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.
Check out Bob Difley’s RVing e-books on Amazon Kindle