Hot Off The Grill - Tips for Making Summer Grilling Safe and Healthy

Summer is almost officially here and it is the time of year when getting outside to cook and eat can be great fun. You may be a regular at grilling, but would like to make it more interesting, or you may be a novice who doesn't feel comfortable or has heard grilling may not be a healthy way to cook.

Wherever you are there are simple tips that can help you get started or continue grilling safer while eating healthy and delicious food. We often think of meat as the only food to cook on a grill. Consider other options such as fresh fruits and vegetables. You can create an entire meal outside on your grill. Happy summer and happy cooking!

1. Clean the grill after each use and once/year.

a. Grates - Scrub the grates with a coiled brush (without bristles) after cooking when still warm. Check for rust.

b. Charcoal grill - Brush out ashes and cooked on foods.

c. Gas grill - Brush off sides, lid and barrier above burners.

d. Inspect burners yearly to ensure proper gas flow and no clogging.

e. Clean all with soap and water yearly.

2. Start with a marinade. Marinading meat will offer several benefits: reduce the likelihood of carcinogen formation when cooking, add flavor, tenderize meat, prevent sticking to the grill.

a. Preparing a marinade: equal parts olive oil and acidic liquid (citrus juice, vinegar, wine or beer), fresh or dried herbs (basil, mint, rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage). Marinade from 30 minutes for delicate pieces of fish up to 10 hours for a tougher cut of beef.

3. Tips for cooking.

a. Place grilling mat on grill to prevent dripping of fat from meat onto coals or flame.

b. Do not lift the lid while cooking to maintain an even temperature.

c. Use a meat thermometer. Occasionally test your thermometer for accuracy in boiling water (212 degrees F). A meat thermometer with an external reader works best so you can leave the thermometer in the grill in the meat and the gauge can be read without opening the grill.

d. Serve immediately or cover to avoid drying.

e. Make slices in fat along edge of meat to prevent curling up of steak.

f. Keep charcoal dry.

g. Cook lean cuts of meat such as pork chops fast and hot.

h. Brush very lean meat with olive oil.

I. Add pan of water close to fire, away from meat to add moisture to cooking.

j. Presoak vegetables in cold water for 30 minutes before cooking.

k. Cook larger pieces of meat indirectly - do not put directly over the flame.

l. Choose fish steaks rather than fillets and cook on grilling mat rather than directly on grate.

4. Grill safely.

a. Keep grill away from houses, fences, trees, etc. Never grill inside a building/garage.

b. Have close access to water or a fire extinguisher.

c. Never add lighter fluid or flammable liquid. Use a charcoal chimney or electric lighter for a charcoal grill.

d. If a gas grill does not start in 10 seconds, turn it off, open the lid and give it 5 minutes before you try lighting it again.

e. Frequently check gas lines for leaks - brush with soapy water over hoses and connectors. Replace leaky parts before grilling again.

f. Make sure the fire is out and the grill is cool before covering.

g. Pay attention to your grill when cooking.

Grilled Peach Salsa

1 ¼ lbs. ripe peaches (3-4 medium)

1 tsp. canola oil

2 TB finely chopped onion

1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded, chopped

Zest and juice of 1 lime

¼ C coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

2 TB chopped fresh mint

Preheat grill to medium. Halve and pit peaches. Brush cut sides of peaches with oil. Grill the peaches until softened and browned in spots, 3-5 minutes per side. Let cool. Chop the peaches into ¼-inch pieces and place in a medium bowl. Add onion, jalapeno, lime zest and juice, cilantro and mint. Serve over grilled meat, rice or other grain or simply eat and enjoy.

Fish with Mango Relish

2 mangoes

6 TB chopped fresh cilantro

Salt to taste

½ tsp. black pepper, coarsely ground

4 6 oz. fresh fish steaks (tuna, salmon)

Peel mangoes and dice flesh into ¼" pieces. Transfer to a small bowl. Add chopped cilantro and a pinch of salt and mix well. Place mango relish in the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes. Lightly press coarsely ground black pepper into one side of each steak. Sprinkle with salt. Place the fish pepper side down on a lightly greased grill or grilling mat on grill. Grill fish until cooked through (145 degrees F). Top with mango relish and serve.

Grilled Herb Vegetables

3 large sweet peppers, cut into ½" cubes

3 medium zucchini, cut into ½" cubes

24 cherry tomatoes

1 medium eggplant, cut into cubes

24 whole mushrooms

Olive oil

¼ tsp. basil

¼ tsp. oregano

Put pepper, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, eggplant and mushrooms into bowl. Drizzle olive oil onto vegetables and toss until vegetables are lightly covered with oil. Sprinkle basil and oregano over vegetables. Mix. Soak skewers in a glass of water for 2 minutes. Place vegetables onto skewers, alternating vegetables as you go. Grill over hot coals for 3-5 minutes. Serve.

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