Grilling tips for maximum health and flavor

It’s that time of year when the canvas covers start to come off, and like great waking beasts, the grills open their metal jaws and wait for delicacies to be placed within. Welcome to barbecue season, Seattle! Here are a few tips for making your grilling adventures the healthiest and tastiest they can be.

If you use a metal bristle brush to clean your grill, you may be putting yourself and your guests in danger, as the tiny bristles can break off and find their way into your food. If ingested, the metal bristles may cause serious harm to your intestine. Also, the metal can chip and scratch any nonstick surfaces on your grill. Look for a nylon bristle brush, a grill-cleaning block (made from recycled glass, it functions like a pumice stone) or a wooden grill scraper.

To make sure your summer cookouts are safe for everyone, stick with the standard advice to “keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.” That means that perishable foods should not be left in the “temperature danger zone” of 41-140 degrees for more than an hour. “Room temperature” is right in the middle of that range, and foods at summer cookouts lend themselves all too well to being left out for hours at a time.

Be mindful of time and temperature by keeping uncooked foods (such as meat, fish and tofu) and prepared foods (such as potato salad, deviled eggs and rice and beans) either in a fridge or very cold cooler. Then, to kill potentially dangerous bacteria, cook those foods to an internal temperature of at least 165°F. After cooking, foods need to be kept hot or immediately cooled down.

Additionally, try not to cook food at temperatures that are too high. Research shows that grilling meats at high heat can cause carcinogens to form, such as heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which have been linked to pancreatic cancer.

For healthier grilling, cook meats for shorter periods of time at lower heats (HCAs begin to form at 325°F), use leaner meats such as chicken and fish and cut or scrape off any charred sections of meat.

Wrapping meats in aluminum foil can reduce exposure to smoke, which is one of the main causes of carcinogen formation in grilled meats. Also, marinating meats beforehand in olive oil and spices, such as thyme, sage, garlic and rosemary, can reduce the formation of carcinogens.

Who says grilling is just for meat? Grilling fruits and vegetables brings out their natural sugars and makes for healthier, lighter fare. Use a vegetable grilling basket or a flat nonstick grill tray for best results. Try the recipe below for a grilled delight.

Grilled Peaches and Halloumi Cheese

Serves 2-4 people. Prep time: 5 minutes. Grill time: 5 minutes


4 ounces halloumi cheese (sliced for grilling)
1 ounce of honey
1 dash vanilla
3 drops water
1 peach (blanched and sliced in wedges)

Mix a dash of vanilla into the honey; add just enough water to thin it slightly. Brush the honey mixture on the halloumi slices.

Grill peach slices. (I use a vegetable grill basket for this.) Grill slices of halloumi next to them, just long enough to soften the cheese and caramelize the honey glaze. (I found a heavy cast iron fry pan also works for this.)

Pile the grilled peach slices (approximately 6 or half a peach) over two slices of grilled halloumi. Enjoy!