Even if you’re a self-proclaimed grill master, you might not know that while your sizzling steaks might induce a smile or two, they could also induce the most menacing of all maladies: Cancer.
No one is saying you’ve got to turn in your beloved outdoor grill and put an end to all of your meat-heavy picnics this summer. Nor are we saying you need to spend the warm season with your friends indoors drinking kombucha juice and eating quinoa salad. You would be surprised to learn that it’s not the protein packed meat that’s the problem, it’s the grilling. Grilling meat brings can increase your risk of cancer.
The Lowdown on High Temperatures
When you grill meat and poultry at high temperatures, cancer-causing compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are produced. Even that delicious sight of fat dripping onto hot coals is a cancer-causing devil in disguise. The burning fat produces a compound called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). But don’t fret; there are ways to prevent some of these cancer-causing agents from spoiling your summertime fun.
Extra Mayo, Hold the Cancer: Three Tips for Safe Grilling:
Get Lean. The leaner the meat or poultry the better. Spend just a bit more on a leaner cut of meat at the grocery store to ensure both a healthy heart and lower risk of HCA and PAH. Leaner meats help reduce the amount of fat which drips to the coals or grill below.
Use the microwave. Not in lieu of grilling (that wouldn’t make your guest happy), but just for a few minutes to reduce the amount of time on the grill. Chop the meat into smaller pieces and nuke it for approximately three to five minutes before grill time. Doing this can lead to a 90 percent reduction in HCAs.
Marinate. Soaking the meat or chicken for a few minutes dramatically reduces HCAs. When you marinate, it forms a natural barrier against the heat. But you can’t just marinate with anything. Make sure to use an acid based marinade like orange or lemon juice, or vinegar. And yes, you can throw in garlic or rosemary as well. You don’t have to eat a lemon burger to stop the HCAs in their tracks.
Bonus: Rosemary contains antioxidants like rosmarinic acid, carnosol, and carnosic acid, when added to meat can help reduce HCAs.
Most importantly, be safe and have fun grilling this summer.