It’s summertime and that means it’s time to break out your charcoal or gas grill and get to grilling. According to the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, more than 80% of all U.S. households own a grill, with almost half of the people grilling at least 1-2 times per week during the summer months. This summer, I want you to be safe and enjoy your grilling adventures.
Grilling is a delicious way to prepare your meals, and cooking outdoors also keeps you from heating up the house by turning on the stove or oven. There are a couple of dangers associated with grilling that you may not be aware of! They aren’t enough to keep you from grilling, but it’s important to be aware of them.
Danger #1: Smoke
BBQ smoke contains Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH) which is a cancer forming agent. Fat from cooking meat drips on to the coal and produces airborne PAHs, which you then inhale. The more the grill smokes, the more your clothes and hair smell, and that same smoke covers the insides of your lungs. The drippings often build up on the bottom of the grill, increasing the amount of smoke that forms. Be sure to keep your grill’s drip pan clean to prevent not only smoke, but also inadvertent fires that may spring up if those fats catch fire!
Danger #2: Char
Many people love a nicely charred steak. It not only makes your grilled food look more appetizing, it even makes food tastier. Unfortunately, Heterocyclic Amines (HCA) form when you char your food. HCAs form when meat and high heat are combined to create a blackened crust. The more char your food has, the more carcinogens. Although the research testing was done on lab animals exposed both to PAH and HCA, studies do show that eating charred meats may be associated with increased risk of certain types of cancer.
Good Grill News
Here’s the good news: There are measures you can take to reduce the risk of HCA and PAH formation so you can still enjoy the grilling season to its full potential.
• Clean your grill: Make sure that after each use, you clean your grill and remove the excess food that remains.
• Trim the fat: Trimming the excess fat from meats is important for your health and choosing lean meats is best.
• Herbs the word: Using herbs such as basil, mint, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sage in your marinades greatly reduces the development of HCA and PAH. The antioxidants found in these herbs also work to prevent free radicals from developing when your meat hits the heat.
• Be fearful of flare-ups: Avoid flare-ups as they tend to cause more smoke and burn food. The burnt food can usually be seen as black bits that look like charcoal. Make sure to remove these pieces from your food before eating.
• Marinate your meats: Using marinades that are based with olive oil, citrus juices and vinegar can help minimize the formation of HCA and PAH. It is likely that the marinades act as a “barrier”, keeping flames from directly touching the meat.
Grilling is a great way to enjoy the summer weather. These easy (and tasty!) precautionary techniques can prevent the formation of cancer causing compounds. Now you can safely enjoy the grilling season!