Last month, as the weather was just starting to warm, we shared some healthier grilling tips with you to prepare you for the barbecuing season ahead. And now a Kansas State University researcher has announced a grilling breakthrough just as the season is launching into full swing.
I’ll have the details on his incredible discovery in a moment. But first let’s do a quick recap on the hidden danger in grilling
When you grill your meats to the point of blackening or charring—as virtually all grilled foods are—cancerous compounds called heterocyclic amines, or HCAs, begin to form on the surface as they’re grilled.
And according to the World Health Organization those HCAs can pop up on almost any meat including beef, chicken, pork and even fish.
Grilling can raise your cancer risks
In other words simply participating in one of America’s favorite summer pastimes, the barbecue, could be raising your cancer risk.
To cut back on your risk we already have suggested…
- Keeping your grill clean (less residue means less char).
- Keeping the flame low to avoid carcinogen-laced smoke.
- Flipping your meats often as they grill.
- Marinating your meats, and then cooking them at lower temps for less time.
- Using rosemary and thyme which experts say can reduce HCAs up to 87 percent
And although some grilling purists cringe at the thought, we also suggest you pre-cook your meats up to halfway before tossing them on the grill.
The pre-cook reduces the fat that tends to cause the grill to flame up. Plus it reduces the grilling time which automatically cuts back on HCAs. Some experts say pre-cooking slashes HCAs up to 90 percent!
Grilling breakthrough slashes cancerous HCAs
But now Professor J. Scott Smith from Kansas State has discovered a technique that he says can virtually eliminate dangerous HCAs.
And the most exciting thing is I’d bet you dimes to doughnuts you already have this “tool” in your kitchen right now. Because, believe it or not, it’s simply a combination of common spices!
In the study Professor Smith mixed one gram (less than half a teaspoon) of black pepper into 100 grams of ground beef (about 3.5 ounces), which significantly slashed the number of HCAs. But then he tried combining the black pepper with other antioxidant rich spices such as oregano, sage, basil, marjoram, thyme and garlic.
The result? The spice combo nearly wiped out the HCAs 100 percent, and tasted delicious to boot!
Making marinade work for you to reduce HCAs
Don’t let making your own marinades intimidate you. They are actually super simple to whip up.
In general we recommend…
- an oil, which will coat the meat and infuse it with all the flavors (we prefer virgin coconut oil, which is great for high heat cooking)
- an acid, which will tenderize the meat and add balance (for example lemon or lime juice, or vinegar)
- your favorite spices (besides the antioxidant-rich spices we mentioned earlier a dash of Himalayan or sea salt is good too)
Looking for some inspiration? Try coconut oil, lemon, garlic, black pepper and rosemary.
In a pinch a store-bought marinade will work to eliminate HCAs too. Just choose an organic one if you can find it, and scan the label for any unwanted ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup.
And one last bit of advice. As with most things in life when it comes to marinating less is more. A few hours is all you need. Any longer and you risk your antioxidant spices degrading and becoming less effective, according to Smith.
Now get out there and grill!