Prairie Fare: Grill foods safely to avoid trips to ER
“What are you grilling for me on Father’s Day?” my husband asked with a smirk.
Ever since I nearly lost my eyebrows thanks to our antique gas grill, I have steered clear of the grilling process. I wasn’t expecting the grill to shoot 3-foot flames upon ignition.
Needless to say, I jumped backward quickly. Very quickly.
Fortunately, no personal injury or hair loss occurred in the process. However, I’m a little leery of gas grills, especially old ones that haven’t been used for a while.
As a result of my incident, I splurged on a Father’s Day gift a couple of years ago. I bought my husband a large kamado-style grill that uses charcoal. It holds heat for a long time and allows for even cooking by maintaining its temperature.
I think my husband enjoys being the family grill master, and I am fine with that. He has “claimed” the grill as his domain, so I might have to wrestle him for the grilling tongs.
Most people enjoy the delicious aroma of grilling food cooked in the relaxed outdoor atmosphere. Unfortunately, grilling results in trips to the emergency room every year.
Now that summer is in full swing and grills are in heavy use, let’s review some grilling safety tips.
We periodically hear about home fires that start when the grill is set up too close to a house or balcony railing. Have a healthy respect for grills. Begin by picking a safe area. Place the grill on a well-ventilated, flat, level surface away from overhangs, deck railings and shrubbery.
Do not set up a barbecue grill indoors, such as in a closed garage on a rainy day. Charcoal produces carbon dioxide, which is colorless, odorless and potentially fatal.
If you are using charcoal, be sure to handle it safely, and never add lighter fluid directly to hot coals. When putting out the fire, cover the grill and close the vents, allowing the coals to cool completely for at least 48 hours, and dispose of them in a noncombustible container.
Never leave a lit grill unattended and always keep a fire extinguisher close at hand. Be sure to keep children and pets away from hot grills and coals. Use long-handled tongs and flame-retardant mitts to protect your hands.
Grilling safety also includes safe food handling. For example, remember to bring a clean container to retrieve your cooked food instead of reusing the container with meat juices.
Marinating meat not only adds flavor and potentially improves tenderness, but it may improve the health aspects. According to research conducted at Kansas State University, marinating meat cuts down the possibility of the meat forming heterocyclic amines. Some research has linked heterocyclic amines to various types of cancer.
Kansas State University researchers marinated steaks in mixtures of oil, vinegar, herbs and spices. In the marinated meat, the potentially carcinogenic compounds were decreased by up to 88 percent. The marinade either provided a protective barrier or acted as an antioxidant, according to the researchers.
In a study reported in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers found that marinating pork chops in dark ale beer cut the formation of the heterocyclic amines by half, compared with unmarinated meat.
When marinating meat, be sure to place the food in the refrigerator and use about one-fourth cup of marinade per pound of meat. Allow 15 minutes to two hours for the marinating process. If you want to serve some of the marinade with the cooked meat, be sure to reserve part of it in a separate container from the raw meat.
When cooking meat on a grill, slow down a little. Use a low flame and keep charring to a minimum. Add some veggies and fruits to the grill, too.
Here’s one of the tasty marinade recipes in “Now Serving: Lean Beef” (available at www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/yf/foods/fn711.pdf). The publication also features preparation tips for value cuts of beef.
½ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground ginger
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
Combine all ingredients and mix well.
This provides enough marinade for about 2 pounds of meat such as pork, chicken or beef. The nutritional value (calories, fat, etc.) will vary with the type of meat you choose.