They used to say that grilled food was bad for you. Something about the carcinogens in flame-burned, smoke-cloaked meat. Not that it stopped anyone from salivating when they smelled it and smacking their lips when they ate it.
In an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution - the newspaper in a place where they know a few things about barbecue - reporter Carolyn O'Neil writes the following:
Grilling is considered a healthy cooking technique because excess fats drip off meats, lowering the total fat and calorie content. The fire concentrates flavors and adds textural contrast, so small portions are satisfying and the high heat caramelizes natural sugars in fruits and vegetables, making them taste a bit sweeter.
Registered dietitian Katie Sullivan Morford, the author of the blog Mom's Kitchen Handbook, says there's some concern about carcinogens in grilled meats, "The key is to avoid burning and charring," she said. "Research has found that using marinades as well as serving meat with antioxidant-rich vegetables helps offset the damage."
Take these precautions and grilling can be one of the tastiest and healthiest ways to cook.
Fire up the Weber, health food fans! Well, maybe not. Reading the above it appears that the health benefits only accrue if you do NOT burn the meat. What's the point of that?
In her article, O'Neil focuses on how more eateries are specializing in grilled food, including things you may not expect. Back to the J-C article:
In restaurant kitchens this year, everything from wagyu beef to watermelon is hitting the grill.
"Grilling is one of the most popular preparation methods in restaurants," said registered dietitian Joy Dubost of the National Restaurant Association, "partly because of its appeal to health-conscious consumers and its impact on enhancing the flavor of food items."
Ordering a petit filet may seem like the smartest choice for weight-conscious diners, but chef Dave Zino of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association suggests a new twist on portion control.
"Why not order a larger steak with 'planned overs' in mind?" Zino said.
"Restaurant steaks are high-quality and fired at temps consumer grills can't reach, so are more flavorful."
Considering entree price per ounce, larger cuts are often more economical. Ask the server to box up the portion you want to take home, and the next day you can make a steak salad or sandwich for lunch. (Tip: Enjoy leftover grilled meats cold because reheating can create an undesirable "warmed-over flavor" and make them less tender.)