While summer is barbecue season in much of the US, many of us like to grill year round, no matter what the weather. And many of us enjoy this fun family activity (not to mention the good food).
Dangerous compounds are created when heat acts on amino acids and creatinine in animal muscle. They include ones called heterocyclic amines (HCAs).
The longer you cook and the higher the heat, the more HCAs, say experts at the University of California, Davis, Cancer Center. That means that barbecuing produces the most HCAs, followed by pan-frying and broiling. Baking, poaching, stir-frying and stewing produce the least of these dangerous compounds.
The UC Davis experts offer the following advice for limiting HCAs:
Before you barbecue meat, partially cook it in the microwave and then throw out the juices that collect in the cooking dish. Finish cooking the meat on the grill. Precooking a hamburger for a few minutes in the microwave reduces HCAs by up to 95 percent.
Flip hamburgers often. Doing so every minute reduces HCAs by up to 100 percent. This is likely because constant flipping keeps internal meat temperatures lower.
Marinate meat before grilling. This can greatly reduce HCAs. For example, one study found that chicken marinated for 40 minutes in a mixture of brown sugar, olive oil, cider vinegar, garlic, mustard, lemon juice and salt cut HCAs by 92 percent to 99 percent.
Don’t cook meat to “well done.” Use a meat thermometer and cook poultry to an internal temperature of 165-180 degrees F, ground beef, pork and lamb to 160-170 degrees F, and beef steaks and roasts to 145-160 degrees F.
One or two days before you barbecue, eat cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and Brussels sprouts. These vegetables contain compounds that activate enzymes in the body that detoxify HCAs.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration offers outdoor eating and food safety tips.
SOURCE: University of California, Davis, Cancer Center, news release, May 23, 2007
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