Summer is well on its way and what better way to celebrate this time of year then firing up the grill and barbequing with friends? Before getting started on your celebrations you may want to consider some of the findings of this seemingly innocent cooking style.
Summer is well underway, and what better way to celebrate this time of year than firing up the grill and barbecuing with friends? But before you get started on your hot weather festivities, you might want to consider some of the dangers of this seemingly innocent cooking style.
Did you know that charring meat over an open flame can be hazardous to your health? Grilling protein-filled foods, such as hot dogs and hamburgers, can form substances known as HCA and PAH (heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). HCA occurs when foods are cooked at higher temperatures and create a charred coating on the outside of meats. HCAs are also found in cigarette smoke and have been associated with cancers of the stomach, colon, liver and skin. PAHs form when juice from meat drips onto hot coal, creating smoke. According to the Cancer Research Institute, “HCAs and PAHs have been found to be mutagenic—that is, they cause changes in DNA that may increase the risk of cancer.”
Does this mean you should rethink all your summer plans? Not exactly. Although grilling may come with some risks, there are some other ways to help minimize the risks of both HCAs and PAHs.
Avoid CharringLimit your intake of well-done meats. Although, if you aren't a fan of any pink in the middle, cooking meat at a decreased temperature for a limited amount of time may also help prevent HCAs. If you're using a charcoal grill, simply increase the distance between direct heat and the meat.
Like well-done meats? Try precooking foods by placing them in a microwave or oven for a short period of time before grilling. Keep an eye on your food and take off precooked pieces right before they begin to char. It also helps to keep a timer close to the grill.
Clean your grill after each bbq and scrub away excess charred particles. For tougher grease, soak grill racks overnight and let them dry before lighting up the BBQ again. This will ensure that you have rid your grill of any carcinogens prior to your next grill session.
Trim the Fat
Keep the fat to a minimum. If you enjoy meat, choose leaner meats, trim the fat from thicker cuts and cut away any skin from chicken. Meats with less fat will have less marbling in them and white around the outside.
Fish also contains less fat than red meat. The recommendation is to eat at least two servings of fish per week. Fish that has been wrapped in aluminum foil and then cooked produces less juice and therefore is likely to produce less carcinogenic fumes. As a bonus, the aluminum foil adds extra protection from any possible dripping.
Try Fish, Chicken, Veggies, or Fruit
Who says BBQs are just for hot dogs and hamburgers? There are plenty of other options that can fill up your grill. Skipping the red meat and going straight for the lean proteins are a great way to decrease your overall saturated fat intake.
The American Cancer Society recommends limiting overall red meat intake to decrease cancer risks. Impress guests by serving up some grilled fruits or even grilled lettuce. Split romaine hearts work best. Grilled pineapple with a low-sugar glaze can be a sweet way to end the perfect BBQ meal.
Marinades May be Cancer Reducing
Trim the skin off chicken to reduce fat intake, but don't forget to compensate for the lack of juiciness with marinade. As an added bonus, marinades not only taste good, but they may help make your BBQ safer. A recent study done at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California discovered that simple marinades may actually reduce carcinogenic compounds. Make a simple marinade with low calorie and low sugar ingredients, such as 1 tbsp. olive oil, apple cider vinegar, garlic, lemon juice and natural herbs. The Journal of Food Science published a study that found rosemary, specifically, decreased the formation of toxins when used in grilled meats.