Steak, burgers, poultry, fish, pork and even fresh produce are naturally low carb and are a delicious part of your Atkins meal plan. And they all taste great hot off the grill! Here’s everything you need to know about grilling, plus some of our favorite low-carb grilling recipes.
General Grilling Tips
Give it a rest. Meat will continue to cook even after you take it off the grill, so be sure to take it off when it’s slightly less than done. Use a meat thermometer to ensure it has reached the correct internal temperature. Once you take it off the grill, let it rest for a couple minutes so it can reabsorb its juices (if you don’t do this, your meat could be dry and tough). Set it aside on a plate or platter in a warm place for a few minutes. Smaller pieces of meat like chicken breasts only need about five minutes, but larger items may need up to 20 minutes.
Keep it simple. Lightly coat your food with olive oil, and then season it with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. The olive oil helps preserve the food’s natural juices, and also prevents it from sticking to the grill grate.
Marinades, brines, rubs and more. If you want to take your flavor to the next level, there are plenty of other options. Marinades (a mixture of acidic juices and oils, herbs or spices that you soak your food in for as little 30 minutes to hours) help add flavor and tenderize food. Brines (usually solutions of salt, water and spices) add moisture and flavor and are often used for chicken or turkey. You can brine your food anywhere from 15 minutes to 24 hours. Finally, rubs are dry mixtures including salt, pepper, dried herbs and spices that are rubbed onto the food and add flavor and a spicy kick.
Your Low-Carb How-to-Grill Guide
Burgers: Heat a gas grill to high. Brush burgers with olive oil and grill until brown and slightly charred on one side, usually about 3 minutes for beef and 5 minutes for turkey. Flip the burgers and cook beef burgers until brown and slightly charred on the second side, usually 4 minutes for medium rare, until desired degree of doneness. Cook turkey burgers until thoroughly cooked through, about 5 minutes on the second side.
Fish: You can grill fish like tuna, salmon, halibut and swordfish directly on the grill, while more delicate fish such as tilapia, sole and flounder do better in a foil packet or grill basket. Place fish on a large plate and wrap in paper towels to absorb excess moisture while you are getting the grill ready. Preheat the grill to high, and scrape the grill grate clean with a brush. Season the fish with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper (or spices of your choice) and brush with olive oil. Place the fish skin-side down on the grill. Lower the heat to medium, cover the grill and let the fish cook. Don’t move the fish until the skin looks crisp. You can check by gently lifting the fish with a thin spatula after a few minutes. If it doesn’t lift off the grill easily, let it cook a little longer and check again. When the skin is seared and crispy, gently flip the fish using a fork or spatula. Cover and cook until fish is firm to the touch, flakes easily with a fork and appears opaque all the way through.
Fresh Produce: Most of your favorite fresh produce can be grilled at medium heat, uncovered, from anywhere to 2 to 5 minutes. Season with olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper before throwing on the grill. Cut bell peppers into 2-inch strips; cut eggplant, summer squash and zucchini into ½-inch-thick slices. Mushrooms and cherry tomatoes can also be cooked in a foil pouch for up to 10 minutes.
Pork: Choose pork chops that are about 1 ½-inch thick. Marinate, brine or season the pork chops. When the pork chops are ready to grill, pat them dry with paper towels and season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper and brush with olive oil. Heat one side of a gas grill at high heat. Keep the other side at low or no heat. Place the pork chops on the high-heat side of the grill and cook until both sides are brown. Then move the pork chops to the low-heat side of the grill to finish cooking. When the internal temperature is 135 degrees F, remove from the grill and let stand for 10 minutes, checking that the internal temperature is brought to 145 degrees F.
• Boneless chicken breasts: Season with kosher salt, pepper and olive oil or your choice of marinade, brine or rub. Grill on a gas grill at medium-high for 6 to 8 minutes on each side, with the lid closed. Once the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F, remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes.
• Bone-in chicken: Some people prefer bone-in chicken because it’s more flavorful. A budget-friendly option is to start with a whole cut-up chicken on the bone, with skin. Once you have seasoned the chicken (with marinade, brine or spices), bring it to room temperature. Heat one side of a gas grill at high heat. Keep the other side at low or no heat. Pat chicken dry and place bone side down on the low-heat section. Close the grill and let cook for about 20 minutes. Open the grill, turn the pieces over and cook for about another 15 minutes, until the skin is crispy and chicken has an internal temperature of about 150 to 155 degrees F. Move the chicken to the high-heat part of the grill to really crisp up the skin, and remove when it reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees F. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
Steak: Choose a cut of steak that is at least 1 ½-inches thick, with marbling in the meat. This fat adds a pop of flavor and makes the steak tender and juicy. Trim off some of the excess fat but not all and bring the steaks to room temperature while you preheat a gas grill to high. Season steaks with kosher salt, pepper and rub with olive oil. Place on the grill and cook 4 to 5 minutes, until slightly brown and charred. Turn over and cook for 3 to 5 minutes for medium-rare (an internal temperature of 135 degrees F), 5 to 7 minutes for medium rare (an internal temperature of 140 degrees) or 8 to 10 minutes for medium-well (150 degrees F). Remove from heat and let steaks rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing.
Check out our Recipes section for even more grilling recipes.