Get the Most Out of Your Grill

‘Tis the season for grilling. Summer is a perfect time to enjoy the outdoors and start using the grill more. This summer let’s try to think beyond the usual hamburgers and hotdogs. What about fish? Fresh fruit? Even tofu? The best part about grilling is knowing you can pretty much grill anything. Check out some great ideas to make this BBQ season not only a fun one, but a healthy one as well.

BBQ Beef and Vegetable Kabobs - Photographed on a Hasselblad H3D11-39 megapixel Camera System

Tip #1.) Pick the perfect protein. Try to avoid processed meat that may contain added salt or fat. Try to use fresh fish, chicken breast (skinless), or lean ground poultry. You can wrap marinated fish fillets in foil, construct colourful chicken kebabs, or make savory turkey burgers by mixing minced portabella mushrooms and onions into the patties.

Tip #2.) Marinate. The simplest way to add flavour to meats is to marinate them. Coat poultry, fish or meat with marinade and refrigerate overnight in a large plastic bag. You can use about ½ cup of marinade for each pound off food. As soon as the protein is ready, take the protein out of the bag and place directly on the grill.

Tip #3.) Don’t like marinating? Spices are the next best option. Rubbing spices on poultry, fish or meat can add amazing flavour with the bonus of being able to use less salt. All you need is about 1 tablespoon of spice rub for each pound of food. You can make a simple rub in the comfort of your own kitchen, using spices such as, allspice, chili powder, cinnamon, cumin, garlic powder, paprika or rosemary. And just like marinating, after the rub has been set, you can place the protein directly on the grill.

*Safety tip for #3 and #4: Never reuse marinade or rub after raw meat has touched it.

Tip #4.) Add lots of colour. Just about all of your favourite fruits and veggies can be grilled.. alone or in kebabs. The trick is to cut them into pieces that will cook quickly and evenly. Brush with healthy oil to prevent sticking or use a grill basket to keep them out of the line of fire. Some favourites include: asparagus, bell peppers, eggplant, mushrooms, and zucchini.

Tip #5.) Say bye to the bad fat! Trim off excess fat and skin from the meat and poultry, prior to grilling. Look for lean cuts of meats in the grocery store. Reducing fat prevents BBQ flare ups from happening (*tip: always have a water spritzer to spray if flare ups do occur!) Brush or marinate foods with healthy cooking oil and let ‘er drip! Make sure fat drips away from food while it cooks.

Tip #6.) What about portions? A healthy portion of any type of meat is about 3 ounces, the size of a deck of cards, or the size of the palm of your hand. If that sounds small.. just remember all the delicious grilled veggies and side dishes to go along with it, yum!

Tip #7.) Bring out the digital thermometer. Unsure if your food is thoroughly cooked by just looking at it? Insert a digital thermometer into the thickest part of the meat and make sure it’s the right temperature before you take it off the grill. Remember to wash the thermometer in hot soapy water before readings. Health Canada has a handy guide for safe cooking temperatures.

Tip #8.) Choose healthier sides. Swap the traditional store-bought barbecue fare like baked beans, coleslaw, or macaroni salad.. this can have a lot of saturated fat, sodium or added sugars. Switch it up to homemade versions! You can do a colourful bean salad, fruit salad or a leafy green salad. You can even grill fresh fruits or veggies as a side!

Tip #9.) Which brings me to my next tip, grill fruits for dessert. The natural sugars caramelize in the high heat, giving them that extra sweetness and flavour. Some fruits to try include: sliced apple, pear or pineapple or halved bananas, or peaches.

Tip #10.) Pack it up and keep it clean! Bacteria can grow quickly in food that has been sitting out for a while. Pack and refrigerate any leftovers within two hours (this applies to fruit salad, melons, pasta, and rice dishes too!) Also, be sure to scrub down the rack or grill pan after each use. Removing leftover burnt pieces of food stuck to the grill prevents burning, smoking and bitter flavours the next time you use it.