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Grilling is one of the most quintessential summertime activities. On a hot afternoon, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as enjoying a barbequed meal with friends and family.
Organizing a grilling party, however, requires a bit of foresight and planning. By thinking ahead, however, you can ensure that your barbeque will be healthy and enjoyable for all.
Consider following these simple suggestions for making your next grilling get-together your best one yet!
Stick to Simple, Healthy & Homemade Options
Grilling doesn’t have to involve high-fat sausages and mayonnaise-drenched salads! Make your barbeque healthier and more flavorful by sticking to simple, natural options. Pick protein sources like fish and lean poultry. If you’d prefer pork or beef, stick to lower-fat cuts of meat. Instead of relying on fat for flavor, create flavorful marinades for your meats! Marinating actually does more than just flavor your dishes; studies have shown that marinating meats before grilling can actually reduce the formation of carcinogenic amines in the meat by 90-99%! Instead of heavily salting your meat, create a spice blend of your choice. Herbs and spices such as garlic, pepper, cumin, paprika, chili, and rosemary are just a few of the many options for enhancing the flavor of your meats.
Instead of purchasing dishes like potato salad and coleslaw at the store, make healthier versions of these favorites at home. Fill up on grilled fruits and vegetables, too! Bell peppers, corn, mushrooms, zucchini, asparagus, and avocados are a few popular choices. The sugars in fruits naturally caramelize when grilled, making them especially delicious. Throw a few slices of seasonal fruit, like nectarines or pineapple, on the grill for a sweet and healthy dessert option.
Though you can certainly indulge in a few “guilty pleasure” treats at your cookout, making the majority of your options simple and healthy will leave you and your guests feeling comfortably full and satisfied without the pain of bloating and a sugar rush!
Pre-Portion Your Dishes
Traditionally, many of us have set up our barbeques buffet-style. Though guests serving themselves can seem like a convenient option, there are a few downsides to this serving style. Some dishes may become too hot in the sun and may attract flies; guests may also find themselves feeling sick from over-indulging in heavier options, such as fatty meats.
Instead of allowing your food to get the better of you and your guests, portion things out before your get-together. Take larger cuts of meat and portion them out into the appropriate serving sizes. Raw cuts of red meat and poultry should weigh roughly 150 grams per person (approximately 5 ounces); portions of fish may be up to 200 grams (approximately 7 ounces). Portion out side dishes, like pasta salads and baked beans, in small, sealed canning jars. In this way, guests can easily grab ready-made portions of dishes. Portioning out your dishes will also ensure that insects cannot get into your food and will prevent guests from accidentally mixing up serving utensils when serving themselves.
If you plan on enjoying ice cream in the evening, freezing pre-portioned servings is a great way to prevent this sweet treat from melting while you serve it! Instead of trying to scoop ice cream in the heat, simply scoop ice cream into muffin liners and set them in your freezer a day or two in advance. When you’re ready for dessert, simply serve your pre-portioned scoops! Taking the time to portion out your dishes will make things easier and more efficient during your barbeque. With less overeating, your party will be a healthier one, too!
Keep it Clean & Safe
When it comes to grilling, how you choose to grill your food matters. Gas grilling burns cleaner, for instance, and is better for the environment than charcoal. Charcoal, however, lends a smokier taste to grilled foods, which many people prefer. If you opt for charcoal, consider using an additive-free charcoal option, and avoid lighter fluid. Conventional briquettes and lighter fluid often contain chemicals and additives that may release unhealthy compounds into the air.
Before grilling, make sure to use a wire grill brush to clean your grill rack. Scrape debris off of your grill after you’re finished, too. To prevent lean meats from sticking to your grill, use tongs and a paper towel to apply a layer of cooking oil to your grill rack.
For a successful barbeque, grilling temperature matters. Pre-heat your grill for 15-25 minutes before cooking. Set your grill to 400-450° F (200-230°C) for high heat, 350-400°F (175-200°C) for medium-high heat, 300-350°F (150-175°C) for medium heat, and 250-300°F (120-175°C) for low heat. A properly-heated grill will sear your meat well, enhancing its flavor through the caramelization process. If possible, check internal temperatures by using an instant-read thermometer.
Sometimes, flare-ups happen. When your meat is licked by flames, however, it can negatively impact taste. Carcinogenic hydrocarbons also form in food that is touched by flames. To reduce flare-ups from occurring, choose lean cuts of meat and trim excess skin and fat off of your cuts of meat. Keep a spray bottle handy to douse flare-ups, should they occur.
By setting up the proper grilling environment, you can ensure that your meats will be cooked well and in the way that you desire.
Protect Your Guests
Though most of us enjoy soaking up the sun in the summer, it’s important to remember to stay safe, particularly on high-heat days. Make sure your guests can stay well-hydrated; offer chilled water; consider providing fruit-infused water for those who would prefer a flavored option. Though carbonated, alcoholic, and caffeine-containing beverages certainly have their place at a barbeque, it’s important to remember that these drinks can all lead to dehydration. Water is always the best option!If the temperature is particularly high, make sure there are ways for your guests to cool down. Allow them to cool off indoors or in shady spots under trees, umbrellas, or outdoor tents. Set bug spray and sunscreen out so that your guests can use them as needed. By ensuring that your guests remains cool, hydrated, and comfortable, your party will remain safe and enjoyable for all.
Ensure Entertainment Options
When you’re not eating, your guests are going to want something to do! In addition to simply relaxing and chatting, offer up a number of simple recreation options for your guests to indulge in. Old-fashioned card games and a few simple board games can be great ways to enjoy a technology-free afternoon or evening. If the weather isn’t oppressively hot, consider playing lawn games as well. Frisbee, soccer, volleyball, badminton, bocce ball, and cornhole bean-bag tossing are just a few ways you and your guests can pass the time. Have fun and play like kids, even if there aren’t any children around! Make your barbeque a time to really relax and have fun.
Double-Check Your Checklists
Before officially planning your barbeque, it’s a good idea to make sure you have everything that you need. Make sure you have gas or charcoal, tongs, spatulas, grilling forks, gloves, oil, an apron, and aluminum foil. Have non-alcoholic and, if desired, alcoholic beverages available, as well as ice, a cooler, a bottle opener, and a corkscrew. Make sure you have enough meats, side dishes, and desserts prepared, as well as any condiments you might want. Check to see if you have enough plates and cups, napkins, and other dining essentials for your guests. Bring out the bug spray and sunscreen and make sure your guests have places to relax in the shade. Get out some games, and let the party begin!
Enjoying a big summer barbeque doesn’t have to be overwhelming! By preparing a few dishes in advance and ensuring that you have all of the essentials you need, you can host a fun get-together without any additional stress or worry.
Before the cooler months arrive, plan at least one great grilling party for the summer! You’re sure to have a fun and memorable time.
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