Is BBQ Healthy? Not All BBQ is Created Equal
If you are trying to make sure that you keep your diet in check this coming holiday weekend, you are probably asking yourself; “Is BBQ Healthy?” Be sure to check out a related article: Surviving Summer Parties.
The quick answer: That Depends!
The term “BBQ” means different things to different people. For me the term is synonymous with grilling. However, for many others grilling and BBQ are to NEVER be confused with one another. In fact, many people misuse the term BBQ. It has come to be applied to anything cooked on a grill (*** ME/GUILTY ***), or even in the oven if a spicy tomato based sauce is applied. BBQ is actually not a dish, or a cooking device, it is a method of cooking.
So Which Is It?
There is a distinct difference between grilling and BBQing, however. Grilling is done over the direct heat of a fire and this is my preferred method of cooking due to time constraints and equipment available to me. The object is to sear the outside and concentrate the juices on the inside. The grilled flavor is caused by the searing, or browning, of the outside of the food. The process is similar to that which forms the brown crust on a loaf of baked bread. Grilling is a healthful method of cooking because additional oils or fats are seldom used, and as the food cooks the fat renders out and drips through the cooking grate.
BBQ on the other hand is the process of cooking meat at low temperatures for long periods of time. The best definition I have seen comes from Chris Schlesinger, owner and chef of The East Coast Grill restaurant in Cambridge, MA.
Barbecue Defined: “A process whereby a large cut of tough meat is cooked by the smoke of a hardwood fire at low temperatures (210 degrees or less) for a long period of time, with doneness determined by the meat’s tenderness.” – Chris Schlesinger, Foreword to Smoke and Spice
What Is BBQ Healthy?
Regardless of how you define BBQ, generally speaking, the preparation and method of how the meat is cooked doesn’t have much impact on it’s health value. Now, if you smother it in a sugary sauce or anything that contains high-fructose corn syrup than you kind of defeat the purpose…
There are ALWAYS healthy alternatives to traditional BBQ dishes that can be healthy. The key is to make sure that you are aren’t adding all of the extras that wipe out the majority of the nutritional value.
Meats – choose leaner cuts of meat
- Try to stick with fish, chicken or turkey.
- If going with beef, go for the sirloin cuts, top round or flank, which tend to be naturally leaner.
- If you are looking for some adventure, try venison or bison, very tasty with much less fat.
- Avoid processed meat (Ham, Brats, Sausage, etc..) if possible.
- Ensure that you aren’t burning the meats, besides the not-so-appetizing taste, Carcinogenic compounds (heterocyclic amines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) form when meat is cooked at high temps or over a direct flame.
Vegetables – lots of options here!
Marinades – Stick with homemade
- Honey, lemon, garlic or onion are great foundations to start with.
- Steer clear of any high-fructose corn syrup based products.
Here are some links where you can find some recipes to serve up at your next BBQ.
So, is BBQ healthy?
If you utilize some of the recipes found above and follow the advice provide, BBQ can be quite healthy and taste great!
There are plenty of options to make sure you are throwing your nutrition out the window this holiday weekend. Use some of the tips and ideas from above to serve up not only some tasty BBQ choices, but healthy ones to boot. Have a great holiday weekend and enjoy the time with your friends and family. Hopefully this has given you some insight into ways that you can answer that question: Is BBQ Healthy?
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