Grilled burgers and brats are all-American favorites this time of year, but try to avoid overcooking the meat. Research from the National Cancer Institute suggests a link between well-done meat and an increased risk of certain cancers, including colon and stomach.
Grilling meat at very high temperatures causes chemicals called HCAs (heterocyclic amines) and PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) to form, which can cause changes in DNA and lead to cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.
This doesn’t have to put a damper on the cookout, however, if you follow these tips to make your barbecue healthier.
Reduce flame time.
Avoid prolonged cooking times at high temperatures and direct exposure of meat to open flames to help reduce HCA and PAH formation, the National Cancer Institute advises. Pre-cook meats like brats, hot dogs and chicken so they require less time cooking on high heat.
Smaller size it.
Reduce portion sizes by cutting smaller pieces of meat to shorten cooking time. Also, remove excess fat from beef, pork and chicken since leaner cuts prevent flare-ups from fat drippings that can deposit carcinogens on the meat.
Use a marinade.
Studies have shown that marinating meat before grilling can significantly decrease HCA formation, according to Mercola.com. Some suggest beer and wine soaks, and others cite a vinegar-based sauce with herbs and spices to be effective. For the best results, use all natural ingredients for marinades and keep the coating thin to prevent charring.
Cut off charred portions.
If you singe the meat, get rid of the tasteless scorching by cutting it away from the rest. Have a squirt bottle handy to control occasional flare-ups.
Flip it often.
Frequently turning over meat on the grill can reduce HCA formation compared to letting it sit on a high heat source. Also, reducing the heat to a mildly lower temperature can decrease HCAs.
Veggies and fruit go great grilled.
Don’t worry about overdoing fruit and vegetables on the grill because they don’t contain the necessary combination of amino acids and sugars found in meats that form HCAs.
Corrie Merklein, owner of CJ’s Catering of Wausau, said she likes to have vegan options on the summer menu.
“Fresh veggie kabobs are fantastic on the grill,” said Merklein.
Here, Merklein shares a recipe from CJ’s Catering:
Grilled Vegetable & Fruit Kabobs
2 small yellow squash, halved lengthwise and cut into ¼” slices
2 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into ¼” slices
½ medium red onion, cut in ½” pieces
½ medium red bell pepper, cut in ½” pieces
1 cup fresh pineapple, cut in ½” pieces
1 cup cherry tomatoes
8 wooden skewers
For the marinade:
¼ cup olive oil
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp lemon zest
1 garlic clove, minced
3 Tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
Heat grill to low, 325 degrees.
Assemble kabobs, alternating different vegetables and pineapple on skewers.
Mix all ingredients for marinade in medium bowl, brush onto kabobs.
Line grill with foil, place kabobs on it for 10-15 minutes.
Transfer kabobs to plate to cool before serving.