Grilling and Cancer

July 15, 2012

“Grilling is an art. Creating meals full of mouthwatering perfection takes a lot of practice and skill.

Or just some really good tips.

These suggestions can help enhance the flavor of grilled meat while taking into account food safety and cancer risks.

For the best flavors on a grill, marinate the meat first. But if red meat is on the menu, is marinating a good idea?

Research in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry showed that marinating red meat in beer or wine for two hours significantly reduced compounds that may cause cancer.

Similarly, a Kansas State University study found that rubbing rosemary, an herb known for its high level of antioxidants, onto meats before grilling them cut the levels of carcinogens by up to 100 percent. Herbs, such as basil, mint, sage and oregano, may have similar effects.

If the meat is going to be grilled or otherwise cooked at a very high temperature, marinate meats in an herb- and spice-filled mixture for an hour before cooking. This dramatically reduces the development of HCAs. Scientists aren’t certain why, but they believe the reason may be the antioxidant properties of herbs and spices.

Another way to reduce the formation of carcinogens is to flip the meat frequently and avoid charring it, but some people feel that reduces the flavor and appeal of grilled meat.

For grill lovers who don’t want to consume large amounts of meat, grilled fruits and vegetables do not produce the same suspected carcinogens as meats. Good substitutes include onions brushed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or a grill basket filled it with healthy vegetables that have been tossed in oil and sprinkled with herbs.

The American Institute for Cancer Research reports that marinating can cut the risk of cancer compound formation by as much as 92 percent to 99 percent, according to an article in Eating Well Magazine.

If burgers are on the menu, they can be cooked at 400 degrees or less, or with indirect heat. Ground beef and pork should be cooked to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit, poultry and hot dogs to 165 degrees and beef, veal and lamb to between 145 and 160 degrees.

There is no evidence that grilling meat causes cancer. However, cooking meat at the high temperatures used to grill, as well as broil and fry, creates compounds that are linked with some cancers.

The concerns about grilled meats have been around for some time. A study focusing on chicken, the most popular barbeque item, found that marinating chicken in a combination of brown sugar, olive oil, cider vinegar, garlic, mustard, lemon juice and salt significantly reduced the potential cancer-causing compounds formed in cooking while also adding more delicious flavors.

The study also found that the length of time the chicken was marinated didn’t matter – the results were the same for chicken marinated anywhere from 4 to 48 hours, as well as chicken dipped in marinade just before grilling. Many commercially-prepared marinades worked as well.”


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