But it doesn’t have to be that way. Smoking meats and vegetables on a grill can actually be a very healthy and flavorful way to prepare food. Smokers cook with indirect heat and the flavor comes from the hardwood smoke, so there’s no need to over-season or add sauces. The smoke enhances the flavor of your protein without excess calories.
Then it all comes down to the types of food and what you do with them. Imagine a smoker filled with chicken thighs, cuts of beef and pork, and veggies smoked to perfection and cued up for the entire week. This is the beauty of barbecued clean eating… large quantities of tasty food that is easy and convenient.
So to help you avoid the clean eating blues, we asked Marco Niccoli, culinary director and executive chef at Traeger Grills, for some of his best healthy food prep tips, plus a recipe made specifically for Made Man’s readers—and ideal for a Traeger Pro Series 34 grill, of course.
For faster cooks, you can use oils that burn hotter, like safflower oil. You’ll get more of a crispy exterior to the meat. Use small amounts to keep it lean.
Healthy Eating Tips
1. Spritz your meat with a healthier spray, like coconut oil, then use your desired spices. Or slice an onion in half, dip it in oil, and rub it along the grill grate. This prevents veggies from sticking and gives a little flavor to the grate.
2. Cook in bulk. Throw all your protein and veggies in the smoker for the week: 6 oz. of chicken, pork, beef or fish, plus veggies and a complex carbohydrates. If you are prepping for eating later, slightly undercook the protein. It will finish cooking during the reheating process and not get overcooked.
3. Leanest types of beef: tenderloin, flank steak and skirt steak—anything with less marbling. If the cut does have some marbling, the great thing about grilling it is that the fat renders and falls through the grate. So you aren’t ingesting all of that fat, but it is still flavoring your food.
4. When cooking lean meats on the grill, it’s important to start with a clean and oiled grill grate to prevent sticking. You can leave the skin on salmon filets and whole fish, and cook that skin side down. This holds the fish together, the skin gets nice and crispy, and the smoke infuses it with hardwood flavor.
5. For faster cooks, you can use oils that burn hotter, like safflower oil. You’ll get more of a crispy exterior to the meat. Use small amounts to keep it lean. Trim the fat from chicken, beef, and pork for fewer calories before grilling.
6. You can cook whole, rotisserie-style chicken easily in a smoker, and use it as a light protein shredded in tacos, salads and other dishes. The skin is the most calorific, so it’s best to remove that, but leave the skin on while it cooks to seal in the moisture.
7. Complex carbohydrates do not spike your sugar levels like the simple carbohydrates, so it’s best to stick with whole grains. Think quinoa, brown rice and sweet potatoes.
Made Man Citrus Herb Chicken
1 (5 lbs) Whole chicken
1 large onion, cut into 8ths
4 stalk celery, rough chop
4 large carrot, rough chop
2 bay leaves
6 sprigs, thyme
1-2 cups homemade chicken
1 cup salt
1 cup brown sugar
2 oranges, quartered
2 lemons, quartered
6 thyme thyme sprigs
4 rosemary sprigs
2 sticks butter, softened
1 garlic clove, pressed or minced
4 sprigs thyme, leaves pulled of stems
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
Mix together in a small bowl until combined and set aside.
To make the brining solution, dissolve the salt and sugar in 2 gallons of cold water in a non-reactive container (such as a clean bucket or large stockpot, or a clean, heavy-duty, plastic garbage bag.) Add the oranges, lemons, thyme, and rosemary.
Note: If you have a big chicken and need more brine than this, use 1/2 cup salt and 1/2 cup brown sugar for every gallon of water.
Remove the neck, giblets, and liver from the cavity of the chicken and reserve for stock. Rinse the chicken inside and out under cold running water.
Soak the chicken in the brine, covered and refrigerated, for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Remove the chicken from the brine and rinse well under cold running water. Pat dry with paper towels, inside and out.
Spatchcock Prep Directions
Step 1 Cut out the backbone.
Step 2 Open the chicken by breaking the breastbone.
Step 3 Flatten the chicken, breast side up
Step 4 Stick your hand under the skin releasing it from the breast and creating a pocket
Step 5 Stuff the herb butter evenly under the skin of each breast creating a thick even layer
Step 6 Place chicken on top of celery, carrot, onion, herbs, stock, neck, s/p in a roasting pan
Step 7 Brush with oil, season with salt and roast on 350 degrees F for 45-1 hour or until the breast reaches 170 degrees with a temp. probe, the skin should be golden and crispy
An optional step is to cut off the legs before cooking if you’d like.
Meal Type (Dinner)
Recommended hardwood (Maple)
Prep/Cook Time (Less than 6 hours)
You will want to pull the chicken out of the fridge about 20 minutes ahead of time, put it out on the counter uncovered and let the skin dry out a little…
If you have a pizza stone place it in the center of the grill…
Then turn the grill to smoke setting when the it is hot and ready, place the chicken in the center of it. Leave for 20 min…
Then turn the grill up to 350 degrees for about 40 minutes…
When the internal temp reaches 160 degrees pull the chicken and let it rest for 15 minutes. You can cover it with foil but just loosely…
The internal temp will come up to 165 degrees, and you will be ready to serve…