Let the Grillin’ Season Begin
Grilling is by far a more sophisticated means of culinary wizardry than a bag of charcoal, lighter fluid, and a slab o’ beef (and a 6-pack of beer). Herewith is a primer of the art, secrets, and health concerns of this summer ritual.
Grill selection is like politics we all have our opinions be it gas – charcoal – pellet the grill masters all have their favorites. How you start the grill does matter, a chimney starter or an electrical coil starter are the only choices. Lighter fluid, a petroleum product may be just a smidge faster but is clearly unacceptable in terms of what it does to the atmosphere and the off flavors it adds to food. What you may not know is technique has a major impact on the “healthiness” of the foods you grill.
Chicken, fish, and especially red meat all contain protein, sugar, and a protein called creatine. Cooking, especially at high heat converts these compounds into the carcinogens HCA (heterocyclic amines) and PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons).
HCA’s are formed when the proteins and creatine react to the high cooking temperatures. Researchers have identified 17 different HCA’s that are produced from cooking meats. Now, don’t throw out the grill research has not determined how much HCA we consume, which HCA’s pose a risk or at what level causes cancer. The key issue is what type of meat is being cooked, at what temperature, and for how long.
PAH is a group of chemicals that are produced by emission or combustion found in air pollution, cigarette smoke, and charcoal grilled meats. PAH production occurs when smoking foods at high temperatures using wood. Industry standards to exist to monitor the level of certain PAH’s in our food supply. Liquid smoke is a simple and safe way to add the smoke flavor without exposing yourself to unsafe levels of PAH in food.
Technique is the mastery of grilling. Simple tips for grilling can improve your style and the safety of the food you are preparing.
* the longer you cook meat at higher temperatures the more HCA’s you will produce. A steak cooked well done will have twice the HCA’s of medium-well.
*partially pre-cook the meat in the microwave for 10-20 minutes before putting on grill and discard juices when done. This can reduce HCA’s by 90%.
*flip meat often to reduce HCA and still kill e-coli. The center of the meat should be 160 degrees by thermometer.
*use marinades, but not thick sauces to reduce the formation of carcinogens. Onions and garlic also reduce the amount formed. When thick sauces are used, HCA’s triple.
Organization is key to grilling. Be sure you have everything organized and prepped next to the grill before you start cooking. Keep a spray bottle full of water next to the grill to put out any grease fires and cool things down if needed (especially the cook). Keep your grill clean. A simple way to clean up is after cooking, use the grill brush to scrape off the grates while still hot. Just remember to turn off the propane….
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