Traditional grilling requires the use of a grill or other open wire grid that sits over a direct heat source (most often fire). It is one of the oldest forms of cooking known to man and dates back to the first controlled fires, about one million years ago. The concept hasn’t changed much over the years but the techniques have been improved to make cooking on a grill a more civilized event than huddling over a fire pit in the ground, although during camping trips and other outdoor excursions this technique is still often used.
If you’re going to be grilling at home, you’re going to want to invest in an outdoor grill. There are ways to grill on your stove, or over a fire pit, but the best flavor and textures are going to come from cooking on an outdoor gas, or charcoal grill. Which type you choose depends completely on personal preference and we’ll go over the Pro’s and Con’s of each type to help you decide which is right for you.
|Gas Grill||Charcoal Grill|
|Original Cost (Base Models)||$116.99 (Coleman RoadTrip)||$99.00 (Weber One-Touch)|
|Operating Costs||Roughly $1.50 per hour||Roughly $2 per cookout|
|Ease Of Assembly||Difficult||Simple|
|Ease Of Use||Simple||Difficult|
|Flavor||Sufficient for Hotdogs & Burgers||Better for Fine Cuts of Steak & Chicken|
|Portability / Size||Designed for Transport (32”)||Designed for Transport (22.5”)|
|Fire Risk / Safety||Less Risk of Fire = More Safe||More Risk of Fire = Less Safe|
|Temperature Control||More Control (Pressure Control System)||Less Control (No Systems or Heat Gauges)|
|Cleaning||Brush Grates Clear||Clean Out Ashes & Brush Grates Clear|
|Environmental Impact||Uses Propane (must be extracted from wells)||Uses Charcoal (made from materials that would otherwise be wasted)|
As you can see one choice is not inherently better or worse than the other. They each have their positive and negative qualities. That’s why it’s up to each individual to decide which of those qualities are most important to them in a grill, and choose accordingly.
You can grill just about any food, which is great news since grilling is one of the best ways to achieve the maximum amount of nutrition from your foods, without sacrificing their flavors. Since the natural grilling process doesn’t require the use of added oils or fats it is a significantly healthier choice than both frying and stove top cooking.
While grilling is inherently healthier than many other forms of cooking there are ways to make it an even healthier option.
- Choose Lean Meats
- Avoid Processed Meats
- Grill Veggies
- Use Marinade
- Cook Longer At Lower Temperatures
- Do Not Overcook
- Grill Over Tin Foil
- Practice Frequent Flipping
- Clean Your Grill
If you practice these healthy grilling habits you’ll gain all of the benefits that open flame cooking provides plus you won’t have to worry about any potential negative influences.
It is important to be aware of the fact that grilling is associated with a few potential health hazards. If you are aware of what these hazards are you will be better equipped to sidestep them and be on your way to happier and healthier grilling habits.
First of all, the grease that drips from fatty cuts of meat can create Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) when they come in contact with the hot coals or grilling element. These PAHs can then contaminate your food with the rising smoke, or flame-ups. The charred exterior of foods can also contain this harmful chemical. The easiest way to avoid contamination by PAHs is to pick a cut of meat that has is lean (the lower the fat content the lower the chance of fatty grease dripping from the meat). If you want to be extra careful you can also line the grate of your grill with aluminum foil where your meat will touch (allow space for ventilation).
Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs) can contaminate any meats that are being cooking in high temperatures
. The best way to actively fight against this, when cooking on the grill is by practicing frequent flipping. Make sure that you flip your meats often (about once every 2-3 minutes) to prevent HCAs from forming.
Of course, as with any cooking process, you will also want to make sure that you always cook your meat to the proper temperatures to avoid bacterial contamination. To learn more read about the food temperature danger zone and how to avoid it here.
- Reach Room Temperature – when cooking meats on the grill you want to take them out of fridge an hour before you begin grilling and allow them to reach room temperature. This will help make sure that your meat cooks evenly throughout.
- Pound It Out – chicken breasts are one of the most popular things to cook on the grill but making sure that they are evenly cooked can be difficult. To fix this just found the chicken breasts out with a tenderizer before grilling, until its thickness is even.
- Brine Your Meats – brining your meats means that you’ll never have to worry about a dried out dinner again. This extra step will truly make all of the difference in your grilling success.
- Turn Up The Heat – although cooking over lower temperatures for a longer period of time is great for healthy grilling, you will want to make sure that your grill is hot enough to actually cook your food. You also don’t want to let your food sit at too low of a temperature for too long, because that could promote bacterial growth.
- Four Inches – when it comes to grilling up vegetables the perfect distance between your flames (or hot coals) and your food is four inches.
- Six to Eight Inches – for chicken you’ll want to leave about six to eight inches between your flames (or hot coals) and the chicken.
- Smoky Flavor – if you like a smoky flavor on your meats and vegetables don’t be afraid to close that grill lid, just be sure that you open the exhaust and allow proper ventilation. It is possible to smoke out your food, and the taste is not appetizing.
- Keep Those Bones In – when you’re grilling poultry if you choose cuts that still have the bone in it will be less likely that you dry it out.
- Dark vs Light – dark meat will generally take longer to cook on the grill than light meat will. Keep this in mind when you’re planning the rest of your meal prep schedule.
- Let It Rest – always let your meat rest between grilling and eating to guarantee optimal flavor.
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