Healthy summer grilling tips

rdymond@bradenton.comJuly 8, 2014 

Excess burning or charring of red meat has long been a matter of preference for some Manatee County grillers when summer back-yard celebrations get into full swing.

But this summer, Manatee County health experts are advising cooks and consumers to mix a little common sense and education with their summer red meat grilling.

While common sense says anything in moderation is a fair approach, the American Institute for Cancer Research has been saying for some time that cooking meat at a high temperature, like grilling, creates cancer-causing substances.

These carcinogens, which can also come from grill smoke, can cause changes in human DNA that may lead to cancer, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research.

Risk of these carcinogens forming is higher from red and processed meats, like hamburgers and hot dogs, the Institute adds on its website.

In addition to the cancer risk possible from burned meat, at least one local cardiologist, Dr. Bruce Lipskind with Bradenton Cardiology Center, says the heart is also at risk from certain processed meats.

"The problem is not necessarily the meat, but rather it is the salt, nitrates, phosphates and other additives used to process it," Lipskind said.

"My best advice would be to enjoy less processed meats like chicken or steak and also to keep everything in moderation," Lipskind added. "There are plenty of ways to make a barbecue good for you."

A grilling compromise

Why not mix in vegetables, chicken, pork chops or fish along with hamburger and hot dogs on that summer grill, said Samantha Kennedy, Director of the Manatee County Cooperative Extension Service in Palmetto.

Kennedy recommends California turkey burgers, grilled corn with chipotle-lime butter, grilled peaches and other Manatee Extension-tested recipes which are included with this story.

Kennedy, who used to be Manatee County's Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent before she became its director, is not advocating giving up red or processed meat grilling completely.

However, with many healthier recipes out there, she says it's time to at least consider some alternatives, she said.

"It is true that eating a large quantity of charred black stuff from the grill could lead to an in

creased risk of cancer," Kennedy said. "It is something to think about. But, on the other hand, most people aren't going to eat grilled meat every single day and that is the most risk."

Kennedy also advocates lining grills with foil and poking small holes in it, which allows the fat to drip off and keeps the smoke away from the meat.

She also recommends removing charred parts of meat.

"Anything black or burned could have carcinogens," she said.

Here are some healthy grilling recipes provided by the Manatee Extension.

California turkey burgers

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Makes: 6 servings

2 teaspoons olive oil

1/2 cup minced scallions

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream

4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1- 1/2 pounds lean ground turkey

Nonstick cooking spray

3 ounces blue cheese, crumbled

6 whole wheat hamburger buns, split

2 firm, ripe tomatoes, sliced1/4-inch thick

1 just-ripe avocado, thinly sliced

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced

1. In a small skillet, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Saute the scallions until just softened, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl, season with the salt and black pepper and let cool. Stir in the sour cream and Worcestershire sauce; add the turkey and mix gently until just combined. Form into 6 patties.

2. Heat a grill to medium-high. Mist grill with cooking spray and cook burgers 5 minutes. Turn and grill until almost cooked through, about 3 minutes more. Top each burger with some of the blue cheese; cook 1 to 2 minutes more or until burgers are just cooked through and cheese is melted.

3. Arrange burgers on buns and top with sliced tomato, avocado, and red onion.

Nutrition facts per serving: 370 calories, 35g protein, 29g carbohydrate, 13g fat (4g saturated), 5g fiber

Grilled Corn with Chipotle-Lime Butter

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 12 minutes

Makes: 6 servings

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

1/2 teaspoon finely minced canned chipotles plus 1/2 teaspoon sauce

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 ears fresh corn in husks

Nonstick cooking spray

Lime wedges (optional)

1. Combine the butter, lime zest and juice, chipotles and sauce, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

2. Heat a grill to medium-high. Remove outer husks from corn, leaving just a few of the innermost layers. Gently pull those down, remove the silks, and pull the husks back up. Lightly mist grill with cooking spray. Cook corn 8 to 12 minutes, turning often, until crisp-tender and lightly charred.

3. Strip away husks; brush corn with butter mixture. Serve with lime wedges if desired.

Nutrition facts per serving: 136 calories, 3g protein, 17g carbohydrate, 8g fat (4g saturated), 2g fiber

Grilled Balsamic Peaches and Frozen Yogurt

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Makes: 6 servings

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons dark brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

3 large just-ripe freestone peaches, halved and pitted

2 teaspoons canola oil

2 teaspoons unsalted butter, melted

6 scoops low-fat vanilla frozen yogurt

1. In a small saucepan, bring the vinegar and sugar to a boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer until reduced by half and slightly syrupy, about 10 minutes. Stir in the vanilla and black pepper. Set aside.

2. Heat a grill to medium. Brush cut side of the peaches with the canola oil and cook cut side down until nicely grill marked, 2 to 3 minutes. Give peaches a quarter turn and grill 1 to 2 minutes more for crosshatch marks. Flip over and brush tops with the melted butter. Grill cut side up until tender, 3 to 4 minutes more.

3. Arrange a peach half in each of 6 serving dishes and top with a scoop of frozen yogurt. Drizzle syrup over the top.

Nutrition facts per serving: 199 calories, 5g protein, 34g carbohydrate, 6g fat (2.9g saturated), 2g fiber.


The American Institute for Cancer Research's five tips for healthier grilling:

• Marinating meat before grilling can decrease the formation of carcinogens. Scientists theorize that the antioxidants in marinades block the carcinogens from forming.

• Reduce the time the meat is exposed to flames by partially cooking it in a microwave, oven or stove first. Immediately place the partially cooked meat on the preheated grill to reduce bacteria.

• Trimming fat off meat can reduce flame flares and charring. Cook meat in the center of the grill and make sure to flip frequently.

• Cutting meat into smaller portions and mixing with vegetables can help shorten cooking time.

• Grilling vegetables and fruits produces no carcinogens and plant-based foods are actually associated with lower cancer and heart disease risk.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @RichardDymond.

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