For most of us, the idea of grilling runs hand-in-hand with warm, lazy summer weekends, picnics, parks, watermelon slices, fudge brownies and lemonade.
Very rarely do we think about it as a way to whip up healthy, tasty dishes when we’re in a rush.
But in reality, that’s exactly what it can be!
Grilling makes dinners quick and easy when we get home from work and can make eating healthy more doable (hello shish-kabobs!). Plus, foods hot off the grill have their own special taste, that smoky goodness that permeates through every bite can make healthy eating even more enjoyable.
Here are 8 time-saving grilling tips to help you use the grill efficiently and make quick, healthy meals that taste delicious.
1. Clean your grill ahead of time.
Heat it up, then scrub it with a grill brush before AND after cooking food.
Extra Time-Saver Tip:
It’s been sitting around, gathering who-knows-what all winter long, so cleaning your grill is especially important before firing it for your first summer cooking. One good scrub the weekend before you plan on using it makes before-dinner scrubs much quicker.
2. Marinating is your friend.
It gives food that extra punch of flavor.
Place lean meats in a bag and put them in the fridge before leaving for work for the day. When you get home, they’re all set and ready for you to pop out and toss on the grill.
3. Know when to flip.
Use the tongs to give meat a gentle tug. When it comes loose easily, it’s ready to be flipped. For vegetables, flip every few minutes until tender.
As soon as you put your meats and/or veggies on the grill, head back in the house and get to prepping the side dishes or setting the table, keeping a close eye on the clock. When a few minutes has passed, pop back outside to test the meat to see if it’s ready to be flipped. If you’re cooking veggies, flip them right then and there, and then head back inside to maximize time-use.
4. Use lean, thin-cut protein.
Lean protein has less fat, which reduces the amount of dripping you get off the grill and reduces flare-ups, those pesky things that char meat and can build up carcinogens. (Carcinogens are substances capable of causing cancers. Not grilling properly has been linked to carcinogen build-up.)
When shopping, always look for thin-cut meats (pork chops, chicken, fish) with as little fat as possible. The exception is steak, mainly just because most steaks are better when they’re thick and juicy, but do trim the fat off before slapping them on the grill.
5. Beware of the burger.
Burgers are tricky. They need to be cooked to 160 degrees to ensure all the E. Coli bacteria is killed, which is best done by flipping the burger patty every 30-60 seconds.
Ok, so you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to flip the patty every 30 seconds. You can just slap them on, but to minimize the leftover E. Coli, use lean patties…and always use a meat thermometer to make sure they’re fully cooked. And to make sure the burger patties are level when they cook (who wants the toppings all falling off?!), press your thumb in the middle of the meat before popping them on the grill to make a small indentation. This will help the meat, which can bubble up during grilling, cook evenly.
6. Prep kabobs smart.
Make sure ingredients are touching (but not crammed) and that onions are always placed directly over the meat. That’s how the juices and flavors flow together nicely.
Soak bamboo sticks ahead of time and then put them in a bag the freezer. When you’re ready to use them, grab as many out as you need so you’re not soaking them the day you’re cooking.
7. Steaks require finesse and patience.
Once you’re finished marinating a steak, pat it dry before you start grilling.
Unlike burgers, steaks should be flipped as little as possible for the juiciest outcome. After pulling steaks off, let them rest for a bit so the flavors can seep in.
8. Vegetables are a whole different ballgame.
Most vegetables don’t require marinating, but they do taste best when brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with garlic salt or fresh herbs.
Cut up veggies the day before so that they’re ready to go when you’re ready to grill them. Also keep this handy AllRecipes guide bookmarked on your computer for quick reference.
Did we miss one of your best time-saving tips? Tell us about your favorite grilling tricks in the comment below!
Author: Caitlin H
Diet-to-Go Community Manager
Caitlin is the Diet-to-Go community manager and an avid runner. She is passionate about engaging with others online and maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle. She believes moderation is key, and people will have the most weight loss success if they engage in common-sense healthy eating and fitness.