From Shereen Jegtvig,
Your Guide to Nutrition.
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Grills aren't just for hot dogs, hamburgers and summertime.
What comes to mind when I ask you to think about the grill out in the back yard? Images of Dad wielding a huge spatula for flipping burgers and sliding hot dogs around the grill come to mind for many people. Maybe steaks or barbecue ribs on occasional family get-togethers or Fourth of July?
Many years ago, I only thought of the grill as that big greasy black thing on the deck that charred meats and made them unhealthy. Then one summer, I learned just how wrong I was. My change of heart began when I realized that using the oven in the summer would heat up my kitchen and the whole house. This extra heat resulted in higher electric bills because of the continuous air conditioner use. To keep the extra heat out of the kitchen, I decided to try the grill for more than just the occasional hamburger or hot dog.
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With a bit of research and experience, I realized that grilling could be a great and healthy way to prepare a variety of foods.
The grill isn’t just for meat, but is also great for fish, vegetables and even fruit like pineapple. After a few weeks of grilling, I found I hardly ever used the oven any more, even when the hot summer weather turned into the cooler weather of autumn. I have even used the grill while watching the snowflakes fall. Now, grilling is one of my favorite ways to cook healthy foods anytime of the year. Apparently I am not alone in my expanded use of the grill. According to a study done by the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, many people use the grill year around:
- Based on a representative sample of more than 8,000, the report revealed that over 60 percent of Americans are grilling year-round and nearly half grill during winter months. Grill ownership increased 10 percent from 2003, with eight out of ten households now owning an outdoor barbecue grill or smoker.
- More than 35 percent of women are now taking the tongs for gas grilling, up six percent from 2003. And 42 percent of women are using electric grills, inching closer to men at 55 percent. However, men and women are on equal footing in the decision of when to grill, at 47 percent each.
How to Grill Healthy Foods
According to About's Barbecue and Grilling guide, Derrick Riches choosing leaner meats and nutrient rich foods means healthier grilling. He also suggests that cooks use marinades for meats. Dangerous chemicals are formed when meat is cooked in direct contact with the flame and they are found in the black charred portions of the meat. Using marinades will reduce the formation of unhealthy cancer causing chemicals by 90%.
More advice on grilling comes from Karen Adler and Judith Fertig, the BBQ Queens. They suggest using meat thermometers to make sure meats are done, keeping your grill clean, and saving barbecue sauce for the last few minutes of grilling to keep the sauce from burning.
Here are a few grilling tricks I have picked up over the past few years:
- For grilling chicken, I preheat the grill, then turn off the burner on one side of the grill. I cook the chicken pieces on the side with no flame to stop flare-ups. This can take a bit longer, so be sure to use a thermometer to make sure the meat is up to 190 degrees. If I use a barbecue sauce, I will go ahead and turn the flame to a low setting on both sides of the grill, brush the sauce on the chicken pieces and watch them carefully until they are done.
- Healthier version of French fries. I have an old metal cake pan that became a valuable grilling tool. I would spray the inside of the pan with a cooking spray, then place thinly cut strips of raw potatoes in the pan and dust with my favorite seasonings. While I have my meat grilling on one side of the grill, I will place the pan on the other side (over a low flame) and turn the potatoes occasionally until they are tender.
- Grilling fish in foil packets. I love fish and my favorite way to cook fish is to place a fillet on a large sheet of aluminum foil with a few fresh herbs, a little garlic, some lemon slices and a splash of white wine. Fold the aluminum foil into a packet and place it on the grill and cook until the fish is done.
- Sweet corn on the grill. Take a few ears of corn with the husks still on and remove the silk. Soak the ears of corn in water for about 30 minutes, then place the corn, stalks and all, on the grill for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Grilling is great for venison. Wild game like venison or elk works well on the grill. You can grill steaks right on the grill, or to lessen the gamey taste, you can take a venison loin and wrap it in foil along with your favorite herbs and some beef broth. Use a meat thermometer to know when the venison is done to your liking.
- Pineapple slices for dessert. This one is very simple. Buy a can of sliced pineapple and place the slices on the grill and cook them until they are heated through. These are great served with a little bit of frozen yogurt and a sprinkling of nuts.
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