Grilling may be synonymous with burgers and barbecue, but there are a surprising number of healthy foods that also benefit from a little flame grilling. The menu includes fish, pizza, tofu, fresh vegetables and fruits – even salad.
Seventy percent of American households have a grill or smoker, and 57 percent of those who do say they like to grill for flavor, according to a 2022 Hearth, Patio, and Grilling Association survey. The survey also found that more people grill throughout the year, and for less traditional occasions, including brunch.
It makes sense, because eating takeout outdoors can have a number of benefits, including less mess — and fewer people — crowding the cooking area, and the chance to enjoy the nice weather instead of being stuck in a hot kitchen.
Grilling is also one of the fastest and healthiest ways to cook a meal, reports the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). This may be due in part to the fact that when you grill meat, excess fat melts in the high heat and drips down the grate, according to Beaumont Health.
However, you need to be careful, because there is evidence that grilled food can be unhealthy if overcooked. Roasting meat has been shown to produce carcinogens known as heterocyclic aminos (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PHAs), according to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR).
One simple way to reduce this risk and reduce harmful carcinogens from forming, AICR advises, is to soak meat, poultry or seafood for at least 30 minutes before placing them on the grill. A simple marinade of an acid like lemon juice, oil, and herbs is enough to act as a protective barrier against HCAs and may reduce HCA formation by nearly 90 percent, according to previous research. Another method is to stick to grilling fruits and vegetables, which the National Institute of Health (NIH) states don’t form HCAs in the same amounts as meat. You get a similar smoky flavor and all the other benefits of grilling without the dangerous side effects.
Here are nine healthy barbecue recipes to get you started.