Tired of the crockpot? Good news! Spring is officially here and warm weather is just around the corner which means it’s time to plant those gardens, frequent the Farmer’s Market, perhaps join a CSA, and above all break out the grill. Grilling is an incredibly healthy cooking method because there is little (if any) fat added to meats or veggies during the cooking process. Better yet, grilling often reduces the saturated fat content of your meat of choice—just watch it drip away! To kick off grilling season, review a few Grill Safety reminders below.
First, there are two carcinogenic (cancer-causing) compounds potentially produced by high-temperature grilling, called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
• HCAs form when the creatine (a naturally occurring amino acid) in meat is directly exposed to a flame or other high-temp surface.
• PAHs form in the smoke produced when fat from the meat ignites directly or drips on the heating element of the grill. Without knowing it, PAHs can then stick to the surface of the grilled meat.
Simple steps like choosing leaner meats (which results in fewer fat drippings) and marinating your meat of choice beforehand can dramatically reduce HCA and PAH content. Research shows even the simplest of marinades provide a protective barrier against formation of HCAs. Grilling at lower temperatures for slightly longer time is another strategy to reduce cancer-causing compounds from interfering with otherwise healthy grilled foods. Lower temps not only roast meat, rather than char it, but also prevent flare-ups on the grill. Flare-ups lead to PAH formation so don’t wander away too long! Lastly, which takes us into the food safety portion of today’s blog, find the balance between under and overcooking meat. Overdoing it causes greater HCA formation.
Next, mind your Food Safety when grilling out. Most importantly, prevent cross-contamination by washing hands thoroughly and often and by separating cutting and preparation surfaces for raw meats and veggies.
Cook meats to temperature using meat thermometers and this chart:
USDA Recommended Safe Minimum Internal Temperatures
• Steaks & Roasts - 145 °F
• Fish - 145 °F
• Pork - 160 °F
• Ground Beef - 160 °F
• Egg Dishes - 160 °F
• Chicken Breasts - 165 °F
• Whole Poultry - 165 °F
For more information regarding food safety, click here.
Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD is a best selling author and the creator of "The F-Factor Diet", an innovative nutritional program she has used for over a decade to provide thousands with the tools they need to achieve easy weight loss and maintenance, and improved health and well-being. In January 2011 Tanya launched the F-Factor food line with the largest natural foods company in the US, the Hain Celestial group. She is thrilled to be able to offer the highest fiber products on the market to date. Become a fan of Tanya on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.
Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian in New York City and the author of two bestselling diet books: The F-Factor Diet and The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber.