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Turn up Your Grill Game

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Memorial Day is thought of as the unofficial start of summer and that means more food cooked on the grill.  After a year of social distancing, most of us can’t wait to get together with our friends and families to share a meal over this long holiday weekend. Here are some tips to keep in mind before you spark up that grill along with some sweet recipes to take your grill game next level.

  1. Start with a clean grill. This sounds like a no brainer, but if there is any residue or charred build up on the grill this can stick to your food and cause the food to taste burnt. Before turning on the grill, use a brush with wire bristles to clean the grates and then wipe them down with a clean cloth.  This will help your food taste better and help avoid flare ups when grilling.
  2. Allow your grill to heat up before cooking by preheating it for 15 minutes. This will help you achieve a quick sear on the outside of your protein and keep it juicy on the inside.  For temperature reference:
  • High 400-450 F
  • Medium, high: 350-400 F
  • Medium: 300-350 F
  • Low: 250-300 F
  1. Use safe food handling practice. Keep raw meat, protein and fish separate from vegetables and other food.  Wash your hands before and after handling raw meat.  Use a thermometer to check the internal temperature of animal protein.  Proper temperature for safe food according to the Massachusetts Department of Health is as follows:
  • Ground meat 160 F
  • Steak, Veal, Lamb or Pork: Minimum temp 145 F, Medium 160 F, Well done 170 F
  • Chicken 165 F
  • Fish or Shellfish 145 F
  1. Build a better burger. Choose quality grass fed beef for making hamburgers.  Grass fed meat is high in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and a good source of omega 3 fatty acids; two fats that are important for brain health and heart health. 
  2. Place cooked foods on clean plates after cooking. Do not reuse the same plates the raw meat was sitting on prior to cooking.
  3. After cooking meat, resist the temptation to cut into it, allow it to rest for 5 minutes. Tent the meat loosely with foil while you wait.  Cutting into meat too early will cause the juices to run out causing the meat to be dry. 
  4. Think outside the box for side dishes, grill some vegetables. Grilling brings out the natural sweetness of vegetables and it’s a great way to get your family to eat more of them. Even better, they’re easy to make and delicious too.  Thread kabobs with sliced zucchini, summer squash, carrots, eggplant, and colorful bell peppers brush with olive oil (or you can marinate them in your favorite dressing in advance) then grill over medium high heat until tender and light golden brown.  Corn on the cob and portabella mushroom caps are two other grill favorites!
  5. Serve grilled fruit for dessert. Grilling caramelizes the natural sugar in fruit, making it tender and sweet.  Sliced pineapple, peaches, nectarines, melons, strawberries, pears and bananas lend themselves perfectly to the grill.  Experiment with your favorite fruit.  Here are three easy and delicious recipes to get you started:

Grilled Bananas

  • 4 bananas (use firm, slightly ripe bananas. Banana will be grilled in the peel).
  • Canola oil                         
  • Optional toppings: melted dark chocolate, melted peanut butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, chopped nuts, whipped cream, yogurt, pure maple syrup

With peel on, slice banana length-wise, leaving two long pieces for each banana.  Keep peel on and brush banana with neutral flavored oil such as canola, or grapeseed oil. 

Place banana on grill, cut side down and cook over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes. Flip banana over to the peel side and grill for one minute more. Banana will be done when the flesh pulls away slightly from the peel. 

Place grilled bananas on a plate, remove from peel and serve sprinkled with cinnamon, brown sugar and/or nutmeg.  Other great toppings include chopped nuts or melted dark chocolate drizzled over each banana slice, or try drizzling each banana with melted peanut butter, whipped cream, yogurt, or pure maple syrup 

Grilled Fruit Kabobs

  • Pineapple
  • Cantaloupe
  • Banana
  • Watermelon
  • Grapes
  • Strawberries
  • Canola oil
  • Pure maple syrup, optional
  • Vanilla or plain yogurt

Cut fruit into 2 inch pieces, place fruit chunks onto skewers brush with neutral flavored oil, such as canola oil. Grill over medium high heat approximately 3-4 minutes until grill marks form.  Remove from grill and drizzle with maple syrup if desired and serve with yogurt for dipping

Grilled Peaches with Yogurt

  • 4 ripe peaches
  • Canola oil
  • Cinnamon, optional

Halve peaches, slicing around the fruit like an avocado and remove pit.  Brush cut side lightly with oil and sprinkle with cinnamon, if using.  Grill peach face down over medium high heat for 5 minutes, turn peach over and grill other side for another 5 minutes until peach starts to wrinkle slightly.  Remove from grill and top with vanilla yogurt in the center of peach.

Content submitted by Janyce Gately, MS, RD, LDN, CHC