Grill It! Rub In Flavor, Reduce Fat
Spring is here and, with it, warmer weather and longer days! One of my favorite things about this time of year is being able to cook - and eat - outside. Cooking on the grill not only cuts down on the mess in the kitchen, it cuts loads of calories and still imparts that smoky, mouth-watering barbecue flavor.
The next time you decide to grill red meat, try a dry or wet rub instead of a high-calorie barbecue sauce or liquid marinade. The rub forms a flavorful crust and is fat-free and intensely flavorful. Even small amounts of herbs and spices deliver a powerful punch of flavor. The great thing about rubs is that you can create your own easily and inexpensively - you probably have everything you need in your spice cupboard right now to at least make a basic blend. Start with a little (very little) coarse salt - sea or kosher are best - and add fresh-ground pepper, onion powder and garlic (minced fresh or powder) and you've got the makings of a simple but tasty beef rub. Add a little cumin and coriander as well if you like.
To make a wet rub, combine your favorite herbs and spices with a mashed garlic or onion paste, which you can purchase or make at home as well. Tarragon and dill go especially well with chicken and fish. The other great thing about rubs is that you can experiment with different mixtures of herbs and spices until you find one or several that you like.
If mixing a dry rub, make extra and store it for up to two months in an airtight container. If you grow your own herbs, such as rosemary, sage or thyme, try chopping one fresh into your spice mixture just prior to coating the meat. Lightly score the meat to help the flavors penetrate, and apply the rub at least 15 minutes (and up to several hours) prior to cooking. The rub creates a crisp, tasty crust while grilling seals in the flavor.
I cover rubs (and a guilt-free BBQ sauce) in more depth in my new book "Flavor First: Cut Calories and Boost Flavor with 75 Delicious, All-Natural Recipes." Check it out for a complete discussion on herbs and spices from around the world, and how to use them to flavor your food without adding calories. You can find more information about the book and waking up your taste buds at FlavorFirst.com
Here are a few tips to help make the most of your outdoor feast:
- Start with lean meat choices or remove as much fat as possible prior to cooking.
- Though boneless skinless chicken breasts are a fabulously lean choice, they're very easy to overcook. To ensure even cooking, place each breast between two sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap, and pound it to an even thickness with the smooth side of a meat tenderizer.
- Salmon, halibut and mahi mahi are great grilling choices as they're thick, firm and easier to turn on the grill. Delicate thinner fish can still be grilled but you'll need to purchase a special grilling basket to help you turn them.
- Avoid cross-contamination by using separate cutting boards, utensils and platters for cooked and raw foods. Refrigerate marinated foods and don't baste with your marinating liquid. You can boil (and cool) the marinating liquid if you want to use it for basting.
- To minimize sticking, be sure the grill is hot before adding your food. Carefully hold your hand just above the grill grate. If you can hold it for one second, the heat is high; two seconds = medium-high, three seconds = medium and five seconds = low.
- Even on a clean, hot grill, very lean foods can stick. But don't use cooking oil spray on a hot grill. Use a vegetable oil-soaked paper towel or cloth. Hold it with a tongs and quickly rub over the grill rack.
- Tongs are an indispensable cooking tool; especially for grilling. Be sure to find a pair that is long enough to reach the back of your grill so that you don't have to hold your hands over the high heat.
- A grill basket works wonders to keep smaller foods from falling through the grill grids. It's also much easier to turn over sliced vegetables or fruits in a basket than turning one by one.
If you're looking for a grill-friendly recipe, try this one
, Spicy Beef Satays from my new book. Enjoy!
For more nutrition and cooking tips, visit Cheryl's website FlavorFirst.com
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