Tips for the Barbecue
- Spray nonstick vegetable spray (Pam) on the grill before using for easy clean-up. Or, brush on cooking oil.
- Clean the barbecue every time you cook. Let it cool down enough to work with, but don’t wait till it is cold. Clean-up is easiest when it is done often.
- Give the briquettes time to soak up lighter fluid, or using a match will simply burn off all the fluid instead of lighting the coals.
- Use a chimney starter to start the charcoal to eliminate lighter fluid. Get the coals covered with gray ash before adding them to the barbecue. This method also allows impurities to burn off the coals.
- Never barbecue in a house, trailer or garage. Barbecuing robs the air of oxygen, leaving only carbon monoxide in the room, which will kill you very quickly.
- Cook with the lid on and the vents open. Charcoal and/ or wood require oxygen to keep burning.
- Allow the coals to burn out completely before disposing of them. Wait at least 48 hours. When coals or ashes are disposed of before completely cooling, a fire can start even a day or two later.
- Put the grate or grill in place before lighting the fire.
- Don’t move the barbecue when it is hot.
- Put a cover on the barbecue when you’re not using it to keep out dirt, leaves and water, and to prevent rust. Don’t add the cover until the barbecue is totally cool.
Cut Cancer Risk from the Barbecue
Barbecuing meat increases the risk of several cancers, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. Basically, the intense heat creates carcinogenic compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which can damage the DNA of our genes. Charring and flare-ups cause more risk than even intense heat.
Several things can be done to greatly prevent this.
- 1. Smaller pieces of meat cook quicker, so they cause less of a problem.
- 2. Larger pieces of meat can be started in the oven then added to the grill for the barbecue flavor. According to the National Cancer Institute, “Meats that were microwaved for 2 minutes prior to cooking had a 90-percent decrease in HCA content.”
- 3. Trim the extra fat from the meat before grilling to prevent flare-ups.
- 4. Start by marinating the meat for at least 12 hours. This can reduce the formation of HCAs by up to 99 percent. It also shortens the cooking time, tenderizes the meat, and adds more flavor. The University of Arkansas Food Safety Consortium tested marinades containing basil, mint, rosemary, sage, savory, marjoram, oregano, and/or thyme. “Most of these herbs are rich in three compounds – carnosic acid, carnosol and rosmarinic acid – that are potent antioxidants.” They concluded that the reduction in HCAs, approximately 87 percent, correlated to the amount of antioxidants present in the marinades.
- 5. Set the grill higher, or cook meat around the edges of the grill only, so that the meat cooks at a lower temperature.
- 6. Flip the meat every minute or so. This causes the meat to cook slower and at a lower temperature.
- 7. Flipping meat often will also prevent charring. Cut off any parts that do turn black, which is usually the fat anyway.
- 8. Meat done medium well cooks for less time than well done meat.
- 9. Serve green vegetables with the meat to detoxify the HCAs. Even better, also eat lots of green vegetables for several days prior to barbecuing.
Barbecue Food Tips
- Marinating can be done in a plastic freezer bag. Give it a good shake to cover everything. And, there is no pan to clean up.
- Foods that take a long time to cook on the barbecue can be started in the oven and put on the grill to finish. But, move food from the oven to the barbecue right away. Partially cooked food allowed to sit for more than a few minutes breeds bacteria.
- Time your meat. Research what you are cooking for the right time. (Steaks 1″ thick should cook no more than 5 or 6 minutes on each side to end up medium rare.)
- Cook on the proper coals – some foods require a very hot fire and some would burn that way. If you place your hand above the grill, you can only keep it there for 2 seconds if the fire is “hot.” You will have to move your hand after 4 seconds over a “medium” fire. And you can leave your hand for 6 seconds over a “low” fire.
- Marinate foods only in the refrigerator. You can set aside a portion of the marinade, before any raw meat is placed in it, for use later in basting or as dipping sauce for cooked meats.
- Don’t add barbecue sauce to food before you barbecue, or they may burn before the meat is done cooking.
- Baste with sauce in the last 5 or 10 minutes for a nice glaze.
- Cook chicken upside down for a juicier bird, since the juices stay in the breast instead of dripping into the fire.
- Don’t use a stick from the yard to roast marshmallows. Using some plants, like oleanders and poison sumac, can be fatal.
- If your hamburgers are usually overdone on the edges and underdone in the center, press your finger down in the center before cooking to make it very thin. You can even poke a hole all the way through the middle.
- Meat that is removed from the refrigerator and allowed to set at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes will be juicier and tastier when cooked.