It looks like we’re getting into outdoor cooking weather now, finally. The excitement of barbecuing is enough to get even some vegetarians lusting to throw a few items on the “barbie.” If you do eat meat, it’s wise to get organic grass fed sourced meats. But even despite that healthy choice, there are other health considerations that have cropped up recently regarding carcinogens from grilling.
Here are 6 tips for safe, non-carcinogenic grilling. Eat safe and have fun!
How to Grill – Safely
1. Choosing Coals
Of course, if you’re using a gas (butane) powered grill, you won’t need this advice. But adding poison onto the coals is silly. If you choose charcoal briquettes that are chemically treated for easier lighting, you’ll be adding toxic chemicals to the food as well. Ditto if you use lighter fluid or any other chemical flame starter to start up your coals.
Lump coal is usually without chemical additives. It’s cheap, but needs to be watched as it’s used. There are some briquette products without chemicals that demand less attention also.
2. Lighting Coals
Electric coal fire starters are pricey; you can use a reliable charcoal chimney fire starter at a much lower cost. They look like portable metal chimneys with holes and a handle. The lower part is filled with crumpled newspaper and the part at the top is where the charcoal goes. The holes allow one to ignite the paper and force air through holes to intensify the flame and get those coals burning fast. Then the chimney starter is lifted by the handle to dump the hot coals into your open grill.
3. Choosing the Least Carcinogenic Meats
Unless labeled ‘nitrate free’, processed meats, including hot dogs and sausages or bratwurst, are considered the most carcinogenic of all meats. Red meats rank highly also. Grilled chicken or fish are less carcinogenic when grilled.
4. About Grilling and Carcinogens
Ironically, well-done meat cooked even normally is up to 3.5 times more carcinogenic than rare or medium rare meat. Grilling at high temperatures for longer times is about as carcinogenic as you can get with grilling. What happens is heterocyclic amines (HCAs) form in meats as they’re cooked in temperatures above 325 degrees. Studies have determined that HCAs are definite carcinogens.
In addition, fatty meats can drip onto hot coals or even the metal that’s part of a gas grill, and the smoke it produces contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). It can become part of what you’re grilling or part of your lungs. Remember, long cooking at high heat produces more HCAs and raises the prospect of creating PAHs. The higher the heat and the longer the cooking time, the more HCAs and probability of PAHs.
5. Reducing HCAs
You can minimize and maybe eliminate the carcinogenic yield by mixing meats with veggies, as with shish kabobs. The cancer protective phytochemicals of veggies works well using shish kabobs or skewers, tasty ways to counteract grilled meat carcinogens with veggies.
Marinating prior to grilling works even better at subduing the carcinogenic qualities of grilling. It can be for as long or short, a half-hour even, as desired to help protect against the meats’ HCAs.
Longer = yummier. The following herb choices for marinating in a vinegar-base have been tested as effective for reducing HCA compounds: rosemary (especially), thyme, garlic, red pepper, oregano, mint, and sage. Any combination of those with rosemary would substantially reduce HCAs.
6. Don’t Eat Charred Meat
You can get away with eating charred veggies and fruits like pineapple chunks on your kabob stick, but eating charred meat may provide you with a lot of the HCAs and PAHs you had eliminated with marination.