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Life is too short to eat bad food! Sharing great recipes, farm life, stories and photography from our Northern California dairy farm.

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May 6, 2010

Which is better, Gas or Charcoal?

Photo by Joshua Bousel

What is better, charcoal or gas?  Well, whatever you choose and with May being National Beef Month, it's time to fire up those outdoor grills!  We have both, a charcoal and gas grill, but I have to admit, we mostly use the gas grill out of convenience. But I do prefer the smoky taste of a charcoal however.  It's so easy to fire up that gas grill, let it heat up for 10 minutes, clean the grill rack and throw down the beef.

Follow these simple tips to help keep your meat from charring to cut down on carcinogens:
Stay clear of burned beef to avoid eating charred steaks, hamburgers, and chicken.
Keep the fat to a minimum. Cut down on carcinogens by grilling only lean cuts of meat and trimming all visible fat, and removing the skin from chicken.
Oil your grill. A little oil keeps charred material from sticking to the food. (It also helps keep fish and chicken stay in one piece.)

Use aluminum foil. Make tiny holes in a piece of foil and place it on the grill underneath your meat. The holes let the fat drip down, and the foil reduces the amount of smoke the billows back up. Wrapping the meat completely with perforated foil is an even better idea.

Lower the heat. On charcoal grills, increase the distance between the food and the hot coals by spreading the coals thin or by propping the grill rack on bricks. Simply adjust the heat setting on gas grills.

Stick to charcoal and hardwood. Barbecue briquettes and hardwood products, such as hickory and maple, burn at lower temperatures than softwood and softwood (pine) chips. Mesquite chips are slightly less safe than those made of other hardwoods but are safer than softwoods.

Charcoal briquettes. Use 25--35 briquettes per 1lb--1.5lbs of meat. Place the first row on the bottom making sure to cover the entire surface evenly, then stack the remainder in a pyramid shape on top one another. Then put a light covering of lighter fluid on the top f the briquettes, you can now light them. The thing about charcoal is it takes 30--40 minutes to become hot enough to cook, you want to wait for them to ash over. Once this is done you can spread the briquettes out to better the cooking efficiency. You are ready to cook.

Clean your grill. Scrub your grill thoroughly after every use to avoid a buildup of carcinogens that can be transferred to your food the next time you grill. For tough grease, put the dirty rack into a plastic garbage bag. Add water and dishwashing liquid and leave overnight. Brush off the residue and rinse. You may also want to heat the grill before placing food on it to kill any surviving bacteria. If you have a gas grill with permanent briquettes, turn them greasy side down, light the grill, and with the temperature at high, close the cover. After 20 minutes the briquettes will be as good as new.

Marinate for Your Health's Sake

Marinades not only make grilled foods taste better, they may also make them safer. A chemist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California found that marinating chicken in simple mixture of olive oil, cider vinegar, garlic, mustard, lemon juice, salt, and brown sugar reduced carcinogenic compounds in the finished product by more than 90 percent. Researchers don't know why; they suspect that marinating draws out chemical precursors of carcinogens.

Be sure to treat marinades, which draw bacteria from meat and poultry, as a raw food.

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