We've officially reached the dog days of summer in Western New York and while schools doors won't be opened for approximately another month and a half, we're certain our students, staff and their families are enjoying the weather. This season is known for fun activities like swimming, trips to the beach, popsicles and grilling. With these traditions in mind, we're offering 5 grilling tips to keep your barbeques safe, fun and tasty this summer. Whether you attend one of our reputable private schools in WNY or one of the many Buffalo schools in the city, be sure to leave a comment and tell us what your favorite item is to grill.
Don't skimp on the marinade
Most grilling aficionados use marinades for adding flavor to and softening their meats of choice. But the health benefits of a marinade make it a double win for the summer grilling season. When meats are cooked at high temperatures, undesired cancer-causing compounds called heterocyclic amines (HAAs) formulate. Some studies
suggest that coating meats in marinade can reduce these harmful byproducts. In fact, anything that coats meat and keeps it from burning will limit harmful carcinogens. Some specific spices such as garlic, thyme or sage can reduce the total amount of HAAs by up to 60 percent while rosemary has been found to reduce them up to 90 percent. So don't be afraid to slather that chicken with a tasty teriyaki glaze -- you'll be helping your guests without them even knowing.
Save room for those veggies!
Grilling vegetables yield that same charred, hot-off-the-grill flavor while leaving behind the cancer-causing carcinogens that meat alternatives bring to your picnic table. Everyone knows that veggies are integral components of a healthy and balanced diet, but adding that grilled flavor can provide additional substance to your taste buds.
If you or your guests are focused on the meat options, consider making kebab skewers. Alternating your desired meat(s) with different grilled vegetables such as peppers, onions and/or tomatoes will cut down on overall meat consumption and the subsequent HAA intake that comes with it.
Focus on cleanliness
Ensuring a safe grilling environment can be easy to overlook but it's one of the most important components to keeping everyone safe. Cleaning your grill both pre and post-use will go a long way in preventing foodborne illness.
Scraping the grates of your grill clears off residue that can provide preferable conditions for microorganisms to multiply. Stiff wire, grill tongs and a brush are all chemical-free options for making sure your grill's surface stays safe for food prep. Here's a neat tip -- try using coffee for clearing off burned-on grease or mildly dirty grilling surfaces. That's right, coffee's acidic PH makes it an effective option for cutting through grease. Just pour a pot (It can even be the previous day's leftovers) into a large container, remove the grates and let them soak for approximately 60 minutes. Add in a short scrub before rinsing and you'll be ready to sizzle.
Charcoal or Gas: That is the question
This classic argument over which version of grilling is the better option has ignited countless debates. Cost, flavor and efficiency are common issues when discussing the two options. Though there is a lack of evidence that shows a discernable difference in health, it's true that gas burns cleaner than its charcoal counterpart, which releases soot and carbon monoxide into the atmosphere -- contributing to pollution. But in reference to taste, a significant number of people enjoy the richer taste and smoky flavor that charcoal grills bring to the table.
Bring on the Heat
Remember to preheat your grill of choice approximately 20minutes before the meat hits the surface. This helps ensure it reaches a safe temperature needed to kill unwanted bacteria. Proper temperatures should be 250-300°℉ for low levels of heat, 300-350°℉ for medium and 400-450°℉ for high. When your grill is heated properly, it will sear your food at the point of contact, keep the internal components moist and prevent it from sticking. Searing is known for improving the flavor of your meat through its caramelization process. Once your food is done, make sure to let it rest on a clean dish covered with foil for approximately 10 minutes so its natural juices can spread evenly.
This summer has been a hot one across the Buffalo Niagara region and we at Western New York Catholic schools hope everyone is having a relaxing, safe and fun break. Rest up, refresh and enjoy those summer cookouts while we'll be waiting to hear about your vacations in the fall.