Asking me to cook is like asking me to defend a man on trial: I just can’t do it. I suppose it’s not just my own inherent ineptitude—some of those necessary background skills are missing (like law school or, say, learning to use the oven). As a kid, I learned to barbecue, and that’s about where my culinary ability comes to a violent halt. As such, grilling is a staple in my diet, and I’ve always believed it to be health-friendly.
But here’s the problem: research associates two carcinogenic byproducts with barbecuing red meant, poultry, lamb, pork, and fish. As cooking temperatures increase, meats produce a compound composed of creatine and sugar, both natural to meats. The longer these meats cook and the higher the heat, the more these compounds form. As such, overcooked and char-grilled meat is particularly carcinogen-forming.
The second risk is the exposure to polycylic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), a molecule composed of hydrogen and carbon. Most exposure occurs by breathing air that’s been contaminated by wild fires or coal tar or grilling. As fat drips onto the coals or hot surface of the grill, smoke carries the PAHs to your food (and lungs).
- Avoid overcooking and keep the heat low.
- Flip your food frequently to avoid burning.
- Buy thinner cuts of meat.
- Trim the fat to reduce the chances of carcinogenic compounds forming.
- Keep your grill clean by turning up the heat and closing the lid for about 10 minutes after every use.