One of the most popular outdoor American pastimes is a good ol’ fashion barbeque. With several opportunities during the summer, and with football season around the corner, grilling opportunities await. Because grilling doesn’t involve oil, heavy breading or frying, it’s one of the healthiest ways to cook your food. However, if done improperly, grilling can be hazardous to your health.
When meat is cooked over flames or high temperatures, proteins in the meat react with the heat and form compounds called heterocyclic amines. These compounds damage DNA and can lead to cancer in your colon, prostate (for men), pancreas, stomach or breast. To add to this problem, when fat particles drip onto hot coals, they ignite and form another cancer-causing agent known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. When the smoke rises, it can deposit these carcinogens onto the meat.
You can follow these safety tips to reduce the formation of cancer-causing agents when grilling.
Buy a food thermometer to help you avoid overcooking or undercooking meat. Poultry should be cooked to 165 degrees, hamburgers and steaks to 160 degrees, for medium doneness, and fish should be cooked to 145 degrees.
- Buy lean meat and cut off all the skin and visible fat before grilling.
- Marinate first. Chicken marinated in a combination of cider vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice and spices can reduce cancer-causing agents by up to 99 percent.
- Put meat in the microwave for two minutes before grilling.
- Cook meat for longer at a lower temperature (less than 325 degrees) by turning the gas down or letting the charcoal burn down to the embers.
- Put foil under the meat and poke a few holes in it. This will reduce the amount of juice that drips into the grill, while decreasing the amount of smoke.
- Raise the grilling surface or move the charcoal to the sides of the grill to put more space between the smoke and meat.
- Flip the meat about once every minute.
- Cut off any charred parts of the meat before eating.
- Add veggies to your grill. In addition to being low in fat and calories, vegetables don’t form cancer-causing agents when grilled.
- Clean your grill thoroughly after each use to get rid of any charred food particles.
So, keep in mind, while grilling is a healthy way to cook your meat, be sure it’s done correctly and in moderation.