Spring time means grilling time

Spring time means grilling time

I hope many of you have enjoyed this beautiful spring weather we’ve been having. Whether your family enjoys picnics or just cooking outdoors, the season has begun. If you haven’t already given your grill a good cleaning and set it up for the season, maybe now is the time.

Grilling is a great, healthy way to prepare meat without adding extra oils and calories, and somehow food prepared outdoors seems to taste better. One of the challenges we need to be aware of is potential of cancer-causing chemicals that are produced when cooking meat, poultry or fish over high heat and they become charred. Consuming charred meat has been associated with a 50% increased risk of cancer. So how can we reduce our risk and still enjoy grilled foods?

—Enjoy lots of grilled vegetables and fruits; they can be grilled without concern. Grilled pineapple and peaches are a wonderful addition to an outdoor meal.

—Use lower grilling temperatures to cook your meats. In one study grilling salmon at about 350-400 F resulted in lower cancer-causing chemicals than salmon grilled at about 500 F.

—Marinating foods prior to grilling helped lower cancer-causing chemicals from being produced. One study showed marinating an hour in a commercial marinade prepared with oil, water and vinegar reduced the cancer-causing chemicals by 57-88%. You also can just marinate in oil, water and vinegar. To be safe, keep your marinade in the refrigerator. Once the marinade has been used, dispose of any that is left with meat juices in it.

—Always start with fresh charcoal if you use a charcoal grill. Using the same charcoal will cause more flare-ups from previously dripped fat, which resulted in higher levels. You also might try coconut-shell charcoal. They produced fewer cancer-causing chemicals than regular wood charcoal.

—Choose lean cuts of meat and trim any visible fat.

—Precook meat to shorten the grilling time. Microwaving for a short time can help start the cooking process so it is not so long on the grill. Move items immediately from the microwave to the grill.

—Avoid putting frozen meat on the grill, which lengthens the cooking time. Thoroughly defrost meat in the refrigerator before grilling.

—Use smaller cuts of meat or cooking kebabs, which reduces cooking time.

—Try to finish grilling meats away from the direct heat. Pile coals to one side of the grill or leave half of the burners off on a gas grill and finish grilling on the cooler side away from direct heat.

—Cook on a water-soaked cedar plank, which protects the food from direct flames.

—Use aluminum-foil packets with meat and veggies in a single packet or line your grill with foil to prevent direct contact with the food. Grill meat only to medium well and use a meat thermometer to make sure the internal temperature reaches 160 F for ground meats, 165 F for poultry and 145 F for whole cuts of pork, beef and lamb.

—If food becomes charred, remove that portion before eating.

As you begin the grilling season, keep these tips in mind to enjoy outdoor food preparation this summer. If you have questions, feel free to call me at 330-264-8722.

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