Summer is here, and that means it's grilling season! But grill masters, beware – substances in the muscle proteins of red meat, poultry, and seafood, when combined with the high heat of grilling, can form dangerous carcinogenic compounds.
These compounds, known as HCAs (heterocyclic amines) and PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), form in different quantities depending on the type of meat, cooking method, and degree of doneness. A surprising example: grilled chicken and fish form significantly more HCAs than grilled beef.
Luckily, there's a really neat (and delicious-sounding!) way to significantly reduce the amounts of carcinogens you grill up: marinate your meat! More specifically, marinate your meat in BEER.
Researchers in Portugal found that marinating pork or beef in beer (specifically black or pilsner beer) before grilling could slow down PAH formation by up to 50 percent. They're not alone in their findings: the American Institute for Cancer Research recommends marinating meat for at least 30 minutes before grilling to reduce the formation of carcinogens. This can decrease HCA formation by up to 96 percent. Take note: the AICR specifies that homemade marinades are better than store-bought ones, due to lower sugar content (more sugar causes meat to char faster).
Some more great tips for enjoying a cancer-free grill season:
Choose veggies! HCAs do not form in grilled vegetables and meat analogs.
If grilling meat or poultry, go for lean cuts; dripping fat and the resulting heat flare-ups contribute to PAH formation.
Reduce the heat. Cooking at even slightly lower temperatures can substantially reduce HCA formation.