For a lot of people, Memorial Day means breaking out the grill. There’s just something about meat and vegetables over an open heat source that makes us feel good and seems to welcome in the summer season.
One concern can put a dampener on the whole celebration, however, and that’s the fact that grilling meat can produce toxic carcinogens. Some studies have suggested that eating grilled or well-done meats may increase cancer risk. When red meat, poultry, and fish are cooked at high temperatures, they produce compounds called heterocyclic amines, which are known carcinogens. In addition, when animal fat drips down onto hot coals, the resulting flames can carry other carcinogens called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that then rise up to coat the meat.
The good news is you don’t have to give away your grill to reduce your risk. Just take the following precautions and you can still enjoy a tasty picnic over the holiday weekend. Happy Memorial Day!
- Choose lean cuts of meat with little fat (avoid ribs and sausages).
- If your meat cuts have fat, trim it off.
- Take note of your tools-a tong or spatula is safer for turning meat over. A fork pierces the meat and allows fats and juices to drop down into the hot coals.
- Removed charred parts of the meat before you eat it.
- Use a marinade before cooking. One that contains antioxidants like herbs, spices, olive oil, vinegar, or citrus juices, will be even more protective.
- If you pre-cook the meat, that means it will need less time on the grill, reducing the chance that carcinogens will form.
- Cook at lower temperatures, and flip your meat often.
- Wrap the meat in aluminum foil, or place aluminum foil between the meat and the fire.
- Don’t forget to grill veggies too–they don’t produce carcinogens. Fish, as well, is less likely than other meats to produce carcinogens, since it has less fat and cooks faster.
How do you grill your food safely? Please share any tips you may have.
Photo courtesy D’Arcy Norman via Flickr.com.