August has arrived in the PNW, and with it warm evenings and golden orange sunsets. Now’s the time of year to be outside as much as possible. That means spending time in the kitchen cooking (and sweating, because who has AC here?) is not high on the priority list. Not to worry. We’ve got all the tips you’ll need to create a delicious feast on your favorite outdoor grill—without sacrificing your health.
There are often concerns regarding food safety and health risks related to grilled foods. However, there are many ways to make grilling a healthy, safe, and delicious way to eat. It’s all about the foods you choose, preparation, and cooking methods.
Does grilling food increase cancer risk?
Studies of have shown that there is an increased risk of developing cancer with consumption of charred grilled foods. This is due to the formation of two main substances: Heterocyclic Amines (HCA) and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH). When the fats and proteins of a meat or poultry product are heated at high temperatures to the point of being browned or blackened, carcinogens form. This can happen with all forms of cooking, not just grilling.
HOWEVER, this risk can be greatly reduced with a few simple steps. First, cook at lower temperatures by using charcoal briquettes or hardwood chips from hickory and maple. Second, the use of marinades that contain olive oil and citrus juices (such as lemon or lime) can minimize the formation of these cancer-causing substances by as much as 99%. Marinate foods for at least one hour before cooking. Marinades also add a lot of flavor and juiciness to any grilled item—whether it’s eggplant or chicken. Thirdly, reduce the formation of HCAs by cooking with herbs from the lamiaceae family. These herbs include basil, mint, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sage. Fresh herbs can easily be chopped and added to any marinade.
Grill Prep & Cooking Tips!
General Safety Guidelines for Choosing, Storing, and Cooking
When shopping, pick your meat products right before checkout. Make sure the packages feel cold to the touch and are not torn. To protect against contamination, put raw goods into individual plastic bags and store in the cart away from produce.
When transferring, use an insulated cooler to keep meat below 40F. Use ground meats and poultry within 1-2 days, and other products within 5 days. Store on the bottom shelf of your fridge. If storing for a longer period of time, wrap in freezer paper or plastic and store at 0F. Raw meat, poultry, or any other perishable food should not be left out at room temperature for longer than two hours.
It is important to use a thermometer to check temperatures of meat and poultry. Cooking to the proper temperature destroys harmful bacteria that may be present. Once the food has reached temperature keep it hot until serving at 140F or warmer. If storing for later consumption, put in refrigerator right after cooking for up to 3-4 days, or freezer up to four months.
Internal Cooking Temperatures
Finally, remember to cook meats separate from produce and always wash hands before and after handling raw foods. Now go and enjoy the outdoors with some grilled foods!
Prawns with Garlic & Smoked Paprika
Nutrition per 4 ounces: 117 Calories; 2g Fat; 20g Protein; 3.5g Carbohydrates; 0g Fiber; 426mg Sodium
Grilled Soy-Ginger Glazed Tofu
Nutrition per 4 ounces tofu: 172 Calories; 10g Fat; 12g Protein; 11g Carbohydrates; 0.5g Fiber; 288mg Sodium
Grilled Watermelon Salad
Nutrition per serving: 156 Calories; 6g Fat; 3.5g Protein; 25g Carbohydrates; 1g Fiber; 405mg Sodium
Jamaican Jerk Grilled Eggplant
Nutrition per serving: 74 Calories; 3.5g Fat; 2g Protein; 10g Carbohydrates; 3g Fiber; 270mg Sodium
~Kelsy, Dietetic intern
A place for our consultant Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) to share nutrition science, yummy and healthy recipes, tips on seasonal ingredients, and other nutritional musings. Enjoy!