By Morgan Lord
It’s early summer, which means that grilling season has reached its peak (June and July, according to the National Fire Protection Agency). This year, before putting your Kiss the Cook apron on, check out these tips from Karen Collins, nutrition adviser to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), and grill healthier.
Beat the heat: Collins says that cooking meat at high temperatures can create chemicals called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which have been linked to increased cancer risk.
Scrape the char: “This is just a start, but we do advise people to remove char,” Collins says. “Since char formation also tends to be a sign of high temperatures or extended cooking, it is best to cook in a way that does not produce char.” What’s the best way to do that? Reduce that grill heat.
Cook on medium: Reduction is easy. If you’re cooking on a gas grill, turn the burners to medium. If it’s charcoal you prefer, let patience be your ally and wait a bit for the coals to cool, Collins says. “Don’t expect a difference by choosing gas versus charcoal—the HCA formation is not based on the type of grill; it’s dependent on the heat,” she says. Cooking at medium instead of a high temperature for an extra two minutes to reach the same stage of doneness produces fewer HCAs, according to Collins.
Use leaner cuts: To reduce PAH formation, you want to reduce the smoke. To avoid smoke flare-ups, opt for less greasy meat, which means fewer drippings that produce smoke. Leaner meat is a better choice—think chicken, turkey and fish over red meat. Another option to avoid smoke? You can cook on, or in, foil on the grill, or put things slightly off center of where smoke is rising, Collins says.
Increase the greens: We know you probably like to fill your grill with dogs and kabobs, but remember the veggies, too. Stay balanced, and keep your meat, poultry or fish to no more than 1/3 of your plate; fill the other 2/3 with vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans, according to the AICR-recommended style of eating called the New American Plate. All you processed- and red-meat lovers, be sure to save the processed meats for only occasional use, and keep total red meats to no more than 18 ounces a week, Collins says.
Make a marinade: You can reduce HCA formation from approximately 90 to 57 percent by simply marinating your meat, Collins says. Using a base of water, oil and either vinegar or lemon juice may offer some effect itself, Collins says, but the greatest effect has been seen when the marinades include garlic or onion, herbs (thyme, rosemary, oregano) and/or spices (red or black pepper, paprika, turmeric) in some combination. Collins adds that if you don’t have time to marinate overnight, or even for a few hours, research shows that the effect on reduction of HCA formation occurs even with brief marinating.
Next time you fire up the grill, consider a few of these healthy-grilling tips to make tasty meals—cancer-fighting ones, too.
Published Thursday, June 26, 2014