How to safely barbecue

September 13, 2013

Barbecuing is as American as apple pie.

My husband’s always taken his lack of barbecuing skills as a badge of courage. Despite a long lifetime in Florida, he never had a barbecue grill and never cooked outdoors. NEVER.

“That’s what restaurants are for,” he claims.

As for me, well, as a solo player for so long, grilling for just myself at the end of a long, busy work day seemed like overkill.  And since I didn’t have the habit, I didn’t miss it.

But when the young men who live over the fence moved in, they brought a grill and ever since, the the aroma of meats on a fire have been driving me crazy.

Salmon on the grill? Mmmm.  A juicy steak every so often? YES.  And some nicely grilled shrimp or chicken?  A great way to get off carbs and into more protein, since I really don’t like protein all that much.

But as time moved on, so did medical research. Grilling, like every other damn thing I enjoy,  is now bad for our health.

barbecue-grill-Download-Royalty-free-Vector-File-EPS-2080So, of course, we bought a grill. A small Weber propane grill–no need for the Cadillac of grills, that would have put my husband into cardiac arrest.

Wanting to make our grilled meals as healthy as possible, I did some research and found that there’s a way to more safely grill, although apparently, all grilling is risky.  The way I figure it, if I grill once a week at my advanced age, I doubt those particular carcinogens will have time to catch up with me.

You probably want to know how to safely grill, right? Here are seven tips for safer barbecuing.

1. No processed meats, like bacon or hot dogs. That’s good advice regardless, although a great hot dog or rack of bacon every few months ain’t gonna kill us.

2.  No charring or burning, that’s the real issue with carcinogens. Charring means meat is covered with heterocyclic amines (HCAs) that can damage genes and increase the risk of stomach and colorectal cancer. Here’s a little tip:  lightly oil your grill to keep char from sticking to your meat.

3. Trim up the meat beforehand, as HCAs form from the smoke emitted when fat burns. So even if the char falls into the fire, if it’s fat, the smoke’s emitting HCAs.

4. Use marinade. Just 30  minutes in marinade reduces HCA formation. That’s great advice with ribs, chicken, and some kinds of fish, but I’ll never marinade a juicy steak.  Still, it’s good to know that marinade helps.

5. Precook the meat and finish on the grill.  I’ve done this with chicken in the past.  MIGHT try it with a steak.

6. Grill fruits and veggies. No fat, right?

7. Scrub the grill clean after each use to get the char off.  That’s always good advice.

There you have it: tips for more healthy grilling. Just in time for the end of summer. Of course, you can do what my Colorado girlfriend does: grill in all four seasons, even if it means standing ankle deep in snow.  Happy grilling!

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