Firing up the grill to cook is one of the best parts of summer. Making sure you’re dishing up a healthy meal may take some revisions to your traditional family barbecue. And we’re not talking about replacing your hamburger with Hamburger Helper, as Cousin Eddie did in Chevy Chase’s first “Vacation” movie. Today we’re talking about what you burn and how you ignite it.
Lighter fluid + charcoal + match = Problem. Lighter fluid (petroleum-based) produces volatile organic compounds and leaves petroleum residue on food and in your lungs. Skip the lighter fluid — try these healthier ways to get the grill going.
Æ A charcoal chimney starter ($10-$35) looks like an oversized metal beer mug with a grate near the bottom. Put in the charcoal, ignite with paper, and in 12 to 15 minutes the briquettes are good to glow.
Æ An electric charcoal starter ($10-$20) is a metal coil you bury in a mound of charcoal and plug in. In eight to 15 minutes, the fire’s on its way.
Is it better to eliminate charcoal completely? Yes, propane and gas grills are cleaner and more energy efficient, but charcoal is OK a few times a year — it produces soot that irritates respiratory conditions like asthma and releases the carcinogenic VOC benzene, so stand away from the smoke. Avoid quick-start charcoals soaked with lighter fluid and those with additives such as sodium nitrate.
The You Docs — Mehmet Oz, host of “The Dr. Oz Show” and Mike Roizen of Cleveland Clinic — are authors of “YOU: Losing Weight.” To submit questions, go to www.RealAge.com.