By Bob Difley
The barbecue has become just as much a part of the RV Lifestyle as camp chairs and hiking boots. If you are the head barbecue cook, there is no reason why you can’t produce both tasty and healthy food on the grill. Here are a few tips on healthy barbecuing.
Which is healthier: Gas or Charcoal?
Gas burns cleaner, is more convenient, and with an adapter kit you can hook your gas grill up to your rig’s propane tank for a quick and easy setup. Charcoal emits more carbon monoxide and soot. However, many people say they prefer the taste of food cooked over charcoal to gas, though it is the smoky burning off of fat drippings from meats that creates that barbecue taste.
But don’t use lighter fluid as that can leave your food with off-tastes. Most studies have shown that neither gas nor charcoal is healthier. Whichever you use, clean the grill before each use to eliminate the charred food remains that contain nasty carcinogens that could cause cancer. And check for brush bristles left on the grill so you don’t ingest one and end up in the ER.
Preheat the grill for about 15-20 minutes – get it HOT – before cooking to rid the grill of any bacteria. A hot grill helps to prevent sticking, sears food sealing moisture inside, and caramelizes the food improving the flavors. Use oil or a cooking spray on the grill (apply before heating the grill) to prevent sticking.
The USDA suggests that you use separate cutting boards, utensils and dishes for raw and cooked foods. Refrigerate your meats while marinating, and never use that marinade for basting – use a fresh batch. Marinades, in addition to adding flavor to your grilled food, also reduce the chance of forming the carcinogenic HCAs in grilled poultry, red meat and fish by as much as 92 to 99 percent. That’s a huge safety factor. Marinate for your health, and for good taste.
Fish, chicken and meat, whether marinated or naked, are barbecue favorites. But if your guests prefer burgers and dogs, you can make alterations for healthier, lower-calorie choices, like substituting a whole wheat bun for the soggy white one. It will add fiber and reduce sugar.
You can also reduce fat by instead of cooking a pork hot dog (300 calories, 25 g fat) choose a low-fat turkey hot dog or burger (160 calories, 9 g fat) or even better, a veggie burger (110 calories, 4 grams of fat) or one of the creations from Beyond Meat.
And watch those add-ons. Instead of adding high-fat cheese, mayo or bacon to your burger, go for mustard, lettuce, onion and tomato for lots of vitamins and zero fat.
I use the ThermoPro digital meat thermometer (under $20) for grilling.
Add a grill basket for food that might slip through the grill rack, flaky fish and fish chunks, or veggies. A basket with a top and bottom and a handle enables you to turn over all the food at one time.
Chunks of red and yellow bell pepper (cut into quarters or halves), yellow squash, zucchini (sliced lengthwise), onions (cut in half or quarters), asparagus and corn on the cob just taste better when grilled. Sprinkle with balsamic vinegar or use a low-calorie marinade. Blistering and slightly charring red peppers brings out the natural sweetness and adds a smoky flavor.
Combine various veggies cut to bite-size and make into kabobs. Turn frequently, and don’t forget to use a hot pad or barbecue mitt to handle the skewers. You can also cook veggies in an aluminum foil pouch. Place veggies on foil, add a tablespoon of olive oil and roll veggies around on foil to coat, then sprinkle with a little salt, black pepper, oregano, garlic or rosemary. Close up the pouch and fold the corners over and place on grill (if you are using briquettes do not place pouch over the hottest part).
For corn-on-the-cob, soak in the husks in cold water for an hour or more prior to cooking. Pull the husks down and rub ears with a little olive oil or butter, then sprinkle with salt, pepper, and maybe some parmesan, thyme or other spice. Tie husks back together at the top of the ear and place directly on the grill. Cook about 5 minutes, then turn a quarter turn. Grill until husks are a golden brown. Test doneness by opening husk slightly and sticking kernels with a fork. Serve in the husks for the fun of opening the steaming corn on your plate.
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In NC, BBQ is a noun. It is the short name for Pork, slow cooked, usually for 10-15 hours over low 200 degree heat. Having lived in the north, I recognize that there, BBQ is a verb with a definition of “cooking over a grill” it can also mean something many people call “sloppy Joe’s”
I have come to love NC BBQ, and recognize that NO ONE ELSE in the country has BBQ as good as NC. (gauntlet cast). 😀 I have learned to make NC BBQ from some very talented pit masters and enjoy the process. I also enjoy “grilling” which is what this article addresses.
Somehow counting calories, fat grams, carbs, etc. just doesn’t go well with grilling out or BBQ. For us, it’s more about enjoying the food and camaraderie. I’m not sure how I would react to someone asking if the meat is free range, the bread gluten free, or is the hot dog from turkey. Chances are that would be the last time we would get together. I try to be sensible and cautious about what I eat at home, and usually when I order from a menu, but when the grill or smoker is lit, it’s all about the flavor baby. On the other hand, my wife always skins her chicken before she eats it, which means more for me.
Mesquite. Use mesquite instead of gas or charcoal for an even better flavor. I know mesquite is not available everywhere but if you can get it you likely will not want anything else.
My comment should bring out the hickory, pecan, oak and other wood users.
Good God, the gas vs charcoal issue. This really shouldn’t be an issue. One should use which ever method pleases and works for you. If you use a charcoal lighter, you must exercise a little patience and allow the charcoal to burn until it is covered with white ash. Pour on a small amount to get the charcoal lit and don’t add anymore, just give it some time to complete the process. There will be no after taste or ill effects. I prefer charcoal, but in a pinch (read that as hurry), I will use a gas grill. Oh and I don’t grill, I BBQ, there is a difference. BBQ’ing is done over low heat with a closed lid. Grilling is done over high heat with no lid. BBQ is slow and takes a longer time, Grilling is quick, and more adaptable to searing meats and preparing Rare, med rare and medium doness. Not trying to add fuel to the fire, just expressing a different view. No pun intended.
In my home state of Missouri, when you say BBQ it’s understood to mean pork steaks unless something else is specifically mentioned. When I prepared them on a charcoal grill I seared them on both side then put them in a graniteware pan and poured a bottle of BBQ sauce on them, put the cover on the pan then closed the grill and left it alone until time to eat. You .just picked out chunks of meat with tongs, the bones were already separated. Makes me salivate just thinking about ’em!