Grilling food
Grilling food. (Photo: © vthokie2864 - Fotolia.com)

Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer and the beginning of the grilling season for men across the nation.

Grilling is one of the simplest and healthiest ways to prepare a meal. In a matter of minutes you can grill up a culinary delight. Most men think ribs are synonymous with the grill, but pork tenderloin is one of the grill’s best-kept secrets. When feeding hungry guest you’ll be happy to know pork tenderloin requires less cooking time than ribs.  Pork tenderloin is the leanest cut of pork with only 2.98 grams of fat per 3-ounce serving, making it as lean as skinless chicken breast — and why it’s dubbed the other white meat.

Grilling also maintains the natural tenderness and flavor of meats without sacrificing essential nutrients. And today’s propane and charcoal grills include vents that can be adjusted to allow air and moisture to circulate which help control the smoky flavor.

Reduce Sodium and Boost Flavor

Sodium-free spices are a great way to enhance flavor on the grill without bringing additional fat and calories to the table.

  • Ground black pepper and prepared spices blends like Mrs. Dash are great alternatives to salt. A variety of spice blends work well with pork’s mild flavor.
  • Spices with bold flavors like cumin, coriander and cayenne work great with pork. Rubs can be applied just before grilling or the night before cooking.
  • Rosemary and cinnamon are great flavor enhancers and increase flavor intensity especially in pork.

Marinades are another great way to enhance flavor and show off your creativity – you know a pinch of this and a dash of that.

  • Skip heavy, sugar-based marinades – most are loaded with extra calories and can increase the chance for charring.
  • Vinegar mixtures, like Italian dressing, can reduce the risk of carcinogen formation on any grilled meat.
  • Citrus juice, herbs, spices, and olive oil make great ingredients for marinades.
  • Pair pork with fresh fruits and vegetables to brighten and lighten up summertime meals. Beta carotene, an essential antioxidant, can be found in sweet potatoes, carrots and many leafy greens such as cabbage, kale and spinach. If you are looking to kick up the fiber intake a notch, add sliced apples, strawberries or prunes to your grilling skewer or pork tenderloin salad.

Check for Doneness

Contrary to popular belief the finger test is not the best way to check meat for doneness.

“You can’t rely on color, smell, taste or texture alone to determine if meat is thoroughly cooked,” says Heather Mangieri, Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Mangieri recommends using a food thermometer to ensure meat, poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked. “Food poisoning sickens 48 million Americans each year, so food safety should be on your radar as you grill out this summer,” she says. “This is especially true for people who are at high-risk for food poisoning, including young children, older adults, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems and certain chronic illnesses.”

Mangieri offers tips for using a food thermometer:

  • Insert the food thermometer into the thickest part of the food, making sure it doesn’t touch bone, fat or gristle.
  • Cook until the thermometer shows an internal temperature of 160° F for ground beef, pork, veal and egg dishes; 145° F for beef, pork, veal and lamb steaks, chops and roasts; and 165° F for all poultry.
  • Some foods need three minutes of rest time after cooking to make sure harmful germs are destroyed, including fresh beef, veal, lamb, pork and raw ham.
  • Clean your food thermometer with hot, soapy water before and after each use.

Think about it – using a food thermometer will not only keep your food safe, it also prevents you from overcooking your food.

Bon Appétit!

Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RD is an award winning registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator, and national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She is the author of The African American Guide To Living Well With Diabetes and Eating Soulfully and Healthfully with Diabetes. Follow Brown-Riggs on twitter @eatingsoulfully.