Tips for summertime grillingDr. Veita Bland / July 28, 2017
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For many people, a hot July day is the signal that it’s time to have a barbecue. While most of us only grill during warm months, let’s not forget those die heart grill enthusiasts who engage in the activity year round in the snow or ice. For many the endeavor is a ritual- a test of one’s culinary skills. For those of us not so skilled with outdoor grilling, we await the invitation to that special event.
Today there are festivals in honor of barbecue and even circuits of professionals who win money exhibiting their cooking mastery on the grill. But you know me, even though I enjoy a barbecue meal just as much as the next person, we need to think about whether this meal is healthy. How healthy is it to consume meat prepared by grilling?
Dr. Alfred Neugut of Columbia University Medical Center and the Mailman School of Public Health has written a very concise article that addresses this issue. Dr. Neugut reminds us of the fact that when meat, poultry or fish is cooked over flames or very high temperatures, the muscle protein reacts with the heat to form compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs). These HCAs have been shown to change our genetic structure or DNA and cause cancers. Many studies have linked the consumption of grilled meats to an increased risk of colon, prostate, pancreatic, stomach and breast cancers. This is particularly so when the meat is well cooked.
Another compound produced when we grill is polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs are formed when the fat and juices from meat fall into the fire and are ignited to make smoke. That smoke contains PAH’s which are then deposited onto the surface of the meat. (Our beloved smoke ring on the food) The PAHs are also formed when we char food and when we smoke meats. They are also found in cigarette smoke and car exhaust.
The amount of the PAHs and HCAs are dependent on the type of meat prepared and the how well done they are prepared, with well-done having the highest levels of these compounds. Grilling or pan frying above 300 degrees F contributes to the formation of these compounds.
Dr. Neugut reminds us that there are ways to decrease your exposure to PAHs and HCAs.
Avoid direct exposure of meat to an open flame or metal surface. Avoid prolonged cooking times at high temperatures.
Meat should be cooked at a lower temperature, below 325, for a longer time. This can be accomplished by lowering the temperature or letting the charcoal burn down to the embers.
One can use a microwave oven to partially cook the meat. This will shorten the time it is exposed to the high temperatures.
Pat the meat dry after microwaving to decrease the amount of dripping fluids into the flame. Continuously turn the meat. Remove the charred pieces and reframe from making gravy from those meat drippings. (So hard)
Use only lean meats and cut off any fat and remove the skin. This is healthier and will prevent the flare ups. Research has shown that using a marinade of apple cider vinegar, lemon, olive oil and spices on chicken breast can reduce the formation of cancer causing chemicals by 90 percent.
Use lots of spices. Studies have also shown that rolling meat in spices such as turmeric and rosemary can cut down on HCAs production.
Shield meat from heat and smoke. Wrap tin foil around it and poke a few holes in the foil. The foil will shield the meat from the smoke which contains the PAHs. Increase the distance from the heat source. This will lower the amount of heat to the meat. Raise the grilling surface and place the charcoal over to the side away from the meat.
Add vegetables to your grill. They do not form HCAs and are lower in calories. Use smaller portions of meat, fish or chicken. The smaller portions will cook faster and require less time on the grill.
Make sure you clean your grill well after each use to make sure you have removed any charred food from the grill.
Well, we can grill and barbecue in a healthier way. The question here is whether we are willing to make these changes to have healthier grilled and barbecued meats.
Dr. Veita Bland is a board certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on North Carolina A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wednesdays. Email Dr. Bland at ,a href=”mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org”>email@example.com.