Grilling is an excellent, low-fat cooking method for a variety of healthful foods—from seafood and chicken to vegetables and even fruit. Maximize the health-and-nutrition potential of your barbecue with three simple techniques—searing, fruit-and-veggie grilling, and butterflying. (Before turning on that grill, make sure you're fully equipped with these Must-Have Grilling Tools to Get Fired Up About).
Technique 1: Searing
Searing is when you cook the outside of meat, fish, or poultry over very hot heat, and then finish cooking by another method. Searing on the grill creates a crisp, flavorful exterior and moist, wonderful interior, locking in flavor without adding fat.
First, food is placed on the hottest part of the grill (over "direct" heat) for 2-3 minutes; the hot grate sears the meat, creating a crisp, caramelized texture and those fabulous, chef-quality grill marks. Then the seared food is moved to a cooler part of the grill (over "indirect" heat) with the lid closed to complete cooking. The heat circulates around the food—similar to roasting—so there's no need for flipping.
1. Place chicken on the hottest part of the grill and cook for 2 minutes. Turn the chicken 45 degrees, without flipping, and cook for another 2 minutes (this produces crosshatch grill marks).
2. Flip and repeat on the other side.
3. If the food needs further cooking, move it to a cooler spot on the grill and close the lid. Very thin pieces of meat, fish, and poultry will cook through in searing steps 1 and 2 and may not need further cooking. (Once you've cooked up a delicious burger, make it even healthier with these 6 Paleo-Friendly Ideas for Veggie-Based Buns).
Technique 2: Grilling fruit
A hot grill caramelizes fruit, bringing out its natural sweetness while softening the flesh. Since the flesh is tender, fruit needs only a few minutes per side. Firm fruits like apples, pears, and pineapple are traditionally grilled, but softer fruits like peaches, plums, nectarines, mangos, and papaya also work well. And once you get the below steps down pat, choose from one of these Fruit-Centric Grill Recipes for a Sweeter Cookout.
1. Oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, and bananas can be grilled with their skins on. Leaving the skin (or peel) intact helps fruit maintain its structural integrity as it cooks.
2. To cook on direct heat: Halve and core apples and pears; halve and pit peaches, nectarines, mangos and plums; halve and seed papayas lengthwise; halve bananas lengthwise; and cut oranges, tangerines and grapefruit into 1-inch thick slices.
3. Brush the cut side of all fruits with olive or vegetable oil (the fresh flavor of olive oil pairs beautifully with fruit) or spray with non-stick cooking spray and place directly on hot grill.
4. Grill fruit for 2-3 minutes per side, until tender and golden brown.
Technique 3: Butterflying and skewering
Butterflying is a technique that opens up thick pieces of meat, shellfish, and poultry so the meat cooks more quickly and evenly, and the shrimp is kept from curling up. Skewering shrimp, meat, or vegetables is a timesaver because you won't have to flip each piece individually.
1. To butterfly, lay a peeled shrimp on its side and, using a sharp knife, make a slice from about 1/4 inch from the tail through the inside curl, almost through to the other side but without cutting the shrimp in half.
2. With your fingers, open the shrimp and flatten it with the palm of your hand so it lies almost flat.
3. Skewer butterflied shrimp sideways, rather than lengthwise, so the skewer runs from one side of the butterfly to the other. When using wooden skewers, soak them in warm water for 30 minutes before using to prevent scorching.
4. Place shrimp on a hot grill for 2-3 minutes and turn the skewer over. Cook 2-3 more minutes until shrimp is bright pink and cooked through.