6 Lighter Alternatives to Classic Slow-Cooked Barbecue

Here at Food Network, we’re already swooning in anticipation of July 4th cookout fare — a meeting of spicy, sweet, smoky and zesty flavors swirling together on one picnic plate. If you’ve already gotten a head start planning your menu, you’ve likely encountered a ton of “barbecue” recipes during your search. But before you go any further, we think it’s time to clear up some confusion: What is barbecue? And how does it differ from grilling?

Depending on the context, “barbecue” can mean one of three things: a cooking method, a cooking apparatus, or a sauce used for basting and dipping (true pitmasters will claim this third one should be abolished entirely, as it compromises the hard-earned smokiness that takes hours to lock in). The generally accepted differences between “barbecue” and “grilling” are cooking durations and the types of heat used. The former involves low, indirect heat over many hours, which produces dramatic plumes of smoke that flavor the food; the latter involves medium or high heat for shorter bursts of time and little smoke. While slow-cooking works beautifully on fattier cuts of meat, such as brisket, short ribs or pork shoulder, grilling is best for leaner proteins, including chicken, pork tenderloin and fish – especially tuna and salmon. If you’re looking to make healthier choices during the long weekend, grilling is the way to go.

Don’t look at it as punishment: A few well-chosen spices, a flavorful glaze, plus the deliciously crisp char that’s best achieved after a quick scorch on the grill can really round out a summer barbecue, and you won’t need to worry about going overboard. See for yourself with these six healthy — and quick — recipes from Food Network.

Grilled Honey-Glazed Chicken with Green Pea and Mint Sauce
Bobby Flay uses a simple honey and balsamic glaze in place of store-bought barbecue sauce to flavor lean grilled chicken breasts. For a touch of seasonal freshness and color, serve the grilled breasts with his quick Green Pea and Mint Sauce.

Grilled Shrimp Skewers with Soy Sauce, Fresh Ginger and Toasted Sesame Seeds
If you’ve already exhausted lean grilled chicken this season, try grilled seafood. Shrimp in particular will hold up beautifully over an open flame when first brushed lightly with oil. Toasted sesame seeds add a nutty crunch to these shrimp skewers, while the ginger-soy dipping sauce lends an Asian flair.

Sweet and Spicy Grilled Salmon
The decadent-tasting “good” fat in salmon complements the sweet-spicy Buffalo glaze in this low-calorie, high-protein main dish from Food Network Kitchen. A crisp and refreshing celery slaw is dressed with the same sauce, made creamy with light mayo, and brightened with onions and chives.

Tuna Burgers with Carrot-Ginger Sauce
Tyler Florence’s protein-packed tuna burgers offer all the satisfying, meaty texture of a classic beef burger for roughly half the calories. Top each patty with some refreshing summer garnish, such as avocado, ginger or cilantro.

Sausage-and-Pepper Skewers
Balance these smoky grilled sausage skewers with a side of fluffy pesto couscous. The combination of cilantro, parsley and scallions in the pesto will perk up the hearty sausage with bright summery flavor.

Grilled Pork Tenderloin a la Rodriguez with Guava Glaze and Orange-Habanero Mojo
For a main dish that’s quick, lean and plenty flavorful, brush pork tenderloin with a glaze made from guava jelly; brush the glaze onto the meat while it’s grilling for a unique, fruity flavor. If you can’t find guava, apricot jelly works just as well. When ready to serve, pair the tender pork slices with an orange, chile and cilantro dressing for an extra touch of sweetness — and heat!

Ready for more ways to enjoy summer’s greatest cookout fare? Check out these recipes from our friends:

Devour: Add Asian Flair to Grilled Ribs with These 4 Recipes
The Lemon Bowl: 20 Healthy Marinades for Grilling Season
Homemade Delish: BBQ Jalapeno Poppers
Napa Farmhouse 1885: BBQ Beef on Toast
TasteBook: Skewered Grilled Prawns with Spicy Peach Glaze
Domesticate Me: 37 Foolproof Recipes for Your Fourth of July BBQ
Creative Culinary: Apple Cider and Brown Sugar Pulled Pork Barbecue
Taste with the Eyes: BBQ Shrimp and Grits with Lobster Butter
The Mom 100: Farro Arugula Salad with Orange Herb Vinaigrette
In Jennie’s Kitchen: Best BBQ Ribs + 19 Recipes for 4th of July
FN Dish: Food Network’s Top Recipes for Barbecue Favorites: Ribs, Pulled Pork and More

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