How To Grill Safely

These cancer-causing compounds are called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Yes, they are as bad as they sound and no, I am not going to spend this article trying to convince you to throw away your beloved grill. Instead we are going to discuss ways to limit their production during the grilling process so that we can make the meal as healthy as humanly possible given the data we have to date.
Before I continue, I do feel it necessary to make the following statement. Grilling does promote the production of these cancer causing compounds and although we can decrease their production significantly through the following tips, you should still limit the grilling to special occasions rather than regular daily cooking. There I said it, so let’s continue with the tips for grilling as safely as possible.
First, let’s understand the simple formula for the formation of the harmful compounds. The formula is: Protein + Fat + Open Flame + High Temperature = Nasty Cancer-Causing Compounds.
When animal flesh is grilled at high temperatures, the first class of nasty compounds called HCAs are produced through chemical reactions in the meat. As the fat from the animal flesh falls onto the hot coals and smokes away, they form the second class of nasty compounds called PAHs which are then deposited back onto the meat through the smoke and flares in the grill. These PAHs form in the charred outer layer of the meat.
Tips for decreasing the formation of HCAs and PAHs:
Use low fat meats to decrease the formation of PAHs in the cooking.
The American Institute for Cancer Research has found that marinating your meat prior to grilling can significantly decrease the production of HCAs and PAHs. In fact, one such marinade decreased HCA formation by 92-99 percent. The following marinade ingredients may provide the most protection from these nasty compounds.
Citrus
Rosemary
Sage
Garlic
Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar
Use tongs or a spatula rather than a fork to flip meats. When the meat is punctured and compressed with the fork, fat is pressed from the meat which drips onto the coal and could promote PAHs
Blacken your meat with blackened seasoning. The seasoning protects the outer layer from damage during the grilling process. The antioxidant qualities of the spices further protect the meat from damage.
Flip the meat every minute to prevent the outer layers from reaching excessively high temperatures that will promote the production of these compounds.
HCAs form at temperatures above 325 degrees, cooking meat at temperatures below this will help to prevent the formation of these compounds. This is hard to implement on the grill, however, flipping every minute will help to cool the surface. Remember, use a meat thermometer to make sure the inner temperature reaches a high enough level to kill bacteria. They are as follows:
Ground beef, lamb and pork – 160 degrees
Poultry – 165 degrees
Beef and lamb steaks – 145-160 degrees
Fish – 145 degrees
Microwave your meat – Normally I am not a fan of microwaves, however, there is good evidence that precooking your meat in the microwave will significantly decrease the formation of these harmful compounds. Microwave the meat on medium setting for 1-2 minutes prior to grilling. Note: this may make the meat a little dry so marinades would be a good idea.
Add 1-2 Tablespoons of black cherry concentrate per pound of ground meat prior to cooking. This actually adds extra flavor and decreases the formation of HCAs. You can also squeeze one 400 iu capsule of vitamin E per quarter pound of ground meat for added protection.
For those who eat cooked meat on a regular basis, there is a wonderful supplement that works to prevent these harmful compounds from damaging the cell. The product is called chlorophyllin. Chlorophyllin is a special form of chlorophyll, the cleansing compound that gives plants their green color. Chlorophyllin works to intercept cancer causing compounds and toxins such as hetercyclic amines before they can damage the DNA of the cell. Over 20 years of research has confirmed chlorophyllin’s powerful ability to protect the body from over 50 cancer-causing agents. The recommended dosage is 1 softgel three times daily with your meals.

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