Published June 25, 2013
When foods, primarily meats, come in contact with intense flames, smoke and heat, two known cancer-causing agents can form: Heterocyclic amines (HCA) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). However, safe grilling practices can significantly cut the formation of HCA and PAH on your barbequed food. These tips will help you grill more safely:
Clean your grill
Before your next BBQ give your grill a good cleaning to get rid of accumulated grease, grime and gunk. Caked on sauces, meat and fats become more concentrated with HCA and PAH each time they are scorched. So if your grill is a coated with residue best to get the scraper out and clean it!
Choose leaner proteins and trim excess fat
HCA’s and PAH’s form when sizzling fat drips onto the heat source and produces smoke. Keep smoke to a minimum simply by trimming excess fat from your meats or opt for naturally leaner cuts of proteins, such as tenderloins, chicken breast with the skin removed, and seafood.
Say no to overcooked, charred, burnt
Cooking food over extreme heat so it burns means more HCA and PAH so lower the heat on your grill and choose foods that require less grilling time, such as shellfish and kebabs with small pieces of protein. Trim off charred edges before serving.
Don’t hesitate to marinate
Instead of slathering your chicken in a heavy sauce that will drip, burn and create smoke, use marinades that impart zesty flavor and won’t drip. Adding herbs like basil, thyme, rosemary and mint to your marinade can help cut back on HCA formation, too, because these contain antioxidants that reduce the free radicals that form once food hits the grill.
Keep hands clean
Grilling safely also means practicing food safety. Dirty hands easily contaminate food, so be sure to wash often with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds before you cook or eat.
For advice on healthy eating, drinking and weight loss, check out my new book The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber!
Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a registered dietitian in New York City and author of the Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with fiber as well as the bestselling F-Factor Diet. Become a fan of Tanya on Facebook,follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn, and visit her website Ffactor.com.