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A healthier barbecue

Monday, July 30, 2007
Pic: Snapper Media

The Food Coach shares some tips on how to make the most out of the great Aussie institution — the barbie.

Everyone loves a barbecue, but there are ways to make barbecued food tastier and better for you. Meat cooked on a barbecue can increase the risk of carcinogenic chemicals forming inside the muscle of the meat. This is most likely when the meat is grilled slowly over a flat plate.

These chemicals are known as heterocyclic amines (HAs). Incomplete combustion and smoke can also cause other carcinogens called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) to form on the surface of the meat. To reduce the risk and still enjoy the many other benefits of outdoor eating:

  • Pre-cook the meat and finish it off on the grill (you'll still get the flavour with less carcinogens on the meat).
  • Sausages can be par-boiled.
  • Always check you have enough fuel for the barbecue.
  • Ensure the plate is as hot as possible.
  • Trim any fat off the meat to prevent it splashing onto the coals and creating naked flames.
  • Avoid cooking directly over coals and flames.
  • Cut off any blackened bit off meat before serving.
  • Grill fish and vegies in foil.
  • Using an electric grill instead of a barbecue is also beneficial, as the harmful compounds are not formed and there is usually a special tray to drain off dripping fat. Although it doesn't impart such a smoky flavour, the food is healthier and just as delicious.

Next time you plan a barbecue, try taking a break from meat and cook seafood or vegetables instead. There are hundreds of options to choose from, including prawns and fish fillets. Sprinkle lime juice, cajun seasoning and a little olive oil over the fish then wrap it in foil to cook on the hotplate for 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of the fillets. Wrapping in foil is healthier, keeps the fish moist and protects it from any meat you may be cooking at the same time.

Vegetarian kebabs are lovely on the barbecue — choose vegetables that hold their shape like capsicum, Spanish onion, button mushrooms and zucchini. Haloumi cheese marinated with these other vegetables threaded through kebab sticks is delicious and guaranteed to be enjoyed by all — meat eaters included. Marinated in fresh herbs, lime and olive oil, they're a safer bet than introducing the family to tofu (which can be tasty too). Most supermarkets today sell vegie burgers which taste great stuffed in wholegrain buns with plenty of salad.

This article is brought to you by www.thefoodcoach.com.au.

In the mood for a barbie? Check out our delicious barbecue recipes.

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