In spite of the happy associations, and with the increased popularity of grilling out, it is important to understand that there are some health risks associated with this cooking method. This is because the combination of animal protein and high heat produces certain chemicals that may cause inflammation, damage to DNA and therefore, a higher risk of developing cancer and other diseases. These risks seem to increase as we age, since our bodies are less able to deal with these toxins. Here are some tips for healthier grilling.
*Grill at lower temperatures by waiting until your charcoal is a bed of hot embers or by turning the gas down.
*Partially cook the meat in the oven or on the stove, to shorten time on the grill to produce fewer carcinogens.
*Marinate meat before grilling to decrease cooking time and reduce formation of toxic chemicals, particularly with acidic marinades, such as those with lemon juice or vinegar.
*Turn meat often on the grill using a tongs rather than a fork, since poking the meat may cause dripping fat and flare-ups, which can deposit carcinogens onto the meat.
*Use a cedar plank or elevated rack to move meat farther away from the fire.
*Use a meat thermometer to know when meat is thoroughly cooked, but not overcooked, since the longer you cook the meat, the more toxins will form.
*Grill leaner cuts of meat that will drip less and cause less charring, and don’t eat the charred portions of grilled meat as they contain a known carcinogen.
*Grill more vegetables, and even fruits, with your meat, since they don’t produce the same toxic chemicals that grilling meat does. As an added bonus, fruits and vegetables contain phytochemicals, which help reduce the effects of those toxins.
*Keep your grill clean, since carcinogenic residue can build up and be deposited on the food.
*Limit grilling to certain occasions such as picnics or backyard barbecue parties, rather than making it a regular cooking method.
By incorporating these safer ways to grill, you can still make your outdoor cooking occasions special, while at the same time protecting the health of your family and friends.