How to grill it just right

Technology | Barbara Quinn 11 Sep 2019

Grilled food is good for us, right? It's better than fried and tastes soo much better than anything from the microwave.

Unfortunately though, there is a downside.

According to the National Cancer Institute, when beef, pork, fish or poultry are cooked at high temperatures - such as pan frying or over an open flame - chemicals called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are formed.

Experiments in laboratories have found that these substances may increase one's risk for cancer.

Besides high temperatures, these bad boys are especially prevalent when fat and juice from meat drip into the fire, causing flames and smoke.

It's the smoke that contains PAHs that then stick to the surface of the meat.

Don't throw out the grill just yet, though. There are some strategies that significantly reduce the formation of HCAs and PAHs.

Don't cook it to death. Meat, poultry or fish that remain at high temps for a long time are most susceptible to the build-up of these substances. One method recommended is to cook the food in a microwave and finish it off on the hot grill.

Marinate. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, soaking your meat, fish or poultry for at least 30 minutes in a marinade that contains acidic ingredients such as lemon juice or vinegar can reduce the formation of HCAs by more than 90 percent.

Grill over heat, not fire. That way dripping grease doesn't cause a flare-up which releases dangerous chemicals back into the meat. Electric grills let you lower your temperature.

Grill more vegetables. Because they are low in protein, they do not form HCA. Colorful vegetables contain natural chemicals that help reduce the risk for cancer.

Grill smaller portions of meat. Kebabs, for example, cook faster and spend less time cooking at high temps.

Refrain from indulging in charred portions of meat. Yes, some of us consider this the tastiest part but charred meat increases exposure to HCAs and PAHs.

Turn food frequently. Researchers report that flipping meat often helps reduce the formation of HCAs.

The Monterey County Herald

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