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There may be hardly anyone who doesn’t like grilled food. Besides the taste of the food item itself, grilling offers a distinct taste of smoke to the dish and makes it altogether different. Plus, grilling is usually done outdoors with friends and family making the food even more exciting. However, this fun method of cooking is being looked at with suspicion by scientific studies. Is grilling really good or bad for your health? Let’s find out.
Let’s look at bad things first and good things afterwards!
The bad news is that the smoky flavor and the char which we are after as great indicators of a well-grilled steak are not actually good for you. You know that the fat from the meat being cooked drips down on the hot coals and gives out smoke that contains something called PAH (Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). Plus, the charred exterior (and interior too) of the meat is loaded with another stuff known as HCA (Heterocyclic Amines).
According to studies, both these are linked to increasing rates of colorectal cancers. Both these have been included in the official list of carcinogens of DOH. One of these studies was conducted in 1999 by the National Cancer Institute. Another 2009 study showed that those who chose ‘very well done’ steaks were 60% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than people who liked them bloody (or didn’t consume steaks at all).
Now to the good news!
Though these studies have mentioned the bad effects of grilling the meat, no one has found in what proportions these chemicals turn carcinogenic. And of course, with most other things, eating in moderation isn’t dangerous at all. To tell more specifically, you can reduce the HCA action to a great extent by not charring the meat or even just removing the charred part and reduce the PAH by preventing flare-ups, which take place when the drippings meet the heat source. Some researchers suggest microwaving the meat for a half to one and a half minute before you place it on the grill so that it becomes less drippy. However, this is in a way against the entire concept of grilling, you can just place a tin foil under the meat to prevent the juice from hitting the heat source. Or you can use a two-zone system on a charcoal grill to grill over indirect heat.
Still there is more good news!
Science has also found another way to cut down on carcinogens that arise in grilled meat and it is to marinate the meat either in an Indian garlic-turmeric marinade or a Hawaiian teriyaki marinade, at least for an hour before cooking. It was found in a study conducted in 1999 by the researchers at the University of Hawaii that these marinades remarkably reduced the bad chemicals. The researchers attributed the magic power of the marinades to the moisture they added that prevented charring and made the meat’s surface less sticky for the smoke filled with PAH.
Other studies also found that different substances like rosemary, onion, garlic, honey and tart cherries too block the formation of the nasty chemicals.
So, we hope that you are taking a sigh of relief with the thought of enjoying your favorite grilled meat in a much tastier and healthier way on your next outdoor party!