Memorial Day is just around the corner, ushering in the season of the ubiquitous summer barbecue. However, research has shown that grilling food can cause a buildup of carcinogens, increasing your chances of developing cancer.
The smoke produced when the fat from meat drips into the fire contains a carcinogen called Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and another carcinogen, heterocyclic amines (HCAs), develops in meats and fish when they are grilled at extremely high temperatures.
But don’t hang up your apron and basting brush just yet; here are some ways to barbecue while decreasing your exposure to carcinogens:
- Don’t cook your food until charred. Although many people enjoy the added crispiness and smokey taste, burnt foods contain the most HCAs. To decrease the amount of time your meat is on the grill, pre-cook it in the microwave or oven before finishing it off on the grill.
- Use only lean meats. The more fat on your food, the more PAH-filled smoke that will be produced. To really cut down on the fat, grill fish in place of red meat and chicken. Cutting the fat will also help to lower your cholesterol.
- Use oil. Oil will prevent your food from sticking to charred bits on the grill.
- Use aluminum foil. Either place foil over the grill, or wrap your food in it to reduce the amount of smoke enveloping your food. Remember to poke holes for the fat to drip though.
- Decrease the heat. Raise the grill higher above the coals, or simply lower the heat on a gas grill to reduce the amount of HCAs caused by cooking over high heat.
- Choose hardwood and charcoal over softwood and pine chips. Hardwood and charcoal burn at a lower temperature.
- Clean your grill after every use. Doing so will help to remove charred residue and bacteria.
- Marinate your foods. A marinade of olive oil, cider vinegar, garlic, mustard, lemon juice, salt, and brown sugar can reduce carcinogens by 90 percent.
Remember these tips for safe barbecuing all summer long.