Summer is approaching…time to fire up the grill.
Every year without fail, grilling endures some trash talk. So before we start second guessing grilling, lets discuss.
Grilling was mankind’s first method of cooking— half a million years ago. And soon we will no doubt hear about the potential cancer risk of barbecuing and grilling. Lets be real, if grilling caused cancer on a massive scale, I’m not so sure we’d be here today to also place the blame on red M&M’s.
The issue centers on two groups of potentially problematic chemicals that are produced when you grill: Heterocyclic amines and Polycyclic aromatic amines.
So how dangerous are these compounds and for that matter grilling? To put this in perspective, Ed Blonz, who holds an MS and Ph.D in nutrition and 25 years experience in food and health reports that eating 100 charcoal-grilled steaks will statistically increase your odds of dying by one in a million. But so will rock climbing for 1.5 minutes, bike riding for 10 minutes, and being a 60 year old man for 20 minutes.
If you’re still worried, I have some tips to further reduce the risk:
- Don’t eat very well done meats. The longer meat is cooked at high temperatures the greater the risk. Do cook the meat until done to avoid food born diseases. (Pork should be cooked to at least 160 degrees, poultry to 170 degrees and burgers to 160 degrees).
- Keep the heat down to reduce the amount of charring. If it does char, cut off the burnt parts.
- Don’t let the flames touch the meat
- Grill fish on a cedar plank to prevent flare ups
- Eat low-fat meats (a given) like chicken breast and beef and pork tenderloin and trim off as much excess fat as possible. And use low fat marinades. The drippings from meat juice and fats results in flare ups and smoke.
- Grill more fish. Fish generally contains less fat than meat and poultry which generates less smoke. Fish also tends to need less time on the grill, also reducing exposure. (Hey, you should be eating more fish than beef anyway).
- Use indirect grilling (cook the food next to, not directly over the flames) to prevent flare-ups.
Now that we got the negative talk out of the way…more on the benefits of grilling to come.