Beyond Burgers and Dogs: Healthy Summer Grilling Tips
Jun 30, 2015
Now that summer is officially here, the days are longer, the sun is shining, and the smell of barbecue is drifting through your neighborhood. Grilling is an excellent option for those who are working on weight loss or maintaining their weight: not only does it maximize flavor without the use of heavy oils, creams, and sauces; but it’s delicious and doesn’t require turning on the oven. Here are a few ways to get the most out of your grilling this summer!
1. Become A Grill Master
A well-seasoned grill master knows that the intricacies of things like temperature, grill prep, and tools have a large impact on the overall success of your barbecue.
- Get the Temp Right. While times may vary based on the type of grill you have, in general you’ll want to pre-heat your grill 10-20 minutes before you start cooking. A properly heated grill should be 400-450°F for high, 350-400°F for medium-high, 300-350°F for medium and 250-300°F for low. Just like pre-heating an oven, having the right temperature ready to go primes you for success.
- Use a grill brush during pre-heating to remove past food debris from the grates. Stuck-on stuff will muck up the taste and texture of whatever you’re grilling, and could make even grilling difficult to achieve.
- Don’t smash, flatten, or press meats. While they may cook faster after a good mashing, you’re also pressing out the meat’s natural juices, making for a drier, tougher meal.
- Be mindful of your safety when grilling, especially with open flame. Trim visible fat off of cuts of meat, remove poultry skin, and get in the habit of buying lean cuts of meat whenever possible. Avoid spraying or dripping oils directly onto the grill as they could combust.
2. Put It on A Stick
Ah, the fine art of cooking things on a stick. While stainless steel skewers are affordable, long lasting, and easy to clean, you can easily pick up a package of bamboo skewers from your local super market. Soak them in water for at least 15 minutes before grilling, and then skewer to your heart’s content.
- What can you skewer? Try squash, zucchini, onions, tomatoes (use cherry tomatoes or cut the tomatoes into large wedges so they don’t slide off), carrots, bell peppers, eggplants or potatoes. For harder vegetables like carrots and potatoes you may need to parboil them for a few minutes to give them a head start.
- How much room should you leave between each piece of vegetable on the skewer? While vegetables with more space between them will cook faster and char more, if you prefer a tender middle and charred outside, pack your veggies on tight.
- Think science! It may not be as pretty, but some grilling gurus recommend putting only one type of vegetable on a skewer at the time, since all veggies take different amounts of time to properly char.
- Think beyond veggies. Try skewering chunks of apples, pineapple, and peaches until the fruit is gently caramelized on the outside. This brings out the natural sugars in the fruit for a delicious taste sensation.
3. Get Creative with Proteins
While a standard barbecue sauce, burger, or hot dog is traditionally and undeniably delicious, there’s nothing like some experimentation in the name of grilling.
- If you’re cooking chicken, think about moving away from chicken breasts and trying out beer can chicken. This involves grilling a whole chicken with an open can of beer inside the chicken, holding it up. The steam from the beer on the grill creates flavorful, moist meat.
- Love grilling fish? Try cooking your filet on a bed of lemon slices laid down directly on the grill.
- Embrace the foil packet. Grilling with foil packets lends a different style to grilling, where you won’t experience as much char but will still get the roasted flavors with softer textures. BuzzFeed has a list of 17 healthy recipes you can cook in a packet.
- Want a different twist on flavors? Look into flavored wood chips to add smoky flavor, or Himalayan salt blocks.
- Give tofu its time to shine. Grilled tofu is delicious if you follow a few steps (select a firm tofu, and make sure to pat it dry.) Serious Eats has a great list of rules for how to make killer tofu, including that gorgeous cross-hatched grill mark.
- Marinade it! While marinades are a well-known trick, the power of a good marinade to transform an average cut of meat is impressive. Check out this list of over 60 marinades from the blog Cheap Healthy Good for ideas to drench your meat or tofu with flavor.
Now that you’ve read this post, it’s time to get out there and get grillin’! What other grilling tips and tricks can you share with the Diet to Go community?
Author: Alyssa Curran
Alyssa Curran does social media by day and tweets pictures of her cats and food by night. When she’s not hanging out on social media, she’s writing on the Double Chin Diary or LaLaLyssa.com, buying nail polish, or perpetually trying to get in shape.
Follow Alyssa @lyssacurran or @doublechindiary, or on Facebook here.