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7 Common Grilling Mistakes To Avoid

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Article by Dr. Layla Sade

Photography by Layla Sade

When it comes to healthy cooking, grilling is among the healthiest ways to do it. That’s because, by comparison to other methods, it often requires less oil. The only problem is that if you make one of the most common grilling mistakes, you may actually be depleting the nutrient level of the foods you’re so proud of yourself for preparing and consuming.

Mistake #1: Not regularly cleaning your grill

A dirty grill with built up grease and dirt is not only a dangerous fire hazard, but will negatively affect the flavor of your food. Properly cleaning your grill ensures that you kill off mold and bacteria that could negatively affect the nutrition of your food and that will not be removed through high heat or autoclean functions.

Mistake #2: Not trimming excess fat

As flavorful as fats can be, fats cooked at high temperatures can raise the amount of AGEs (advanced glycation end products). High levels of AGEs trigger an inflammatory response and have been linked to weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease. We recommend to trim excess fats from meat before grilling.

Mistake #3: Grilling on excessively high heat

Grilling on high heat might seem like a good idea given how it leads to crispy, crunchy veggies and meats, but it’s anything but nutritious. Charring and burning veggies depletes nutrients and exposes them to benzopyrene, a chemical found in cigarettes. If it is possible, use a high heat in the beginning until they develop a crust and lower the temperature after to finish the cooking process on the inside.

Mistake #4: Oiling grill grates instead of food

While oiling a baking sheet before oven use is often recommended, the same is not true of grilling surfaces. Oil on hot grates will smoke and carbonize, giving your food an unpleasant taste. That said, skipping oil on veggies can easily dry them out and lead to a loss of flavor. To avoid such, lightly brushing a layer of oil over the food or tossing them together in a bowl before grilling.

Mistake #5: Opting for well-done

There are many memes and jokes about people who ask for well-done burgers and steaks. A Harvard study found that people who prefer their meats well done have a 15 percent increased risk of high blood pressure compared to people who choose medium/medium-rare. Cooking meat at high temperatures to burn and blacken can increase oxidative stress, inflammation, and insulin resistance in your body. Additionally, you can lose up to 40 percent of B vitamins and minerals by overcooking meats.

Mistake #6: Adding sugary glazes

Almost everyone loves BBQ sauce, but many people grill with it in the wrong fashion. Sauces with high sugar content such as barbecue sauce or balsamic glaze will burn under the high heat temperatures and should be added at the end of the cooking process, or you can also serve sauces on the side for dipping. Don’t use the same sauce you used as a marinade, though, as reusing raw meat marinade as a sauce after cooking can spread harmful bacteria. If you intend on using marinade as sauce make sure to boil it before using, which will kill the bacteria and the chance of foodborne illness.

Mistake #7: Only using direct heat

There’s a time and a place for grilling directly over an open flame or charcoal. Direct heat is good for foods that cook quickly–burgers, vegetables, seafood, thin steaks, etc. Indirect heat should be used for foods that take longer than 20 minutes to cook—whole chicken, brisket, ribs, etc.

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