With Memorial Day around the corner, grills will be fired up. Grilled foods are usually considered healthy because they are cooked without fat. For instance, a typical 4-ounce chicken breast cooked on the grill contains about 7 grams of fat, while a 4-ounce serving of fast-food fried chicken contains about 17 grams of fat.
Although your waistline is better off with grilled cuisine, the American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR) points out that grilling might increase the risk of cancer. Cancer-causing compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are produced when meat (eg, fish, beef, and chicken) is cooked at the high temperatures used in grilling and broiling. Other cancer-causing compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are formed when meat fat drips onto hot coals. As food cooks on the grill, flames and smoke help deposit the PAHs onto the food.
What You Can Do to Be Safe
There are steps that you can take to lower your risk of these potentially cancer-causing chemicals:
- Trim the fat. To minimize the PAHs from forming, trim as much fat as you can from the meat.
- Marinate. Some studies suggest that marinating meat before grilling may reduce the formation of HCAs.
- Precook. Pop the meat in the microwave to partially cook it before grilling.
- Use smaller cuts of meat. Smaller cuts take less time to grill. You can also flip your food often, which can further shorten grilling time.
- Remove charred parts. After grilling, cut off any charred parts from the meat.
- Eat your fruits and veggies. Add variety to your meals by grilling fruits and veggies instead of meat. Vegetables do not produce HCAs.
Other Ways to Be a Safe Grillmaster
- Frequently wash your hands and surfaces. This can prevent cross-contamination of bacteria, like E. coli.
- Use separate plates. Use one cutting board for raw meats and a clean one for other foods in order to reduce bacteria crossover. Be sure to use separate plates, utensils, and platters for raw and cooked foods. For instance, if the raw steaks are carried out on a platter and tongs are used for placing them on the grill, you must use a new clean platter and tongs for taking the cooked steaks off the grill when they are done.
- Keep the temperatures appropriate. Meats should be refrigerated while marinating and up to the point of being cooked. When the grilling starts, be sure the internal temperature of meats is appropriate to kill bacteria . Use a meat thermometer to check proper internal temperatures. Leftovers should be refrigerated immediately and tossed if left out more than one hour in hot temperatures and 2 hours in cooler temperatures.
A little precaution goes a long way in keeping your grilled food safe at the plate, both on this holiday weekend and all grilling season. Happy Memorial Day!