A trending topic on search engines these days remains “is grilling your food killing you?” Almost every blog, wherever you turn, it’s as if someone has a list of reasons you should not grill your food. Well, is grilling that unhealthy? Are you killing yourself by grilling your food?
No, it’s not as horrible as you’ve been led to believe. The magical aroma of grilled meat is an indication that summer has arrived. Fortunately, grilling isn’t just a delicious way of cooking; it is also very healthy. Grilled foods do not contain added fats or calories, and therefore eliminate most of our health issues. What’s more, grilled foods are different from fried foods in the sense that they do not lose essential nutrients during processing.
However, we can’t deny the few underlying dangers of grilling. As an example, overconsumption of charred grilled foods may cause specific types of cancer. Also, eating poorly prepared meats tends to cause food poisoning. The possible cancerous scenarios continue.
Generally, grilling is mostly associated with cancer. We’ll, therefore, be looking at the connection between cancer and grilling. Here we go…
Connections Between Grilling and Cancer
Grilling might worry you because you’ve heard of the various cancers you might suffer when you eat over a long while. Your fears aren’t unfounded. How so? The following are the ways through which grilling may cause cancer:
- Cooking protein foods, such as fish, meat, pork, and chicken, over high temperatures or flames, causes an unhealthy chain of reaction. Muscle proteins form compounds known as Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs) when exposed to severe heat. Unfortunately, research has proven that HCAs are responsible for certain changes in the DNA cells that may lead to several types of cancer.
- The fat that drips from the meat onto the grill produces a specific type of smoke. This smoke contains polyclinic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are chemicals shown to cause some cancers. When this smoke becomes much, it may leave deposits of these chemicals on what you’re grilling—and will eventually be eating. Of course, these chemicals won’t cause cancer in just a week; one must have consumed affected meats over a long while.
- Sausages and hot dogs are also possible cancer influencers. Both are processed meats, and hence usually come with nitrates and nitrites as preservatives and color. Although these grant longevity to the product on the shelf, they are associated with critical types of cancers, for example, pancreatic and prostate.
Research continues to link grilling with cancers. Regular consumption of grilled foods significantly increases the risk of severe cancers, some of which affect the breasts, colon, pancreas, and stomach. A recent study established that steadily eating charred meats over time increases the risk of developing pancreatic cancer by 60%. Mind-blowing.
Safety Guidelines To Using The Grill
Having identified the varying ways through which grilling leads to cancers, it is much easier to find and keep to tips that will keep you safe and healthy. This doesn’t even depend on how long you’ll be eating grilled foods. Isn’t this excellent news?
I mean, almost every tasty food these days is considered harmful, and we are thus asked to stop eating them. Thankfully, this doesn’t apply to grilled foods. In fact, I doubt most of us would obey a dietitian who asks us to do away with the grilling board.
Also, grilling is quite an amazing method of cooking. Despite how delicious grilled foods are, they are remarkably safe—apart from cancer scares, of course. Fortunately, these—and other minor risks—are avoidable as long as you’re keeping to the guidelines below…
- Distinguish foods. In other words, keep foods apart. This requires you to keep raw meat or poultry to be grilled away from other materials that will not be grilled—for example, fruits and vegetables. All we’re trying to avoid here is bacterial cross-contamination. Hack or cut raw meats on a dedicated cutting board and keep other foods away. When done, disinfect every surface the meat contacts using soap and water.
- Maintain hygiene. Germs spread easily and rapidly. As such, wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds before and after contact with raw meat. Any other person who’s handling foods should do the same.
- Keep cold. Cold temperature is an unlikely breeding ground for bacteria. As such, refrigerate meat or turkey until it is time to grill. Leftovers from grilling should be kept in a warmer temperature, preferably 140 F or hotter. You may also refrigerate for two hours—or one, if the weather outside reaches or surpasses 90 F. Poultry or meat unused for two days must be kept frozen.
- Cook thoroughly. To ensure that meat is well cooked, measure the thickest part of the meat with a food thermometer, and continue until it reaches these temperatures:
—165 F for boneless turkey breasts or chicken, hot dog, whole chicken, ground chicken, and turkey.
—160 F for organ meat, hamburger, ground pork, and ground beef.
—145 F for fish, pork roasts, tenderloins, or chops.
—170 F for beef steaks or roasts.
- Keep meat lean. Before grilling, make meat lean and cut off visible fat and skin. This will make the meat healthier and reduce charring.
- Microwave first. Two minutes in the microwave can decrease the levels of HCAs by a whopping 90%. To avoid dripping into the grill, pat the meat dry after microwaving.
- Grill meat at low temperatures for a long while and only cook at high temperatures for a short while. Allow the charcoals burn to embers or turn down the gas to a maximum of 325 degrees.
- Rid charred parts from grilled foods before eating.
- Lay the meat in a tin foil and make holes in it. This reduces dripping into the grill and the smoke that reaches the meat.
The next time someone asks, “is grilling your food killing you?” I’m sure you know what to say. Grilling might be killing you if you’re ignoring safety tips and rules. However, if you are keeping to these above guidelines, I daresay grilled foods have nothing on you. And, lest I forget, add more vegetables to your grilling board!