Grilled poultry for healthy eating

By: Chris Standring

Postmedia Content Works

Nothing is more enticing than the summer scent of good food grilling on the barbecue. It’s easy, fun and can be a healthy way to eat.

“Grilling makes it easier to cook at home, with less cleanup,” says Brenda Arychuk, a registered dietitian in the Edmonton area. “That makes you more motivated to eat healthy and eat at home.”

Also, grilling “avoids the pitfalls of processed foods and breaded coatings.”

Using a barbecue’s “dry heat, with the fat dripping away,” produces a leaner result, adds Arychuk.


But is there a downside to those grill marks? Prolonged cooking on any hot surface, whether on the barbecue, under the broiler or in the frying pan, can cause charring, which can produce carcinogens associated with cancer, Arychuk explains. But these can be limited or avoided.

“The important thing is to start with lean ingredients,” says Arychuk. “Chicken and turkey are excellent choices for grilling because they are lean, and a great source of protein.

“Women and children often don’t get enough protein,” she says, “and these are good options.”

Plank-grilled turkey

Cara Prout, executive director of Alberta Turkey Producers, likes to use cedar planks when cooking turkey on the barbecue.

“Not only does it give turkey a lovely smokey flavour, it keeps it moist while avoiding charring,” says Prout.

She also recommends brining the turkey first, to ensure moist and juicy results of this healthy, lean meat.

For recipes and more on plank-grilling turkey go to

Photo: Getty Images

Rosemary chicken skewers are a favourite on the grill. Poultry is an excellent choice for the barbecue as it’s lean and offers a great source of protein.

BBQ Tips

Photo: Getty Images

Rosemary chicken skewers

Here’s a recipe for barbecuing chicken skewers from Vera Ward, of Alberta Chicken. It uses a marinade, known to prevent charring, and contains rosemary, which adds flavour and is high in antioxidants.

“This recipe was taste-tested at the Save On Foods in our area and it is a favourite of mine,” says Ward.



½ cup canola oil

½ cup peppercorn ranch dressing

3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp minced fresh rosemary

2 tsp salt

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp white vinegar

¼ tsp ground black pepper, or to taste

1 tbsp white sugar (1 pkg Splenda or honey may be substituted)

5 skinless, boneless chicken breasts



  1. Soak wooden skewers in water for an hour.

  2. In a large Ziplock bag, prepare marinade by combining canola oil, peppercorn ranch dressing, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, salt, lemon juice, white vinegar, pepper and sugar.  Set aside.

  3. Cut chicken breasts into 1-inch cubes and add to the marinade mixture. Ensuring pieces are all covered in the marinade mixture. Refrigerate 30 minutes to allow flavours to penetrate.

  4. Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

  5. Remove chicken from fridge and place into the strainer, allowing excess marinade to drain.

  6. Carefully thread chicken pieces onto skewers; discard marinade.

  7. Lightly oil the grill grate. 

  8. Grill skewers for 8 – 12 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink in the centre, and the juices run clear.


These chicken skewers are very flavourful on their own, but can also be enjoyed with dipping sauces. Enjoy as an appetizer, side or entree with rice.

  • Choose lean meats, like chicken and turkey breast, and remove visible fat and skin.

  • Marinating, especially using acid-based marinades with wine, lemon juice or vinegar that have little or no oil, can not only add flavour and tenderness, but help reduce charring.

  • “Homemade marinades or seasoning taste better and are often healthier than some of the higher salt/sugar purchased items,” says Arychuk.

  • Add veggies and fruit to the barbecue.

  • Aim for less cooking time on the barbecue by cutting meat or poultry into smaller pieces.

  • Use spatulas or tongs to avoid piercing, which limits juices escaping onto the coals and flaring up. Also use a drip rack to catch the fat.

  • Use a meat thermometer. For poultry, aim for 165 F or 74 C.                      

  • Scrape off all the residue from your barbecue every time you cook.

  • Avoid contamination and bacteria build-up by thawing and marinating meats in the refrigerator, cutting on clean surfaces, and keeping food hot after grilling.

  • Always serve grilled foods on a fresh plate; don’t just rinse off the one used to take raw poultry out to the barbecue.

For more about cooking times go to:

Photo: Getty Images

There are about 43 turkey farmers and 240 chicken farmers in the province. When you buy Alberta poultry you are not just selecting a nutritious meal but also supporting local food producers.

Chris Standring is a writer for Postmedia Content Works, a custom content studio that creates, deploys and measures programs for brands.