Sure, everybody knows that eating seriously cinder-ized meats from the grill isn’t the smartest move you can make (unless you’re trying to get cancer, in which case have we got a blackened rib-eye recipe for you!).
But a study review just put out by the U.K.’s Food Standards Agency has found that the same cancerous substances that show up in over-grilled meats can also lurk in over-cooked starchy foods, including everything from scorched potato chips and french fries to charred coffee beans and toast.
The evildoer is acrylamide, a chemical that’s been connected to cancer in lab studies. It’s produced not only when tobacco is burned (hey, the Marlboro man didn’t die by falling off a horse), but also when foods containing water, sugar, and amino acids are burned at temperatures higher than 250°F.
And the higher the temp a food is cooked at, and the blacker it gets, the more acrylamides it’ll have. Acrylamide has also been linked to reproductive and nervous system damage.
Steer clear or get burned. Here are some other common cooking snafus that can spell disaster, or worse, death.