By Jacqueline Gomes, MBA, RDN
Happy Independence Day! There’s nothing like an outdoor barbecue to make you feel like summer is in full swing. Here are some tips to be sure your outdoor party is a success:
Preparing your Grill
- Prep and Clean: Clean your grill before and after use. Heat up your grill on high to clean off any unwanted mess. A clean grill ensures fresher tasting food and fewer carcinogens left on the grates.
- Easy Clean-up Tip: Cover your entire grill area with aluminum foil for easier clean up and to protect your grill.
- Don’t Flatten Burgers, Steaks & Chops With the Spatula: We see it in movies, tv shows and commercials, but flattening these items on the grill only squeezes out the flavorful juice and can cause flare ups!
Marinating meats intensifies the flavors and adds juiciness that everyone craves. But did you know that it is also healthful? Marinating meat prior to grilling can reduce the amount of HCA’s (Heterocyclic amines) that can form on meat exposed to high cooking temperatures. HCA’s have been shown to possibly increase the risk of certain cancers in animal studies. According to the American Institutes of Cancer Research®, studies show that using marinades prior to grilling can reduce the amount of HCAs formed during grilling.
Grilling meats and other proteins
- Choose lean cuts of meat. Prior to grilling, remove skin from poultry and trim fat from beef.
- Grill veggie burgers, turkey and chicken burgers and even tofu for delicious additions to your barbecue!
- Meats should be completely thawed before cooking for proper flavor and even cooking.
Keep food safe
- Marinate meats in the fridge – discard unused marinade.
- Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw meats and vegetables.
- Cook steaks to 145 degrees Fahrenheit, 160 degrees for ground meats (hamburgers) and 165 degrees for chicken.
- Refrigerate foods after two hours or less.
- Don’t forget to wash your hands before, during and after grilling!
Here are 2 Epic Burger Recipes your whole gang will love!
Portobello Mushroom Burger w/ Avocado Sauce
- 2 large portobello mushrooms
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced into ¼ inch rings
- ½ red onion, peeled and sliced into ¼ inch rings
- large handful of fresh spinach
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 avocado, peeled and pitted
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup flat leaf parsley leaves
- ¼ cup cilantro leaves
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- pinch of red chili flakes
- 2 English Muffins or Hamburger buns
- Smoked mozzarella cheese or other favorite cheese
- Prepare an outdoor or indoor grill with cooking spray or a drizzle of olive oil and bring to medium high heat.
- Stem the clean portobello caps and drizzle both sides with olive oil. Season with kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and sprinkle with the oregano. Place on the grill and cook on each side for 10 minutes or until the mushrooms soften and grill marks appear. Add cheese to the mushroom caps if desired and cook until cheese melts.
- Meanwhile, add a drizzle of olive oil to the red bell pepper and red onion and season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat a large non stick skillet on medium heat and cook the red bell pepper and red onion stirring occasionally for 10-15 minutes or until softened and lightly browned. Transfer to a bowl and then add the spinach to the frying pan and cook for 1-2 minutes or until the spinach wilts. Turn off the heat and set aside.
- Spoon the avocado into a blender or food processor with the garlic, olive oil, parsley, cilantro, lemon juice red wine vinegar and chili flakes. Season with a pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Blend for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Warm the English muffins or hamburger buns on grill. Slather the avocado mixture on the bottom bun then layer with the mushroom cap, half of the spinach, red bell pepper and onions. Top with the bun and serve.
Hamburgers with Scallion & Tomato-Tarragon Sauce
- 2 tablespoons EVOO
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 pints cherry tomatoes
- 4 cloves garlic, sliced
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon sherry or balsamic vinegar
- 1 bunch scallions, finely chopped, greens and whites separated
- 1/4 cup tarragon, coarsely chopped
- 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
- 1 rounded tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 8 thin slices fresh mozzarella or mild provolone
- Soft sesame seed buns
- Leaf lettuce
- Heat oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add cherry tomatoes and garlic, shake pan and season with salt and pepper. Cover and shake pan occasionally until tomatoes begin to burst. Uncover and mash tomatoes; let thicken. Add vinegar, scallion greens and tarragon, and remove from heat.
- Preheat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat.
- Combine meat with scallion whites, salt, pepper, Dijon and drizzle of olive oil. Form four patties that are thinner at the center for even cooking. Cook patties 8 minutes turning once. Top with cheese in last minute or so, cover with foil tent to melt.
- Place lettuce, a burger patty and some burst tomato sauce on roll bottoms and set tops in place.