Updated: Jun 12, 2020
If you are concerned about grilled meat and its contribution toward cancer then use these tips to minimize the health risks and still enjoy the thrill of the grill.
First, what are the risks: Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs) form when meat is overcooked or charbroiled. The type of food, how it is cooked, and the temperature influence HCA formation. Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) also form when meat is charred or blackened or when fat from the meat drips onto the hot surface of the grill. PAH creation is influenced by temperature, length of cooking, fuel choice, distance from the heat source, and fat content of the food. In summary, the hotter and longer a meat is cooked the more HACs and PAHs formed. The following tips have been shown to help minimize formation of these cancer-causers…
- Choose leaner meats to reduce the amount of fat dripping onto the grill
- Use herbs and spices…onion powder, turmeric, fresh garlic, and rosemary have all been shown to reduce HCA formation…some by up to 90%!!!
- MARINATE! Acid-based marinades dramatically reduce HCAs. Dark beer marinades are also helpful, light beer less so
- Avoid sweet BBQ sauce until after the meat is finished on the grill as these sauces tend to burn and char quite easily
- Include lots of fruits and vegetables in your meal as they inhibit the DNA damage
- Cover the grill with foil to reduce drips and flare ups
- Cook on medium to medium-high heat and DON’T overcook…medium-rare if possible
- Cut off blackened or charred bits if they happen
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