Can Barbecuing Meat Cause Cancer?

Steaks, burgers, chops or fish – some people believe that nothing tastes better than food cooked on a barbecue. But before you heat up the grill, there are certain health hazards you should know about. The most common one is the link between grilling and cancer.

When certain foods (mainly meats, but also poultry and fish) come into contact with intense heat and flames, cancer-causing agents (carcinogens) are formed. There is also concern that fats from grilled foods may drip on the coals, create chemicals in the smoke, then land back on the meat.

You can make grilling much safer by following the tips below.

Use marinades. A marinade containing olive oil and/or citrus juices can reduce these chemicals by as much as 96 percent. Marinades also make meat more tender.

Clean your grill. The build-up from the bottom of your grill can be a source of cancer-causing agents. In addition to being safer, a clean grill will do a better job at cooking your food.

Trim excess fats. Fats are the main source of trouble, so keep them to a minimum. You’ll reduce your cancer risks and lower calories, too.

Wrap foods in foil. This helps to keep food from burning. It also keeps smoke away from the meat. Note that leaner cuts of meat drip less, cause fewer flare-ups and produce less smoke.

Use a drip pan. This keeps fat from dripping onto coals and causing flare-ups.

Don’t eat burned or blackened parts. The charred areas of foods are a main source of carcinogens. If you end up with burned sections, cut them off and throw them away.

Cook at lower temperatures. A simple way to lower the cancer risk is to cook your meat, fish and chicken at lower temperatures. Turn the gas down or wait for charcoal to become low-burning embers. If you raise the grilling surface above the heat source, less black char will form.

Use the microwave. Shorten grill time by precooking meats in the microwave before barbecuing.

Use fruits and vegetables. The best foods to grill are vegetables and fruits because they don’t form carcinogens. These foods also contain cancer-fighting nutrients. In fact, substances in vegetables create enzymes that can make a cancer inactive.

Make kabobs. The small pieces cook quickly – and you can add lots of vegetables.

Get ready for a season of healthy grilling. Choose lean meats, use light marinades and serve grilled foods with a good helping of fruits and vegetables.