Spring is here, and summer is just around the corner. The weather’s getting nicer and normally you’d be itching to gather up your friends, grab a drink and fire up the grill. But with all the emerging evidence about the hidden dangers of grilling, suddenly one of your favorite hobbies seems scary.
There have been frightening reports about high temperatures, charring and grill smoke all being linked to cancer. And then there are the dire warnings about undercooked meats. Do we really have to give up our summertime grilling tradition?
In a word: no.
Because there are some simple tricks you can use to make your grilling far safer and healthier for the whole gang. Follow these easy tips and you’ll be the Grill Master on your block again in no time…
1. Keep the grill clean:
A lot of folks believe that not cleaning the grill helps season the grates. But the truth is all a dirty grill actually does is increase your risk of serious health problems. That char from your last cookout is packed with the cancer-linked chemicals you’re trying to avoid.
Give your grill grates a good brushing after you’ve started the fire, but before you start to cook. The heat will help loosen any leftover residue.
2. Marinate first:
Good news. Research has revealed there is a simple trick to slash the carcinogens we’re worried about anywhere between 57 and 88 percent. Just marinate the meat before you grill it.
But stay away from preservative filled, processed stuff. Make your own easy and delicious marinade using your favorite healthy oils, vinegar, herbs and spices instead.
3. Precook your meats:
While purists may scoff at this step we promise your guests will never know the difference and you’ll be taking an important step to protect their health. In fact, according to some experts this simple step could end up reducing certain carcinogens and toxins by up to 90 percent.
Toss the meat into a skillet or in the oven on a low heat and cook halfway before heading out to the grill. The precooking removes some of the fat that can drip and cause harmful, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon laced smoke when grilling. Plus less grill time means less exposure to the cancer-linked toxins you’re trying to avoid. As an added bonus the time from grill to table is much quicker, so you get folks fed faster.
4. Watch the fire:
A fiery grill that blazes as you cook may look impressive, but it’s not doing your health any favors. The smoke that comes along with that flame contains carcinogens and other harmful compounds that can leech into your food. Keep the flames low.
5. Flip out:
Flipping your burgers often can kill E. coli far more effectively than just letting each side cook, according to research published in the Journal of Food Protection. Experts say flipping every 30 seconds is best. But if you aren’t willing to babysit your burgers be sure to flip them at least every couple of minutes.
6. Take its temperature:
Invest in a meat thermometer. Burgers need to reach a minimum temperature of 160 degrees, steaks should be 145 degrees and chicken shouldn’t come off the grill until it gets to at least 165 degrees. You should also try to keep your cooking temperatures below 325. That’s the temperature where carcinogens and inflammatory products called advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs) begin to form.
7. Avoid the char:
This step is a tough one for some grilling enthusiasts, but it’s also arguably the most important one on our list. The fact is the char on grilled foods is laced with cancer-causing compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs). And the more char there is, the more carcinogens you’re being exposed to.
So keep the char to a minimum and scrape off any excessively blackened spots. The crunch just isn’t worth the exposure to the HCAs.
So go ahead and tie on your Grill Master apron and fire up the barbecue again. Grilling is fun, delicious and a great way to bring family and friends together. And now you can keep it healthy too.