Healthy Grilling Tips for the Perfect Backyard BBQ
Jul 8, 2014
One of my favorite things about summer other than the delicious weather is a tasty backyard barbecue. The steaks, the burgers, the hot dogs, the corn on the cob, the watermelon, the macaroni salad—no matter the food, it seems to taste better when eaten outdoors, shared with friends and family. Grilled foods are also a great way to eat healthy during the summer months...as long as you're choosing lean cuts of meat and aren't grilling Twinkies.
Whether you prefer charcoal or gas, there are a few basic grilling tips that will help ensure the success of your summer get-together. By the way, I may have learned a thing or two (or more) as I compiled this list. Who knew you needed to bring steak to room temperature before grilling?
- De-refrigerate: If you're cooking steak or something similar like short ribs, remove your steak from the fridge 15 to 20 minutes before grilling. You want it room temperature so it will cook evenly.
- Preheat: At least 15 minutes before you plan to start grilling, get the barbecue going. The guidelines are 400 to 450°F for high, 350 to 400°F for medium-high, 300 to 350°F for medium and 250 to 300°F for low. A properly heated grill sears foods on contact, keeps the insides moist and helps prevent sticking.
- Clean: The remnants from your last barbecue will come off much easier when the grill is hot. Use a long-handled wire brush to clean the grill before cooking your next batch of Teriyaki chicken.
- Choose your method: Direct or indirect? This still throws me. Here's a general rule: if the food takes less than 20 minutes to cook, use direct heat; if it takes longer, go with indirect. Even veggies are best grilled over direct heat (because they don't grill for long!). And on that note...
- Keep it low and slow: For a more tender, fall-off-the-bone rib, go with a lower temperature and a longer grilling time. Also, if you're using a sauce, don't baste until the last 30 minutes or so. Earlier basting can lead to a burnt sauce due to the sugars.
- Avoid falling foods: For smaller foods like fruits and vegetables or larger foods that may be tricky to flip, try using a grill pan or basket.
- Give it a good coat: To help keep vegetables from sticking to the grill and drying out, lightly coat them with extra virgin olive oil.
- Douse the flare-ups: As cool as it looks when those flames lick the food but it can be dangerous, not to mention flare-ups can char your main dish. If your grill gets too fired up, quickly close the lid. The lack of oxygen should help stifle the heat.
- Check for doneness: Use an instant-read thermometer to check doneness of your meat or poultry. You can find a guideline of meat and poultry temperatures here.
- Let it be: Meat needs a chance to rest after grilling. Give your steaks a good 5 to 10 minutes under foil before carving and/or serving.
- Clean: Just like I mentioned in "before grilling," it's easiest to clean the grill while still warm. Give it a good cleaning with that wire brush before the coals (literal or figurative) cool.
- Conserve: Believe it or not, sometimes even the tightest connection between the propane tank and grill won't prevent a bit of gas leaking. We always disconnect the propane tank from the grill once we're done.
- Searing doesn't seal in the juices but it does caramelize creating improved flavors.
- You never want to use cooking spray on a hot grill. If you need some extra lubrication for stickier foods, try a paper towel soaked in vegetable oil. Use tongs to gently rub it over the rack.
- NEVER baste with your marinating liquid unless you want to season your food with nasty bacteria.
- You can soak a large batch of bamboo skewers once for an hour or so, drain, and then freeze them in a plastic bag. Now you can pull out the skewers as you need them rather than soaking a small batch each time you grill.
- Being too rough with your rub (pressing too hard) can damage the texture of the food and lead to over-seasoning.
- You can grill all kinds of food like Romaine lettuce, artichokes, pizza, pineapple and peaches. For an awesome list of grilling ideas, check out "36 Things to Grill Other Than a Burger."
For more specific grilling tips on everything from dark versus white chicken meat to the best type of veggies to grill, check out "31 Grilling Tips from Grill Master Steven Raichlen." I found this to be an awesome resource for newbies and masters alike.
And if you're looking for a healthy yet totally tasty burger recipe, my Cajun-style burger with barbecue sauce is always a hit.
It features lean ground beef and a few secret ingredients (okay, one of them is Cajun seasoning). Every time we grill these burgers we're asked for the recipe. Just remember to cook it over direct heat since the cook time is less than 20 minutes!
Author: Emily Hill
Emily enjoys entertaining readers on her blog isthisREALLYmylife.com. Emily is the Director of Education & Editorial Content for SNAP! and an eBay Influencer. She recently worked as a Social Media Specialist for the Where Women Create family of magazines. In her spare time she is a freelance copywriter and editor. Diet Coke and chocolate make it possible.