Add Flavor, Not Fat: 5 Tips for Better Barbecue — Summer Soiree

Brisket, pulled-pork and barbecue chicken can be health-conscious too. With a few simple modifications, you can turn your summer favorites into healthy meals.
By: Emily Lee

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.

Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Matt Armendariz, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

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.

Bobby Flay's Miso-Ginger Marinated Grilled Salmon


Bobby Flay's Miso-Ginger Marinated Grilled Salmon

Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Matt Armendariz, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

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:

Elephants and the Coconut Trees: Pan Grilled Kabab

Homemade Delish: Chipotle and Cherry BBQ Ribs
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Favorite BBQ Recipes Roundup
Domesticate Me: Quinoa Broccoli Slaw
The Lemon Bowl: 20 Healthy BBQ Recipes
In Jennie's Kitchen: Seriously Delicious Ribs

Next Up

Chefs' Top BBQ Dishes to Make Before Summer's End

Check Food Network chefs' smoky, top-rated barbecue recipes off your to-do list before summer's end.

Which Foods Should You Keep or Toss Out After a Cookout?

After a gathering outside, consider time and temperature when figuring out what’s safe to have as leftovers.

Why We Love Mayo — and You Should Too

The truth is, your Memorial Day BBQ won't be complete without it.

These Easy Recipes Will Make Your Next Pool Party a Breeze

Everything will go just swimmingly with these creative ideas!

6 Party-Ready Ways to Take Watermelon Off the Rind — Summer Soiree

Take watermelon off the rind in celebration-worthy recipes that will delight (and cool down) warm-weather gatherings.

QUIZ: Which Destination Is Your Best Bet for Summer BBQ?

Bored with your local blue plate special? Take the quiz to find out where you should venture to get the best ‘cue this summer.

A Food Lover's Guide to Austin for SXSW

This year's SXSW festival is more food-centric than ever, but Austin is always good to food lovers, no matter when you visit.

Speak Up, Fans: Where Do You Eat the Best BBQ Ever?

Before you tune in to Best. BBQ. Ever., FN Dish wants to know where you go to enjoy the ultimate 'cue.

Fans Show Us Their Guilty Food Pleasures: All About Barbecue

Check out photos of Food Network fans' most-over-the-top barbecue dishes.