Simple Steps for Safer Grilling
Cooking meat at a high temperature – like grilling – create a substance called heterocyclic amines (HCAs). These substances are carcinogens, with the potential to cause changes in DNA that may lead to cancer. There is not yet enough evidence to know for certain that grilling meat specifically increases risk for cancers. But that shouldn’t preclude backyard chefs from taking a few simple precautions.
1. Marinate: Studies have suggested that marinating your meat before grilling can decrease the formation of HCAs by 96%. Scientists theorize that the antioxidants in these marinades block HCAs from forming.
- A marinade usually contains acidic ingredients, like lemon juice or vinegar that break down proteins and work as liquid tenderizers. They also add flavor to meat and help keep everything moist. They’re especially good on dry pieces of meat, like chicken breast.
2. Lower Temps: Grilling at a slightly lower temperatures is enough to reduce HCA formation. Trimming the fat off your meat can also reduce flare-ups and charring.
3. Cut it up: Cutting meat into smaller portions and mixing in veggies can help shorten cooking time.AICR recommends limiting red meat to 18 ounces of cooked meat per week and saving hot dogs or other processed meats (bacon, sausages, etc.) for special occasions.
4. Go Green: Grilling vegetables and fruits produces no HCAs — and diets high in plant foods are associated with lower cancer risk.