There’s no denying that slow-cooked meats doused in barbecue sauce have a way of tugging at our heartstrings. It’s simply too difficult to resist the beckoning aroma of juicy ribs, pulled pork and smoked brisket wafting through the air. But the love turns sour when suddenly we find said meats tugging at the seams of our clothes. The solution? Don’t resist it. You don’t need to, because with a few simple modifications, you can turn your barbecue favorites into lean and wholesome meals. Besides, these are the final weeks of summer; we should be enjoying as many outdoor feasts as we can. Follow these five simple tips for preparing mouthwatering barbecue with the same bold flavors you’re used to, but with less sugar and fat.
1. Go lean.
When shopping for your barbecue, choosing a cut of meat with less fat doesn’t automatically equal less flavor. Exhibit A: Food Network Kitchen’s Pulled Pork (pictured at top) simmered in a tangy vinegar-molasses sauce. Although the fatty shoulder is the most-common cut used in a classic pulled pork recipe, the lean tenderloin yields a sandwich that’s just as succulent.
2. Skim the fat.
If beef is more your thing, try this Slow-Cooker Barbecue Brisket — a carnivore’s dream. The recipe calls for point-cut brisket, which is actually fattier than flat-cut, the other brisket alternative. But the beauty of preparing meat in your slow cooker is that you can use the fat to flavor the sauce, then skim any large, unwanted pieces off the top. The final outcome is a moist slice covered in rich sauce for just 453 calories per serving. For the leanest results, trim excess fat from the cooked brisket once it’s ready to serve.
3. Swap artificially sweetened sauces for spices and smoke.
Many cookout aficionados have a soft spot for barbecue sauce. Unfortunately, most bottled varieties contain sneaky hidden sugars that only serve to cover up the meat’s natural flavor. For juicy, aromatic results sans unnecessary calories, prepare a rub using your favorite spices and use scented wood chips for smoking. Bobby Flay treats his easy Beer Can Chicken (pictured above) to a 16-spice rub, which includes cloves, ancho chile powder and cumin, and then smokes it on the grill for about an hour using either mesquite or apple-wood chips. Skipping sweet mopping sauces even leaves room to flavor the chicken with your favorite beer.
4. Can’t give up the barbecue sauce? Then skip bottled in favor of homemade.
If sweet and smoky barbecue sauce is what you look forward to the most, then consider Ellie Krieger’s homemade alternative in place of store-bought sauces. The combination of apple cider vinegar, tomato paste, molasses and liquid smoke — condensed smoke from hickory chips, an essential shortcut ingredient — does wonders for her Pulled BBQ Chicken Sandwiches. For a fruiter option, try this Sweet and Spicy BBQ Chicken (pictured above). The barbecue sauce gets a powerful punch of vitamins and antioxidants from the mango, raisins and sun-dried tomatoes.
5. Skip meat altogether.
One surefire way to eliminate cholesterol and saturated fat is to avoid meat altogether. Certain cuts of fish like salmon and tuna can withstand the intensity of your grill just as well as a rack of ribs, with the benefit of contributing lean protein to your diet. Plus, meat generally takes longer to cook, so opting for fish or a meat substitute will speed up the process. These Grilled Salmon Steaks with Hoisin BBQ Sauce (pictured above) are ready in just half an hour, but they’re just as tender as any slow-cooked meat. In the event that your guests aren’t fond of fish, go vegetarian with Food Network Magazine’s Barbecue Tofu with Cajun Rice, a low-calorie main that’s ready in just 40 minutes. Store-bought Cajun seasoning and your favorite barbecue sauce replicate authentic barbecue flavor without the animal fat or long wait time.
Barbecue pitmasters won’t want to miss these mouthwatering recipes from our friends:
Creative Culinary: Limoncello and Herb Barbecue Chicken Thighs
Elephants and the Coconut Trees: Pan Grilled Kabab
The Heritage Cook: Cheesy Grilled Steak Sandwiches (Gluten-Free option)
Homemade Delish: Chipotle and Cherry BBQ Ribs
Virtually Homemade: Spicy Grilled Chicken Wings and Summer Slaw
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Favorite BBQ Recipes Roundup
Taste with the Eyes: Korean BBQ Chicken, Lettuce Cups, White Seaweed Salad
Domesticate Me: Quinoa Broccoli Slaw
The Lemon Bowl: 20 Healthy BBQ Recipes
In Jennie’s Kitchen: Seriously Delicious Ribs
FN Dish: Chefs’ Top BBQ Dishes to Make Before Summer’s End