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Grilling does not have to end when summer ends

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Ellen Owens, director for the Pasquotank Cooperative Extension Center, serves up Grilled Lemon and Rosemary Chicken along with Grilled Brussels Sprouts.

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By Ellen Owens
Pasquotank Cooperative Extension

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Grilling outdoors during summer months is a favorite pastime for many families, but grilling doesn’t have to cease when summer ends. Grilling during the fall months or participating in events such as tailgating at your favorite sporting event are also favorite pastimes. Here are a few things you may want to consider when grilling out with your family:

Marinating: The verb "marinate" means to steep food in a marinade. A marinade is a savory acidic sauce in which a food is soaked to enrich its flavor or to tenderize it. Originally, marinades were really just salt water, which helped to preserve the meat or fish, and of course, imparted flavor though the salt. Sometimes, sea water was used, or aqua marina. It was sea water that led to the word marinade, which derives ultimately from the Latin word for the sea, mare. In modern times, a marinade consists of a cooking oil, an acid (vinegar, lemon juice, wine), and spices. As the food stands in the mixture, the acid and the oil impart the savory flavors of the spices to the food. The acid also has a tenderizing action.

Marinades for meat are easy to make from ingredients you probably already have. Always include an acid, a seasoning or mix of seasonings that suit your taste, and an oil. For those who are watching their salt intake, there are many low salt or salt free marinades that will bring out the flavors in food, using herbs and spices other than salt. Some delicious examples include:

1. Lemon Soy Ginger Marinade: ½ cup olive oil, ½ cup fresh lemon juice, ½ cup low-sodium soy sauce, 1 Tablespoon garlic powder, and 1 Tablespoon minced ginger.

2. Balsamic Dijon Vinaigrette: ½ cup olive oil, ½ cup balsamic vinegar, 1 ½ tablespoons Dijon mustard.

3. Sherry Vinaigrette: ½ cup sherry vinegar, 3 teaspoons Dijon mustard, ¾ cup olive oil.

Food Safety: Sauces and marinades used on raw meat or poultry should never be reused on cooked foods. Reused marinade could potentially harbor bacteria that can make people sick. Recycling the marinade as a dipping sauce after the food has been cooked is a bad idea if it has not been boiled first. You can always reserve some of the marinade or mix another batch if you’d like to have some for dipping. Always allow meat and poultry to marinate in the refrigerator. At room temperature, bacteria on raw meat and poultry can double in number every 20 minutes. Likewise, thaw meat and poultry in the refrigerator, never on the counter.

Remember that meat must be cooked to its proper temperature in order to prevent foodborne illness. The only way to safety test for doneness is to use a calibrated food thermometer. The food thermometer should be placed in the thickest part of the food and should not be touching bone fat or gristle. Begin checking the temperature toward the end of cooking, but before the food is expected to be “done.” Make sure to clean your food thermometer with hot soapy water before and after each use. Fresh poultry should be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Research suggests that grilling may raise the risk of some cancers: however, the American Cancer Society states that eating moderate amounts of grilled foods does not pose a problem if they are not charred. To prevent charring, follow these tips:

1. Cook meats at lower temperatures by turning the gas down or waiting for charcoal to become low-burning embers

2. Raise the grilling surface from the heat source

3. Marinate; it can reduce the amount of HCAs by as much as 92 percent to 99 percent

4. Use lean meat and trim visible fat

5. Use tongs or a spatula to turn food and flip meat often

6. Remove all charred portions before serving

Chicken Grilling Tips: It takes chicken breasts only a few minutes per side over direct, medium-high heat to both brown and get cooked through at the same time. That being said, it's a good idea to always use a two-zone fire —with all the coals piled on one side of the charcoal grate—in case the chicken browns before it's cooked through. This way, if need be, you can finish the chicken up on the cool side of the grill, covered, and avoid burning the breasts. Another option is to cook the marinated chicken breasts in foil packets for 5-6 minutes on each side, then remove and place on the grate in order to give the meat a grilled appearance.

Include Side Dishes on the Grill: Side dishes are also great cooked on the grill. Since you’ve spent the time to prep your grill, why not include some delicious fruits and vegetables to add color to your plate? It’s a good idea to wait until the coals have cooled down a bit before grilling fruits and vegetables, as you don’t need the grill to be quite as hot as it would be for grilling meat. Some great vegetables for grilling include corn on the cob, brussel sprouts, zucchini or yellow squash. Some fruits are also quite good cooked on the grill including pineapple, pears, peaches, mango and even watermelon. Brush the fruits with a mixture of oil, honey, cinnamon and lemon or lime juice for a tasty treat.

For a delicious family meal, consider the following recipes, which are excellent served together. You can add additional fruits and/or vegetables if you choose. Remember, you can completely omit the salt since herbs and spices provide excellent flavor on their own.

Ellen Owens is director for Pasquotank County Cooperative Extension Center.

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