Texas didn’t invent grilling, but we almost perfected it. From steaks to BBQ, our state loves to throw things on the grill. For good reasons, too: grilling imbues food with a delicious, smoky flavor. Yet grilling can also be intimidating to those inexperienced. Fear not! We have put together a few tips for healthy grilling to ensure that you cook food properly and you remain safe yourself!
1. Rely on a meat thermometer
There are a lot of urban legends when it comes to cooking on the grill. Ignore them, however, and rely on this tip for healthy grilling: the most important tool for a grill master is a meat thermometer. A meat thermometer is the only way to ensure that food is cooked properly.
Some people will tell you that you can tell if meat has been cooked enough by the color of the juices when you cut into it. However, this is not a reliable indicator. In order to ensure that meat has been cooked enough, you need to rely on the thermometer. Here are the recommended temperatures depending on the protein:
- 160o F for raw ham and medium-cooked beef/lamb/veal
- 165o F for whole poultry, ground beef/pork, poultry breast
- 170o F for pork roast and well-done beef/lamb/veal
2. Have a fire extinguisher nearby
Even the most experienced grill masters should adhere to this tip for healthy grilling. You should always keep a fire extinguisher nearby just in case of emergencies. Particularly if you use charcoal, an errant ember can cause a fire. Related, you should also take care to clear the area around the grill of anything flammable. Most grill areas in parks are on a concrete slab to help prevent foliage from catching fire. Very hot grills can also lead to flare ups. A fire extinguisher is always a smart idea. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
3. Be careful of backdraft
If you’ve ever cooked using an oven before (and we’re guessing you have if you’re grilling), you know that opening the oven door too quickly can cause backdraft—sudden, intense heat shooting out through the opening. Heat wants to escape, and when you open a cooking instrument slightly, heat rushes out.
When it comes to grilling, backdraft can be even worse. The sudden exposure of oxygen can cause flames and dangerous heat. To prevent this from happening, make sure that the grill has ample flow of oxygen while cooking so the flame does not choke. When you’re done grilling, close the air intake and do not open the lid for at least a few hours to make sure the embers are completely cooled off.
4. Grill more than just meat!
This isn’t necessarily a safety tip as much as a health tip: grills are for more than just cooking meat. Consider adding some vegetables to your meals by grilling them. Grilled vegetables can be prepared directly on the grill grate or in a grill-ready container, like a cast iron skillet. If you plan on grilling the vegetable directly on the grating, make sure it is a sturdy vegetable that can withstand the heat. Oftentimes, you may have to prepare the vegetable to ensure that it doesn’t just burn to a crisp, so find a recipe that you like and bon appetite!
Grilling and summertime go together like ice cream and apple pie. Regardless if you’re an experienced grill master or just getting started, rely on these tips for healthy grilling to get the most out of your summer. Pretty soon, you’ll be enjoying delicious foods prepared to perfection!