I hate to be a Debbie Downer right as barbecue season is about to kick off, but I feel you should know about the connection between grilling and cancer. You see, grilling meat—and not just red meat, but poultry and fish too—leads to the formation of two different substances, heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which have been linked to cancer in animals.
Does that mean your Memorial Day barbecue could be the death of you? Definitely not—there's no evidence that occasional grilling poses a serious risk. But if you're one of those people who makes grilling the go-to dinner plan all summer long, you should take some precautions. Here are some tips from the National Cancer Institute on how to minimize the formation of possibly carcinogenic compounds when you grill:
- Avoiding direct exposure of meat to an open flame or a hot metal surface and avoiding prolonged cooking times (especially at high temperatures) can help reduce HCA and PAH formation.
- Using a microwave oven to cook meat prior to exposure to high temperatures can also substantially reduce HCA formation by reducing the time that meat must be in contact with high heat to finish cooking.
- Continuously turning meat over on a high heat source can substantially reduce HCA formation compared with just leaving the meat on the heat source without flipping it often.
- Removing charred portions of meat and refraining from using gravy made from meat drippings can also reduce HCA and PAH exposure.
Also, check out this longer list of healthy-grilling tips over at the blog of Pamela Salzman. Salzman, an LA cooking instructor and healthy eating expert, writes one of my favorite food blogs—love her recipes! She reveals that one easy, appetizing way to reduce the health risks of grilling is to first marinade your meat using wine, beer, vinegar or citrus juice, which has been shown to reduce HCA formation.