If you’ve been adding grilling to your warmer weather cuisines, now is time to really get to know your grill. Mareya Ibrahim, celebrity chef, author of Eat Like You Give a Fork (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2019) and founder of eatcleaner.com shares her best grilling tips.
Check out Mareya’s Black Bean and Mushroom Veggie Burgers recipe.
Start with the Right Stuff
It’s fun to play with grilling gadgets! Basics you need to get grilling: grill, cutting boards, marinating tray, tongs, spatula, metal skewers and grilling planks. Marinate raw meats in a tray separate from serving. Applewood and cedar grilling planks and grill papers infuse food with a wonderful smoky flavor and add moisture and a delicious aroma. The same goes for different types of wood chips. Metal skewers make individual serving sizes easy and fun to eat.
Play It Safe
Dirty, greasy grills with a buildup of meat juices and grease are potential store houses of foodborne illnesses. Even scarier, grilling creates smoke laden with potentially carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which end up on the surface (as ash) of whatever you’re cooking, can be absorbed back into your food. A good grill brush with a stainless-steel head gets rid of stubborn meat, cheese and vegetables. Also, make sure to use separate cutting boards for raw meats and veggies to prevent cross contamination.
Be Cleanup Conscious
Something about grilling outside makes us want to never do the dishes again. Instead of plates, spread a “tablecloth” of butcher paper for easy cleanup. Marinate foods in Ziploc bags. Cook individual portions in aluminum to make serving easy, and to prevent food from falling through the grill cracks. Instead of needing silverware, opt for finger-food size portions (think sliders and skewers vs. big, sloppy servings). Corn on the cob and watermelon slices make great side dishes and are easy to serve.
Make it Full of Fit Flavor
Let your BBQ take you on a culinary journey with the right flavors. Dry spice rubs incorporating citrus, black garlic, ginger, turmeric and peppers are great for building immunity, gut health and lowering inflammation. Adding fresh rosemary to your seasonings can cancel out the potentially carcinogenic effects of the grill. Using different types of oils and vinegars—like macadamia nut or truffle oil and passionfruit or blackberry vinegar—take your taste buds to new heights. Let your meats and chicken marinate for 24 hours if possible, veggies for up to 8 hours.
Cutting up lemons, pineapple, papaya or oranges? Don’t throw away the peels. The acid and enzymes in those fruits help to tenderize your meats and make them more juicy. You can opt for tougher, more inexpensive cuts of steak like flank, hanger or skirt and place them in a gallon-size Ziploc bag to marinade for up to 2 days using the peels, along with a bottle of flavorful, dark beer.
Keep It Lean
Opt for leaner cuts and make half the plate veggies. For plant-based eaters, consider my black bean and mushroom burgers for a hearty, satisfying bite. For omnivores, choose wild-caught seafood, beef, lamb, chicken, pork and other animal products that are humanely raised, without growth hormones or antibiotics, and fed with the right diet. (Grass-fed and finished beef, pasture-raised chicken and wild-caught seafood are better because they eat what nature intended.) Consider bison, a lean, red meat that is always free-range, and serve it on a lettuce or portobello mushroom bun topped with grilled veggies.
Eat the Rainbow
Grilling a variety of fresh veggies on aluminum foil is a nice way to keep the veggies moist and avoid them falling through the grill. Bell pepper, zucchini, squash and eggplant make a flavorful “half the plate” accompaniment. Try grilling romaine lettuce, radicchio and peaches for a super summery salad. And make sure to clean all your produce with Eat Cleaner Fruit & Veggie Wash before you eat to remove pesticide residue, wax and the residue that can cause food borne illness.