Firing up the grill isn't just a great way to get outside and relax – it can also provide you with a delicious and healthy source of protein. But if you grill the wrong way, you could be unintentionally serving up your meat with a big side of cancer-causing chemicals. Grilling meat generates polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which have been shown to cause cancer in laboratory rats. Follow these guidelines to make sure your grilling is good for your health.
Rule 1: Pick cancer-fighting meats
Meats like skinless chicken, pork tenderloin and sirloin tip that are lean and not heavily processed are much healthier choices than hotdogs and sausages. Preserved meats have been linked to significantly higher risk of heart disease and cancer and could even damage your DNA, upping colon cancer risk.
Rule 2: Trim the fat
PAHs form when fat from meat, poultry or fish drips onto a high heat source and the resulting smoke coats your food. Choose cuts labeled "lean" or trim extra fat from your meat before you put it on the grill to limit your exposure to carcinogens.
Rule 3: Don't char or burn your meat
Black grill marks are bad. Charring or burning meat, poultry or fish leads to the production of heterocyclic amines (HCAs) that can damage your genes, raising risk of stomach and colorectal cancers.
Rule 4: Turn down the temperature
The higher the heat, the more carcinogens you're likely to get in your meat. Keep the temperature more reasonable by spreading coals thinly or propping the grill rack on bricks – this increases the distance between the heat and your food. Alternatively, barbecue briquettes and hardwood products like hickory and maple often burn at lower temperatures than softwood pine chips.
Bonus Tip: Marinade your meat in beer
Why keep your drinks and foods separate? A recent study showed that marinating pork in beer (especially darker beers), reduced the formation of eight major PAHs by up to half. Researchers think that antioxidant compounds in beer inhibit the activity of damaging free radicals.