NDSU Extension - Sargent County


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GRILLED, BUT NOT CHARRED, PLEASELast weekend my family was camping at a state park in South Dakota.  I came to the conclusion that ANYTIME is grilling time, as I observed and could smell meals being grilled throughout the day, not just at what would be considered traditional “mealtimes.”

Meats should be grilled to the recommended safe internal temperature, without charring them or cooking them to an extremely well-done state.  Doing so will help to avoid the formation of heterocyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (HAA) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHS), both of which are associated with increased cancer risk. 

Heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAA) are sometime referred to as heterocyclic amines (HCA).  They form when meat, poultry and seafood are cooked at a high temperature such as is used in grilling and frying.

PAHS form when fat drips on charcoal or hot stones, causing flare-ups and smoke formation. 

To reduce the amount of HAA in grilled meat, the American Institute for Cancer Research advises:

  • Use a marinade, especially one that contains an acidic ingredient, such as lemon juice or vinegar. Researchers have shown that marinating meat as little as 30 minutes can reduce the formation of HAA by more than 90 percent.
  • Use a lower heat setting or raise the grate to reduce the intensity of the heat.
  • Trim visible fat from meat to help prevent flare-ups on the grill.
  • Use tongs to turn the meat, rather than a grilling fork.  This will help reduce fat dripping and potential flare-ups and smoke formation. Keep a spray bottle at hand or consider covering the coals or stones with punctured aluminum foil to prevent flare-ups and smoking.
  • Turn food frequently. Flipping meat often lessens the formation of HAA.
  • Cook smaller portions of meat, such as kabobs, to reduce the amount of time the meat spends on the grill.
  • Trim off any burned parts before serving grilled food.
  • Consider grilled vegetables as a side dish. Because they are very low in protein, HAA formation is not an issue. Colorful vegetables contain antioxidants and other natural cancer-fighting chemicals.

NDSU Extension offers additional tips for would-be grill masters online at https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/publications/food-nutrition/quick-facts-becoming-the-grill-master/fn1412.pdf

Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/barbecue-picnic-grill-party-3178916/  (downloaded 6/4/19)

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