Fire Up the Barbecue

Reviewed by Taylor Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN
Fire Up the Barbecue

Monkey Business Images/Thinkstock

As the weather gets warmer and people spend more time outside, it's a great time to think about barbecues and all of the fun and tasty ways to grill foods safely.

If your barbecue pit has been covered for the winter months, take time to make sure your grill is clean and ready for safe use before throwing on your favorite food. First, clean your grill by following the manufacturer's guidelines. Then, when you're ready to cook, allow the grill to heat up sufficiently to eliminate potential bacteria. Also, if you are using a gas grill, check the burner orifices to make sure they are clear of any deposits to ensure a safe ignition and even flame.

After your grill is clean, hot and ready to go, now comes the most important question: What to cook? There are the traditional barbecue favorites of hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken, but there are a number of other creative options. Try a few of these non-traditional ideas:

  • Cut the Fat
    Grill turkey burgers instead of ones made of ground beef. Ground turkey breast can be as lean as 99-percent fat-free. Add cilantro, shallots or chili sauce into patties to spice things up. Or, mix in feta cheese, Kalamata olives, oregano and pepper, and serve on a pita for a Greek-style burger.
  • Pile on the Vitamins and Nutrients
    Add flavor and nutrition to your meal with vegetables cooked right on the grill. Baste vegetables such as peppers, corn, eggplant or onions. Season them with herbs and place on a hot grill until they are tender. Or, sprinkle sliced zucchini, tomatoes and carrots with a little water and seasoning, wrap in heavy-duty aluminum foil and grill until vegetables are tender.
  • Don't Forget Dessert
    Grill fruit kebabs, pineapple slices or peach halves on low heat until the fruit is hot and slightly golden. Serve the fruit on top of a scoop of low-fat ice cream or angel food cake for a tasty and nutritious dessert.

Finally, be sure to use one of the most important (and overlooked) grilling accessories — the food thermometer. In addition to taking the guesswork out of cooking, a food thermometer helps prevent food poisoning by ensuring your food is cooked to the proper temperatures. When buying a thermometer, read the package label to be sure you're buying a type designed to use with meat. Look for a thermometer made of stainless steel with an easy-to-read dial and shatterproof lens. 

Can Grilling Cause Cancer?

According to the USDA, recent studies suggest a link between cancer and charred meats and fish. Charring commonly occurs as a result of high-temperature cooking methods such as grilling, frying and broiling. Here are four ways to prevent your meats from charring: remove fatty areas before cooking; re-cook meat in the microwave before placing it on the grill; make sure coals of the grill are not directly below the meat; avoid grilling meats until they are well-done or burnt.

Find an Expert

Need serious help making a plan? The nutrition experts in our professional membership are ready to help you create the change to improve your life.

Search Now