summer is not complete without juicy burgers and chicken wings, you can grill these up in a healthier way. You see, grilling meat and poultry at high temperatures produces undesirable by-products called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These carcinogens can cause changes in cells, which can lead to cancer. Here are a few steps you can take to reduce HCA and PAH build-up on meat:
- Add herbs: A sprinkle of herbs, spices, garlic or onion powder can drastically slash HCAs from forming on your meats. Try a rub of mixed herbs, especially rosemary, basil and oregano, which have high HCA-busting potential. Turmeric is a good choice too.
- Use a marinade: Sure, it will make your meat taste great, but your blend of oil, vinegar and citrus juice can reduce HCA and PAH formation. Teriyaki or barbeque sauce works too – try making your own or look for store-bought options with the lowest amount of added sugars and resist the temptation to overpour.
- Turn down the temperature: The hotter the temperature and the longer the cooking time, the more HCAs and PAHs get produced. So sear it, then reduce the heat. Or, cut your meat into smaller pieces to reduce cooking time.
- Don’t grill until charred and burnt: If you can see lots of black char, you’re seeing HCAs and PAHs. Grill until meat reaches a safe internal temperature, but not for longer.
When you’re ready to spark up the ‘que, meat is only one option. Think beyond steaks and burgers, and discover the joys of grilling fish, vegetables, tofu, fruit, and even pizza (try a flatbread with tomato bruschetta on top of your other favourite toppings)! Bonus — HCAs and PAHs don’t form on vegetables, fruit or tofu.
Vegetables work best when they are brushed with oil first, which prevents them from sticking to the grill. You can also use a grilling basket so small veggies don’t fall through the grates of the barbeque. The best vegetables to grill are:
- Cherry tomatoes
- Corn on the cob
- Sweet potatoes
You can make amazing grilled salads too – try grilled Caesar. Grill halved or quartered romaine lettuce over medium heat for about five minutes, then top with your favourite healthy Caesar dressing and some Parmesan.
Something magical happens when juicy fruit meets heat and the sugar caramelizes! Try peaches, pineapple, banana, watermelon, pears or cantaloupe on the grill. The perfect sweet ending to any meal!
What’s your favourite food to grill?
Looking for more barbeque inspiration? Check out these creative ideas.