19 Ways to Improve Your Barbecue Pt. I
Come on party people, a backyard barbecue is no excuse to serve up foods that will keep you and your guests from stepping onto the beach (or the scale). In fact, every barbecue has room for a few entrees and sides that keep your health-conscious guests happy and your body looking and feeling good. Try the following tips and you’ll be sure to wow your guests and keep them asking for more — without them even knowing they’re “indulging” in healthier options.
1. Keep It Lean
Go for a healthier cut by choosing round, sirloin and loin cuts, which are typically leaner than prime meats. By exchanging six ounces of high-fat porterhouse steak for a leaner six-ounce sirloin steak, you’ll save at least 150 calories along with eight grams saturated fat. Choose chicken breasts or drumsticks instead of wing or thighs. Choose chicken and turkey sausages instead of higher-fat pork or beef choices.
2. Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill
The United States Department of Agriculture recommends consumers prevent food-borne illness by remembering to follow these easy steps. 1) Clean hands and surfaces often and remember to rinse fruits and veggies, but not meat or poultry, by running under tap water. 2) Separate raw, cooked and ready-to-eat foods while shopping, preparing and storing. Be careful not to cross-contaminate these items. 3) Cook foods to safe internal temperatures (see guidelines in this article). 4) Chill food promptly (i.e., don’t allow that macaroni salad and side of ribs to sit in the sun for three hours before placing them in the fridge).
3. Watch Those Portions
You’ve got plenty of options on the table — meat, sides, salads and dessert — so the meat need not be center stage at your backyard barbecue. Help your guests with portion control by serving better portion sizes. Marin Gilbert, a registered dietitian in Dayton, Ohio, says that three ounces of meat is equal to the size of a palm, deck of cards or a cassette tape. In other words, three ounces of chicken is half a chicken breast or a chicken leg and thigh; three ounces of fish is about the size of a checkbook; a three-ounce hamburger patty is similar in size to a hockey puck.
4. Preheat the Grill
By preheating the grill, you give it time to get ready to sear your meat, avoid sticking and lock in flavor, but you also make certain that harmful bacteria is killed before placing the raw meat on the grates. Allow a gas grill to preheat for 15 to 20 minutes after turning it on; allow a charcoal grill the same, but wait for the coals to get hot before setting your time.
5. Get Your Meats to the Right Temperature
When grilling ground beef make sure the internal temperature reaches at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit. When grilling whole cuts (steaks, chops and roasts) of beef, veal or lamb, aim for a minimum of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, and always let the meat rest for three minutes prior to serving. And don’t depend on touch or sight to determine the temperature; rely on an instantly read digital thermometer.
6. Tips for Poultry Temps
Many cooks like to use bone-in, skin-on cuts for added flavor and moisture, but if you’re trying to limit your calories the simplest way is to remove the crispy skin prior to chowing down. The safe internal temperature for any poultry — be it pieces, ground or the entire bird — is a minimum of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
7. Tips for Fish Temps
Fish is a great choice for boosting your barbecue health score. Many fish options (like salmon) are packed with heart-healthy good omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce the risk of high cholesterol, hypertension and heart disease. Grill fish to perfection by aiming for an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. The flesh should be flaky and opaque as it nears the safe serving temperature. If cooking shellfish like clams, oysters and mussels, look for the shells to open during the cooking.
8. Choose the Right Marinade
Sure, marinades offer health benefits, but they can also add extra calories and lots of sodium! But you can avoid these health pitfalls by using options like citrus juices, Worcestershire sauce, molasses, low-sodium soy sauce, vinaigrettes and even low-sodium vegetable, chicken and beef broths instead of oil. If your marinade recipe calls for sour cream, opt instead for a low-fat plain Greek yogurt.
9. Think Outside the Bun
Grilling is not just for meat and veggies anymore. Delight your guests with alternatives like grilled quesadillas, frittatas and more. Jenna A. Bell, Ph.D., RD, and co-author of “Energy to Burn” (Wiley 2009), impresses her guests with crispy barbecue pizza. Bell says it’s simple: She simply tosses pizza dough on the grill, tops it with fresh veggies and artisanal cheeses and waits until the dough is crisp and the cheese is bubbling.