Many people will celebrate this long weekend by firing up the grill and having a cook-out. What a fun way to celebrate! Here are a few tips to keep it healthy.
Think Food Safety
I know, it's not a sexy topic. But then again, neither is food poisoning. Make sure to keep perishable foods refrigerated until you're ready to cook. It's better to be safe than sorry - go ahead and toss anything that's been hanging out in high temps for an hour. Once the food is cooked, you can give it up to two hours.
Be sure to cook your foods to a safe temperature. Don't just rely on sight or taste. Bust out that thermometer. You can find a great temperatures here.
Lean and Mean
Choose lean meats to start off right. For ground meats - whether it's beef, chicken, turkey, or bison - aim for 90/10 or leaner. The "10" is the percent (by weight) of the meat that is fat. So 85/15 is more fatty, and 93/7 is leaner. For poultry, take the skin off before cooking. Also consider seafood - steak-y fishes like swordfish, tuna, salmon, mahi mahi, or halibut will fare well on the grill, as will shrimp and scallops. For a vegetarian or vegan option, consider portobello mushrooms or veggie burgers - either commercial or homemade.
Infuse the Flavor
Grilling is a great cooking method that brings out the natural flavors of food, caramelizing fruits and vegetables and bringing a little bit of smoke to the meat. Also consider flavorful marinades to add a little punch. There are so many ways you can take this, but the general rule for marinades is fat for moisture and browning, acid for tenderizing, and seasoning for depth of flavor. The Food Network has a great list of marinades for different meats and veggies.
Don't Forget the Produce
You may have noticed the nonchalant mention of fruits and veggies above. Skewers are a great way to keep vegetables together, and grill baskets prevent smaller or more unruly vegetables from falling through the cracks. Mushrooms, peppers, onions, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, zucchini are all excellent on the grill as a side or topping. For a tasty dessert, consider pineapple, peaches, and nectarines (all are delicious over a small bowl of yogurt or ice cream).
All About the Toppings
Consider what goes on top of your burger, as well. Iceberg lettuce, tomato, onion, and American cheese are pretty standard burger toppers. But what other options are out there? I found this great list of suggestions. Be mindful with how much added fat, sugar, or calories you add with your sauces. Mayo, BBQ sauce, and cheese can all be major offenders. Consider yogurt-based sauces, mustards, and fresh goat cheese instead.
What's your favorite way to enjoy the grill?