Without a doubt there is something very relaxing and pleasurable about cooking and eating grilled food. There are countless ways you can turn your grilling not only into a flavorful and enjoyable way to cook, but there are also many healthy and tasty alternatives. Like anything else in life, what you put on your grill is a choice. Grilling healthy first means that you have decided to eat healthy. Cooking on a grill can be a great way to reduce fats on while adding wonderful flavor however we must also be careful when grilling as there can be certain risks if precautions are not taken. Eating healthy always begins with choosing healthy foods that are low in fat and using marinates to reduce unhealthy carcinogens.
We know that charcoal grilling can produce carcinogenic smoke from the high temperature cooking of foods containing fat and protein. This can produce unhealthy chemical changes in the outer layers of flesh foods. To avoid these dangerous chemical formations we must avoid inhaling the smoke and avoid the black char on the outside of charcoal cooked food caused by high heat and/or overcooking. It is also advised that any lighter fluid or self-lighting packages be avoided as they can also add toxic chemicals directly into your food. Instead, use a starter chimney and newspaper to get your charcoal lit. While this method may initially take a few more minutes, in the long run it’s faster and healthier. The use of marinades can also help greatly lower carcinogens in food. By using a marinade your food will not only take on extra flavor but even a simple marinade consisting of olive oil and a citrus juice can reduce the harmful chemicals by as much as 99%. A marinade will also assist in tenderizing and enhancing your food’s natural flavors.
There has been a lot of talk about grilling and the risk of cancer. While the risk is real and this should be kept in mind, there are some simple things you can do to greatly reduce the risk of cancer caused by grilling. The harmful chemicals that can form are created by putting food, primarily meats, under intense heat and flame. These are cancer forming agents however by taking a few simple precautions you can greatly reduce and even eliminate the risks. Grilling isn’t the only cooking method that causes these agents so there is no reason to give up on your grill. If done right, grilling is one of the healthiest methods of cooking.
To reduce the risks follow these basic tips:
• Trim excess fats from all foods. The fats are the main contributors to harmful chemicals so avoid fatty foods as much as possible.
• Using marinades based on olive oils and citrus juices with greatly help reduce the risks.
• Maintain a clean grill. This will also help reduce harmful cancer forming chemicals.
• Avoid letting your grill flare-up. Extreme heat and flame will also increase risk.
• Do not overcook foods. If you do accidentally char your food simply scrape or cut that portion off.
The marinade recipe below is simple, versatile, and tasty and will significantly reduce harmful cancer forming agents. The marinade will work perfectly with poultry, pork, vegetables and seafood and should be combined with your food of choice at least 1 hour prior to grilling.
¼ C olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons Italian herb blend
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Grilling can be a great way to prepare low-fat meals and only takes a little imagination to create healthy foods. Try starting with foods you already enjoy and find ways to make them healthier choices. Trimming fat, substituting skinless chicken, using healthy marinades are a few things you can do to start forming healthy habits.
Grilled Fennel Salad with Nicoise Olives
2 orange peppers
3 fennel bulbs with tops
2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 ½ tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
18 small nicoise olives
2 sprigs of savory
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Roast the peppers using your gas grill flame or the method of your choice. Place them in a bowl and cover the bowl in plastic wrap. Remove the green fronds (top flowery pieces) and set aside for later. Slice the fennel lengthways into roughly five coarsely cut pieces. Place the fennel pieces flat in a dish and coast with 1 ½ tablespoon olive oil. Season the fennel to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Remove the char from the peppers and dice the peppers into small-diced pieces.
Place your grill on medium heat and place the fennel slices and turn frequently for 7-10 minutes. Grill until the fennel is showing grill marks. Be sure to cook them until they are the desired texture but do not char too much. Transfer to side dish.
Combine the vinegar and remaining olive oil and pour evenly over fennel. Lightly combine the pepper mixture with the fennel while adding the olives. Tear the savory and fennel fronds and sprinkle over the fennel.
Grilled Fennel Salad is fantastic as a side or main course. As a side consider serving it with a simply grilled chicken or seafood. Just remember that what you put in your stomach or on your grill is your choice.
Photo Credit: Timolina/Freepik
About the Author: Scott Schrikofsky is the chef and owner of At Home Gourmet