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Fire Up the BBQ Safely



— July 15, 2017

Fire Up the BBQ Safely

  • Manning the grill—and eating steak, hamburgers, and sausage fresh off the coals—is one of the highlights of summer.
Fire Up the BBQ Safely

Manning the grill—and eating steak, hamburgers, and sausage fresh off the coals—is one of the highlights of summer. The next time you fire up the barbeque, consider this: Research published in the journal Molecular Carcinogenesis found a connection between consuming well-done meat cooked at high temperatures and pancreatic cancer risk.

When meat is cooked at high temperatures, chemicals called heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons form. Both of these chemicals—better known as HCAs and PAHs—are carcinogens that cause changes in the DNA that increase the risk of cancer, according to Marji McCullough, ScD, RD, strategic director of nutritional epidemiology for the American Cancer Society. You don’t have to skip summer barbeque season. Instead, follow these six tips for safer grilling.

Turn Down the Temperature

The HCA content is three times greater when the cooking temperature is raised from 392° to 482°F, according to the National Cancer Institute. Since the biggest danger comes from burning or charring meat, grilling at a lower temperature is a simple way to reduce your risk of cooking cancer-causing compounds into your meat. Stacy Kennedy, RD, a senior clinical nutritionist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, suggests cooking meat at a lower temperature for a longer time but warns, “You don’t want to eat undercooked meat either, so make sure it’s cooked through before eating it.”

Flip It

Avoid letting your meat sit on the grill too long without flipping it over. To lower the risk of carcinogenic compounds forming on the meat, one study recommends standing over the grill and flipping meat every minute; fewer HCAs form during this timeframe compared with meat that is flipped every five minutes. Grab a spatula and keep turning the meat!

Minimize Grill Time

Rather than preparing a steak or chicken breast from start to finish on the grill, McCullough suggests pre-cooking meat in the oven or microwave and finishing it on the grill. You’ll still get the smoky flavor but the shorter grill time means there is less likelihood of charring and less time for HCAs and PAHs to form. Other options to minimize grill time, according to McCullough, include preparing fish, which cooks faster than pork, chicken or beef, or using small cuts of meat—like kebabs—that can be cooked in less time.

Grilled Peaches with Raspberry Sauce
John Schlimm, author of Grilling Vegan Style (Da Capo), says, “Instead of reading some lengthy headnote where the author uses clever verbiage and the quirky turn of a phrase to express how with a little attention peaches shine on the grill or just how out-of-this-world, off-the-hook, sinfully palatable this easy and amaaaaaazing dessert with a homemade raspberry sauce is, simply reread the recipe title, study it, absorb it and devour it. After all, those five words up there say it all: YUM!”
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp molasses
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice
1 cup fresh raspberries
5 medium-size unpeeled fresh peaches, halved and pitted
Nonstick vegetable oil spray for the grill grates
1. In a shallow dish, combine the sugar, molasses and lime juice, mixing well. Add half of the raspberries and mash. Add the peach halves, turning to coat. Marinate at room temperature, cut side down, for 30 to 60 minutes.
2. Coat the grill rack with the vegetable oil spray and heat the grill to medium-hot. Place the peaches on the grill, cut side down. Reserve the marinade.
3. Turn the peaches over after 2 minutes, then cook for another 6 to 8 minutes, or until tender, basting once with half of the reserved marinade. Then remove them from the grill. Stir the remaining raspberries into the remaining marinade and spoon over the peach halves. Serve warm.
YIELD: 5 servings, 2 peach halves per person
Excerpted from Grilling Vegan Style: 125 Fired-Up Recipes to Turn Every Bite Into a Backyard BBQ by John Schlimm. Copyright © 2012. Available from Da Capo Lifelong Books, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

Marinate Meat

Before tossing steak, chicken or pork on the grill, let the meat marinate. Research published in the Journal of Food Science found that marinating meat significantly reduced the formation of HCAs. But not all marinades are created equal. The study found that, among bottled marinades sold at the supermarket, Caribbean marinade decreased HCA content by 88% compared to 72% for a herb marinade and 57% for a Southwest marinade. Kennedy suggests opting for vinegar-based marinades over those made from sugar, noting, “Sugar marinades will burn faster and cause the meat to char.”

Reduce Processed Meats

You don’t have to give up hot dogs and sausages but McCullough recommends grilling them less often than other cuts of lean protein. “There is strong evidence that processed meats increase the risk of colorectal cancer,” she says. In addition to eating less processed meat, Kennedy suggests eating less meat overall, noting, “Reducing your overall intake of red meat and eating a more plant-based diet will help reduce your cancer risk.”

Choose Grill-Friendly Foods

The next time you fire up the barbeque, McCullough suggests preparing foods from the produce aisle. “Rather than just focusing on meat, think about other foods you can prepare on the grill,” McCullough says. Fruits and vegetables, including corn on the cob, peppers, onions, tomatoes, strawberries, peaches, watermelon and other fresh, seasonal foods can also be cooked over an open flame. “Alternative” proteins like veggie burgers and tofu can also be grilled without the risk of grilling meats because HCAs and PAHs form in muscle proteins. Cooking on the grill is one of the best parts of summer and, with a few smart strategies, you can reduce your cancer risk while still enjoying your favorite meals.

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