Everyone loves a backyard barbecue. But when it comes to your health, grilled meat can pose some serious risks. That’s because barbecuing meat over an open flame creates dangerous compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs).
These compounds have been found to increase your risk of several of the most common kinds of cancer, including breast, prostate, colon, and stomach cancers.
And there’s more. When animal fat drips onto a heating element or hot charcoal, the resulting smoke creates another kind of carcinogen called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The consumption of charred meats is directly correlated with increased cancer rates.
You don’t have to hang up your long-handled tongs for good, though. Here are three simple but important steps you must take to reduce the health risks of grilling:
- Marinate beforehand. Marinating meats before grilling them dramatically reduces the formation of HCAs. As an added bonus, marinades also add flavor and moisture to the meat. You can make an infinite variety of delicious marinades using a combination of wine, vinegars, citrus juice, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, fresh herbs, and spices. Learn more about my five favorite heart healthy seasonings.
- Cut the fat. To reduce the formation of PAHs, use well-trimmed cuts of meat or trim off any visible fat before cooking. For poultry, remove all skin.
- Chuck anything charred. Cut off any charred or blackened bits of meat before eating it.