August has arrive already and the bbq’s are ablaze now that grilling season is in full swing. While cooking outdoors is a standard summer practice for healthy summer cuisine, the problem is that the BBQ’s heat can burn more than dinner, if you aren’t careful.
BBQ fire allows us to cook food that we often consider healthier since it doesn’t use heavy sauces or sit in fat but on the flipside (pun intended) it also produces toxins! This mainly occurs when meat is cooked using high heat. Chemicals called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) form when substances in meat react together at high temperatures. Additionally, polycylic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are created when burning fat produces residues that adhere to food surfaces. Both HCAs an PAHs are suspected carcinogens.
Before you give up the grill in frustration, consider using the following techniques to make your next bbq’d dinner a healthier meal:
- The safest grills are electric or gas models because they burn cleanest and coolest, and are most efficient and easiest to control. Hybrid grills are another option. They add a little charcoal or wood to the mix. Regrettably, charcoal and wood grills are last place, much to the chagrin of anyone who grills ‘old school’.
- If you insist on charcoal then avoid petrochemical briquettes & use sustainably produced natural charcoal or hardwood. Also avoid lighter fluid for health and safety reasons and always light it with a chimney starter.
- Choose lean cuts of meat to reduce dripping fat or grill fish or shellfish, which drip even less while cooking faster.
- Fully thaw your food before placing on the grill. Then it will need less time over the flames and ensure the meat is cooked to the centre.
- No matter how tempting it is to cook a giant slab of steak remember that smaller pieces will cook faster and more evenly. Again, this means less time for the undesirable chemicals to accumulate.
- Veggies are good for you! Grill your veggies while you’ve got the heat on! They create few if any HCAs or PAHs plus their antioxidants. Antioxidants fight toxins. This is a win/ win for your health.
- Marinate for flavour and health?! A marinade creates an edible barrier that protects against heat and HCAs and a vinegar or lemon based marinade help prevent PAHs from sticking to food. Avoid sugary marinades, which can cause those flames to burn your food, or at least save them to a minimal application at the end of the grilling process.
- Cook food as far above the heat to minimize flames and flare-ups.
Happy, healthy grilling 🙂