Monday, May 4, 2009

Marinate your grilled fare for taste and safety

(ARA) - Literally soaked in flavor, marinated foods are undeniably delicious. But did you know that marinating also makes your grilled foods safer?

Anyone who loves the delectable flavor of hot-off-the-grill foods has probably heard that cancer-causing substances -- such as heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAAs or HCAs) -- form when the proteins in red meat, pork, poultry and fish react to the high heat of grilling and when fat drips off the meat and produces smoke.

But the researchers aren't just pouring water on our coals; they're coming up with solutions, too. Chemists at Kansas State University found that marinating meat for an hour in spice blends can reduce the formation of HCAs by 80 percent or more. They credit the antioxidant properties of spices with this change. Other researchers suggest that marinades may buffer the heat that causes the problematic chemical reaction, or that a combination of sugar, oil, and acidic ingredients decreases the carcinogenic compounds.

Not that you need a scientific reason to marinate. Savvy grillers know marinating improves flavor and the process isn't labor-intensive. You can make your own signature marinades, or rely on the guaranteed results of quality mixes.

If you're looking for a healthy choice, Simply Organic offers a flavor-rich line of organic marinade mixes that include Zesty Herb Marinade, Steak Marinade and Garlic and Herb Marinade. They even offer the smoky flavor of mesquite -- minus the hazards of grilling smoke -- in their Mesquite BBQ Marinade.

For safe and delicious grilling with marinades:

* Choose lean cuts of meat, which will drip less and produce less smoke. Trim excess fat.

* Prick the surfaces of meats with a fork before marinating to allow flavors to penetrate.

* Marinate foods in the refrigerator -- not on the counter -- in a glass, plastic, or stainless steel pan.

* Keep in mind that marinades that have been used for raw meat, poultry or seafood need to be cooked thoroughly before eating. So don't baste with them during the last few minutes, don't dip your finger in the pan to taste and don't use the leftover marinade for sauce without cooking it first.

* Consider cooking meats in the microwave for a minute or so before placing them on the grill. Discard any juice that's produced during microwaving. Use tongs or a spatula, rather than forks, to reduce drips when turning foods on the grill.

* Cook over medium (rather than high) heat to avoid charring foods. Let flames settle down before cooking over coals or wood, and turn the temperature down to medium on a gas grill. If you do char a portion of the food, cut off that section before serving.

* Flip those burgers. Again. They'll cook faster (and produce fewer HCAs) if you turn them often.

* Consider other options, too, like soy burgers and soy hot dogs, portobello mushrooms and other vegetables. These foods don't have the same potential to produce harmful substances that can result from unsafe cooking procedures -- but they're delicious when marinated nonetheless!

Here’s a favorite recipe so simple, yet so delicious, from the kitchen of Chef Kendall McFarland, research and development manager at Simply Organic:

Mediterranean Pasta Salad


4 cups cooked pasta
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 package of Simply Organic Steak Marinade Mix


In a large bowl, toss the pasta with the olive oil and the Steak Marinade Mix. Serve as a warm or cold side dish.

Add olives, cheese or other vegetables if desired.

Staying with the same marinade for the complete meal, Chef Kendall also has this tasty recipe:

Tarragon Encrusted Salmon


4 tablespoons softened butter
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 package Simply Organic Steak Marinade Mix
1 to 1 1/2 pounds salmon steak -- minimum of 1-inch thick


Preheat grill. In a small bowl blend butter, lemon juice and Steak Marinade. Lay salmon on grill using a fish grill plate, skin side down. Spread a thin layer of butter mixture on fillets. Grill eight to 10 minutes or until salmon is just flaky.

Serve with sliced fresh tomatoes as a garnish.

For an online Summer Grilling Guide with many more useful tips and delectable grilling recipes, go to

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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