August 2017
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Healthy Grilling & Freezing Tips

Grilling is one of the healthiest forms of cooking and a summertime staple. Backyard burgers, tasty T-bones and crispy corn on the cob are just a few of the delicious things that can be cooked on the grill. But research has shown that, if done improperly, the food can become charred. Charred food can be chock-full of cancer-causing compounds called carcinogens. Here are six strategies for grilling the healthier way.

Timely flipping. Too much flipping can tear the meat and make it dry. Don’t force it! When the food gives with a gentle tug, it’s ready to flip.

Proper portions. Cubing or slicing the meat into smaller portions can speed up cook time. Or try quick-cooking options such as shrimp or fish.

Less is more. Foods that cook faster are less likely to char. Also, keep track of the internal temperature. Avoid cooking meats past their temperature goal: 165 degrees for poultry, 155 degrees for pork and ground red meats, and 145 degrees for steaks and chops.

Avoid flare-ups. Never put water on a grease fire. If you have a flare-up, simply move the food to a cooler part of the grill or set it aside while the fire dies down.

Try something different. Grilling isn’t just for meat, you know. A variety of foods including fruits, vegetables and breads can also be deliciously grilled. Grilled vegetables are great in the summer as well as baking them in the oven. They are healthier and sweeter tasting.

Keep it clean. Cleaning the grill rack regularly can prevent burned bits of food from causing future flare-ups.

Keep food safety in mind, too. Make sure you use a different plate to place your cooked meat on than the one that you brought the raw meat to the grill on. Also, if you are using a sauce to baste with, don’t use the same brush on the raw meat and the cooked meat. Make sure you have two different brushes and bowls of sauce for cooking and serving to prevent cross contamination.

 

How to Prevent Freezing Fiascos

Freezing is a safe and effective way to preserve foods. However, if not done properly, it can lead to ruin and waste: freezer burn, dehydration, bad flavors and odors. But these things can be prevented by following some simple tips.

Choose the right container. All containers are not equal. Choose the container that best fits the product. For example, liquids such as soups and beverages can be stored in quart-sized plastic storage bags. After they’re frozen, they’re stackable!

Function over fab. Sure those little round bowls with the polka-dot lids are cute, but they’re not practical for freezer storage. Square, flat, stackable containers are ideal for the freezer; round containers just waste space.

Banish the burn. Wrap foods correctly in materials designed specifically for freezer storage such as coated freezer paper, double-seal zip top bags and rigid plastic containers with airtight lids. These will keep the air out. Vacuum sealing is a great way to prevent freezer burn and meats will last much longer in the freezer this way, too.

Say no to mush. Fruits and vegetables will always thaw softer than they were before freezing because freezing changes the cell structure. With vegetables, if you blanch them in hot water for about three to five minutes and then plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking, they will not turn as mushy. To fast-freeze foods such as peaches, berries, okra, squash, peas, green beans, etc., spread them out on a baking sheet for about an hour and then bag them for the freezer. There will be much less mush or softness when you thaw them. Make sure your freezer is freezing at zero, too, by checking with an appliance thermometer.

Play it safe. If the power goes out, the food in a full freezer should remain safe for 48 hours. If only half full, you have 24 hours, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Adapted from Cooking Light, June 2010.

Angela Treadaway is a Regional Extension Agent in Food Safety. For any questions on food safety or preparation of vegetables, contact her at 205-410-3696 or your local county Extension office.