If you love to cook meat outdoors on the grill, you will find this bit of information useful regarding the health and safety of you and your loved ones.
Unbeknownst to many, cooking meat on the grill can pose a few health risks, but there’s an easy remedy for that.
What Are the Risks?
When meat is cooked outdoors on the grill, the increased amount of heat produces substances known as heterocyclic amines (HCAs). HCAs are carcinogens (cancer-causing substances) that occur when heat interacts with the amino acids and creatinine found in meats.
As meats are cooking on the grill, the fatty drippings from the meat produce polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are also carcinogens. It seems as though carcinogens are creeping up everywhere in the foods we eat and the way we prepare them, but this is one situation that can easily be fixed (see below).
Bacteria can present a problem in your grilling experience as well. Bacteria thrive on outdoor grills, especially those in parks since everyone uses them and they aren’t cleaned, so you can expose yourself and your loved ones to bacterial infections and serious illness. The meats you are cooking – if not handled, stored, refrigerated and prepared properly – can also hold on to bacteria.
Furthermore, charcoal is usually full of chemicals and the fumes they produce can seep into your food during grilling.
What Can You Do About It?
Basting or soaking your meats in a marinade is an easy solution to get rid of carcinogens and bacteria. Lemon is especially good for this purpose, because lemons contain lots of vitamin C (more than oranges) and vitamin C is a potent disease fighter due to its high acidic content. Also be sure to add lots of antioxidant-rich spices or vegetables like rosemary, cayenne pepper, garlic and onions which help to draw out the carcinogens.
Microwaving your meats slightly is believed to extract carcinogens out of the meat and into the juices, which should then be discarded before grilling. Grilling skinless or leaner cuts of meat and cutting away fat from meats before grilling, and removing any accidentally charred meat after grilling is also helpful.
The key to reducing HCAs and PAHs is to reduce the amount of heat during grilling, which may require less charcoal for slower cooking, pre-cooking meats and using marinades.
To reduce bacteria and the chance for food-borne illnesses, make sure that your meats are kept on ice up to the point of grilling; keep meats separate from other foods and unclean surfaces; wear gloves when cooking or thoroughly wash your hands; eat cooked meats soon after grilling or store them in a hot/cold cooler to keep them hot; clean all surfaces and utensils prior to grilling;
don’t undercook or overcook meats by using a thermometer to gauge that you have reached the appropriate internal temperatures for the type of meat you are grilling (for example, chicken and poultry should reach an internal temperature of 180 degrees F and hamburgers should reach 160 degrees F); and again use marinades.
When it comes to charcoal selection, go for natural charcoals (like lump charcoal) which contain less harmful additives and can be purchased at bulk stores throughout the nation.