I found this article that explains what I have been saying about Grill / BBQ issues but the way it is written probably will be easier to understand.
Barbecues – Hot sunny days, good friends, good food, what could be better? But as with so many good things in life, the naysayers will tell you that barbecues pose a number of health risks.
So let’s take a look at them, and then investigate what you can do to lessen any risks.
When meat is cooked at high temperatures, it causes a certain chemical reaction – Creatine and amino acids react together to form heterocyclic amines – it’s these that are believed to be one of the causes of cancer, although meat that is roasted or baked in the oven (and not at really high temperatures) is likely not to contain so much in the way of heterocyclic amines. Throw in the issue of grilling over coals though, and you conjure up a whole new health risk, according to the June 2007 issue of the Harvard Health Letter. Apparently there are chemicals that can cause cancer in the smoke that comes off the barbecue, and they can be absorbed by the meat you are cooking. It has been suggested that marinating meat can help to cut down on the presence of heterocyclic amines but opinion is divided on how effective this is. However, the Health letter does suggest some ways to cut down the risk including:
- Cooking smaller pieces of meat, which will be ready more quickly and at lower temperatures.
- Cooking less fatty meat, which will cut down on the flames produced and therefore the amount of smoke produced
- Marinate properly the meat before cook it, will help to reduce the cancer risks.
- Precook meat in the microwave. Research suggests that this can cut down on the heterocyclic amines by as much as 90 per cent. However the food will not have the same texture and taste the same as grilled.
- Flip your meat frequently, so that neither side gets too hot or has time to absorb the smoke. Other issues have been raised about the safety of breathing in smoke from charcoal and wood. Both of these products produce hydrocarbons as well as tiny particles of soot.
- The best home solution is Broil your food. This way you’re eliminating the production of heterocyclic amines.
It’s not only our own health that may be at risk – a study by scientists in Texas found that barbeques released minute pieces of polyunsaturated fatty acids into the air. The study was carried out in Houston, which is ranked as one of the most polluted regions in the US. However, while BBQs may contribute to the pollution levels, they are surely small compared with pollution caused by industry and motor vehicles. Air pollution is affected by both the burning of lump charcoal and briquettes. While lump charcoal is only made from charred wood, unless you can find a local source that is made from natural wastage, it can help to contribute towards deforestation. Briquettes on the other hand, use sawdust, which is a waste product, but may also contain borax, limestone and sodium nitrate. And in Canada, charcoal briquettes are now labeled as a hazardous product.
Other health considerations when barbecuing include deciding on the type of meat you cook. If you are concerned about unhealthy additives in meats, it’s best to buy organic, free-range and sustainably raised meat, such as free-range chicken and grass-fed beef. Likewise, with fish, opt for organic fish or products from organic fared fish. Be aware that sword fish and tuna have a higher concentration of mercury and there are health guide lines about how much girls and women should eat.
Obviously you don’t want to undercook meats such as chicken, but for meats that are okay to eat without being well done, aim for medium rare and if there are any charred or blackened pieces, remove them before serving. A marinade of red wine or beer can be used to help avoid charring. Food poisoning is more common in the summer, and can be very serious, particularly for children or the elderly, so do take the risks seriously. A spokesperson from the Food Standards Agency said: “The safest option is to cook food indoors using your oven. You can then put the cooked food outside on the barbecue for flavour.”
If you’re cooking on the BBQ there are two main risks – undercooked meat and germs spreading from raw to cooked meats. So make sure you cook food thoroughly by turning the meat regularly and moving it around the grill to ensure it gets cooked evenly – no charred sausages that are still raw inside. Cut meat at its thickest part to ensure it is cooked through, with no pink and clear juices running out.
Steaks and lamb can be served pink inside, but ensure that the outside is well cooked, to kill off any bacteria that may be lurking on the outer layer. Anything made from minced meat, such as burgers, should be cooked thoroughly all the way through.
Always make sure any frozen meat has been thoroughly defrosted. And wash hands thoroughly between preparing raw meats and handling other foods or utensils. Also be very strict about utensils being cleaned after using with raw meats, and ensure that marinades that have been in contact with raw meat are disposed of.
You also need to make sure that cool food is kept cool – this includes mayonnaise, yogurt-based dishes, cooked meats, desserts and cooked rice. It is best to keep food in the fridge and bring out small dishes that can be refilled, rather than one huge dish that is likely to sit outside all afternoon.