BBQ season is finally here. Foods on the grill can bring about some mouth-watering flavors and fantastic memories, but a few quick tips can help keep your food healthy and safe.
Summertime treats like burgers, steaks, ribs and hot dogs are fine on occasion. What’s important to consider is that high-heat grilling can convert proteins in meat (especially red meat) into cancer-promoting and inflammatory chemicals called heterocyclic amines (HCAs).
Another cancer-causing agent, called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are found in the smoke that forms when fat and juices from meat products drip on the heat source and cause flare-ups. The smoke rises and can stick to the surface of the meat. Longer cooking times also create more HCA formation.
What can you do to lower your risk?
Marinate: Choose thin marinades that contain lemon and/or vinegar as they create a protective barrier around the meat. Thicker marinades increase the risk of burning and charring. If using a thicker marinade, add it to toward the end of the grilling session, not before.
Lean Towards Lean: Choose lean cuts of meat. Less fat reduces the flames and smoke. If choosing higher-fat varieties such as sausage or ribs, trim the fat and remove the skin before grilling.
Less Is More: Choose smaller pieces of meat, like kebabs, because they cook more quickly and can cook easily at lower temperatures. Thaw frozen meats before grilling to reduce overall cooking time. You can also partially cook meat in a microwave for 60-90 seconds on high and discard the juices before grilling to reduce cooking time and potential smoke flare-ups.
Flip Often: Flip burgers once a minute. Resist the urge to pat the food as this causes more fat to drip onto the heat source.
Grill Skills: Place your food at least 6 inches from the heat source. Line the grill with aluminum foil with a few holes or try cooking on cedar planks. This will help protect the food.
Grill Vegetables: Grill more vegetables, as they do not contain protein and have less risk of causing harmful chemicals that may occur then grilling meat proteins.