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Friday 27 January 2023 Dublin: 3°C
Jeff_Golden via Flickr
# Barbecue
Not to ruin your weekend, but your BBQ might give you cancer
Research shows that your barbcue may be cooking up some dangerous chemicals, but don’t worry, we have tips on how to avoid it.

WITH ALL THE lovely sunshine this weekend, many of you are probably planning on dusting off the barbecue and grilling yourselves up a delicious summer feast.

We definitely don’t want to spoil that for you but before before taking that first juicy bite there are a few things to know about barbecuing safely.

All that sizzling and flipping on the gas or charcoal grill may also be cooking up cancer-causing chemicals, experts at a cancer institute in the US have warned this week.

These chemicals have been linked to breast, stomach, prostate, and colon cancer, but the Dana-Farber Institute said that there’s no need to abandon the barbecue completely, it’s just a matter of “planning ahead and making wise choices”.

There are two risk factors to keep in mind. First, research has shown that high-heat grilling can convert proteins in red meat, pork, poultry, and fish into heterocyclic amines (HCAs). These chemicals have been linked to a number of cancers.

“What happens is that the high temperature can change the shape of the protein structure in the meat so it becomes irritating in the body and is considered a carcinogenic chemical,” explained nutritionist Stacey Kennedy.

Another cancer-causing agent, called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), is found in the smoke. PAHs form when fat and juices from meat products drip on the heat source. As the smoke rises it can stick to the surface of the meat.

“That’s where the main cancer causing compound occurs in grilling,” said Kennedy. “So you want to reduce the exposure to that smoke.”

To help avoid these dangerous chemicals, here are some tips for a safe barbecue:

Prep the Meat

  • Choose lean cuts of meat, instead of high-fat varieties such as ribs and sausages.
  • Trim all excess fat and remove skin.
  • When using marinades – thinner is better. Thicker marinades have a tendency to ‘char’, possibly increasing exposure to carcinogenic compounds.
  • Look for marinades that contain vinegar and/or lemon. They actually create a protective barrier around the meat.

Limit time – limit exposure

  • Always thaw meat first. This also reduces the cooking time.
  • Partially cook meat and fish in a microwave for 60 to 90 seconds on high before grilling and then discard the juices. This will lower cooking time and reduce risk of cause smoke flare-ups.

Grilling techniques

  • Flip burgers often – once every minute for meat burgers – to help prevent burning or charring.
  • Place food at least six inches from heat source.
  • Create a barrier to prevent juices from spilling and producing harmful smoke. Try lining the grill with aluminum foil and poking holes, and cooking on cedar planks.

Plan ahead and choose wisely

  • Lean meats create less dripping and less smoke.
  • Choose smaller cuts of meat, like kabobs, as they take less time to cook.

Some good news for veggies – charred vegretables are safe to eat as they are not affected the same way as the meat protein.

Kennedy told people not to panic explaining that if you’re following the proper safety tips, “the risk of getting cancer from grilling food is very low”.

Hopefully we didn’t give you too much of a scare. Bon appetit!

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