A Healthier Barbeque

By Judy Davie, The Food Coach

Everyone loves a barbeque, but there are ways to make barbequed food tastier and better for you. Meat cooked on a BBQ can increase the risk of carcinogenic chemicals forming inside the muscle of the meat. This is most likely when the meat is grilled slowly over a flat plate.

These chemicals are known as heterocyclic amines (HAs). Incomplete combustion and smoke can also cause other carcinogens called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) to form on the surface of the meat. To reduce the risk and still enjoy the many other benefits of outdoor eating:

  • Precook the meat and finish it off on the grill (you'll still get the flavour with less carcinogens on the meat). Sausages can be par boiled.
  • Always check you have enough fuel for the BBQ and ensure the plate is as hot as possible
  • Trim any fat off the meat to prevent it splashing onto the coals and creating naked flames
  • Avoid cooking directly over coals and flames
  • Cut off any blackened bit of meat before serving
  • Grill fish and veggies in foil

Using an electric grill instead of the barbeque is also beneficial, as the harmful compounds are not formed and there is usually a special tray to drain off dripping fat. Although it doesn't impart such a smoky flavour, the food is healthier and just as delicious.

Next time you plan a barbeque, try taking a break from meat and cook seafood or vegetables for variety instead. There are hundreds of options from BBQ prawns to, cheaper but just as delicious, fish fillets. Sprinkle lime juice, Cajun seasoning, and a little olive oil over the fish then wrap it in foil to cook on the hotplate for 10 - 15 minutes, depending on the size of the fillets. Wrapping in foil is healthier, keeps the fish moist and protects it from any meat you may be cooking at the same time.

Vegetarian kebabs are lovely on the BBQ - choose vegetables that hold their shape like capsicum, Spanish onion, button mushrooms and zucchini. Haloumi cheese marinated with these other vegetables threaded through kebab sticks is delicious and guaranteed to be enjoyed by all - meat eaters included. Marinated in fresh herbs, lime and olive oil, they're a safer bet than introducing the family to tofu (which can be tasty too!). Most supermarkets today sell veggie burgers, which, stuffed in wholegrain buns with plenty of salad taste great as well.