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How to Grill Foods Safely



By Daine Hanson


One of our family’s favorite summertime activities is to have a barbecue party in the backyard. And, I’ve to admit, I’m all for it – that’s probably the only time of the year, I get to sit back, relax with a nice cool glass of orange mint ice tea while my husband does the cooking!


Unfortunately, barbecued or grilled foods can very bad for health. Frequent consumption of grilled foods is often associated with cancers of the colon, stomach, pancreas and prostate, just to name a few.


Research studies has shown that people who consume the most barbecued red meat (beef, pork and lamb) has twice the risk of developing colon polyps, compared to those who did not consume grilled foods.


Colon polyps can develop into colon cancer. When you grill meats (poultry, red meat or seafood), the substances in the muscle proteins of meats react under high temperature to form carcinogens known as heterocyclic amines (HCAs). HCAs can destroy the DNA of genes, igniting the process of cancer development.


So the best approach is to follow these grilling safety tip to minimize cancer risks.



How Do You Grill Food Safely?


As a general thumb of rule, try to keep the heat as low as possible, and limit grilling time. It’s also a good idea to use more fish and go for lean meats rather than fatty cuts. This is because the smoke or flare-ups produced from dripping fat contains chemicals that can increase your risk of cancer. Leaner cuts of meat will drip less fat, and hence cause fewer flare-ups and smoke.


While beef labeled “prime” is of highest quality, it also has a high fat content. For the leanest red meat, choose “select” or “choice” grade instead of “prime”. Also, when buying red meats, check for the word “loin” or “round” on the label. For example, beef round, lamb loin chops and pork tenderloin.


In addition, make sure to trim off all visible fat before marinating or grilling meats. Interestingly enough, studies have shown that marinating reduce HCA formation by drawing out chemical precursors of carcinogens.


Besides removing excess fat from meat, you can also place a sheet of foil (make sure to create small holes in the foil to allow fat to drain) or a drip pan between the meat and the heat source to catch any dripping fat and avoid the smoke.


When grilling, avoid placing meat directly over or under the heat source. You can do this by either raising the grill as far as possible from the heat source or place the coals on one side of the grill and the meat on the other.


Also, try to use barbecue briquettes and hardwood products, such as hickory and maple as they burn at lower temperatures than softwood (pine) chips.


And, if you’re using a gas or propane grill, always turn off the burner directly under the meat, keep the temperature as low as possible and then close the lid.


One great way to reduce grilling time is to check that the meat is completely thawed safely in the refrigerator. And, slice them as thinly as possible so that they cook quickly on the grill. Alternatively, precook the meat in the microwave for about 2 to 4 minutes, discard the juice and then place the meat on the grill at once. Precooking the meats for 2 minutes may decrease HCAs by 90 percent, according to some research.


Also, make sure not to deep-brown or char your meat when grilling and remember to flip the meat frequently. Remove and discard the charred portion of meats as char has a notoriously high carcinogen content. To prevent overcooking, use a meat thermometer to cook the meat to the right temperature.


Vegetable kabobs – zucchinis, asparagus and onions – cook very quickly and they make great additions to grilled meats. Another huge plus is veggies don’t form HCAs. In fact, phytochemicals in veggies stimulate enzymes that can convert HCAs to an inactive, stable form that is easily passed out from the body.


Last but not least, make sure to scrub the grills well after each use to avoid a buildup of carcinogens which can be transferred to your food the next time you grill. As an added benefit, scrubbing is a great workout to tone bingo arms, and burn off the calories you consumed.


Keep these grilling safety tips in mind, and everyone in your family can have a healthy and fun time in summer.

how to grill food safely

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