Summer is here and that means Grill Season! I love grill season because it means I get to just fix the stuff while the actual cooking/grilling is done by my husband. We grill indoors in the winter, but there is something magical about the smell of fresh grilled corn or meat that indoor grilling cannot mimic. While grilling can be called a healthy technique adapted by our ancestors (The Paleo folk) improper grilling methods can be hazardous to health! Does this mean I give up the sizzling steaks and roasted corn ? No way! Not in my home!! But incorporating some safe rules can safeguard you and your family from exposure to excess carcinogens and help you enjoy grilled foods that are flavorful and tasty! Be safe by following these safe grilling tips! What happens when food is grilled at high temperatures ? High heat grilling can convert proteins in red meat, poultry and fish into Heterocyclic amines (HCA’s) which are associated with several cancers including colon, breast and stomach cancer. By the way, even charring vegetables on the grill creates different carcinogens such as acrylamides, so don’t think that the negative effect of charring only applies to meats. Safe Grilling Tips!
- Counteract the effect of HCA’s by loading up on spice : Marinating meats for hours beforehand in liquid mixtures that contain herbs/spices can dramatically help to reduce HCA’s (heterocyclic amines). Dousing the meat in meat marinade before grilling meats can drastically reduce any carcinogens that normally would form on grilled meat. The antioxidants in rosemary and thyme from a marinade were specifically cited in studies at being powerful inhibitors of HCA formation when grilling meats. But it was also noted that other spices such as garlic, ginger, turmeric and others can help to prevent HCA formation as well, so use a variety and slather on the marinade! Added bonus : marinated meat tastes better and cooks faster.
- Use lean meats : When fat from the meats drip down into the coals or fire they generate a cancer causing smoke called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH’s) which get deposited on food. This is minimized when you use leaner cuts of meat.
- Don’t overcook : The more well-done a meat is cooked, the higher concentration of carcinogenic HCA’s can form, so rare, medium-rare, or medium are healthier choices than well-done. If your’e not too fond of rare, use a meat thermometer and stop cooking when it shows the right temperature. The use of marinades and meat tenderizers can help to prevent over cooking.Cutting meats into smaller pieces shortens cooking time. Click here for a list of safe cooking temperatures.
- Precook :This is especially useful for meats that have bone in them like chicken drumsticks thighs etc. Half cooking the meat in a microwave, stove top or oven and then popping on the grill will greatly minimize formation of HCA’s since less cooking time is required. This will also ensure evenly cooked meats. This is a tip I use when I grill meat (with bone)
- Use the grill packet method : Wrapping meats, veggies in a foil packet cooks evenly, seals in flavor and minimizes formation of HCA’s. Using a grill basket does the same and these are a good investment!
- Clean grill : Clean grill in between uses. Removing old gunk will reduce smoke, quicken cooking time and reduce HCA formation. Cleaning and scrubbing the grill will also make the food taste better.
- Grill fruits and veggies : These will give you a nice dose of fiber and protective antioxidants to balance the meat and you don’t need to overcook them. I love grilled peaches and grilled pineapple.
- Enjoy your grilled foods and be safe !