Few things taste better than food made on a propane grill – and with the warm weather coming, it will soon be time to fire up the barbecue and get cooking.
But just like any other method for preparing food, the way you grill goes a long way toward determining how healthy your food is. In particular, you want to avoid producing Heterocyclic Amines (HCA) and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) – cancer-causing chemicals that are produced by putting food, especially fatty meats, in contact with intense heat and flame.
Healthy Grilling Tips
Fortunately, you can keep these substances from forming almost entirely with some simple precautions. Here are five keys to healthy grilling:
Choose lean meats – Fat encourages PAH and HCA to form, so start with a lean cut of beef or pork, or skinless chicken.
Marinate! – Not only does a good marinade taste great, but it also can reduce the formation of HCAs by more than 90 percent!
Look for products or recipes that contain olive oil – one of the strongest anti-HCA agents; herbs of the Lamiaceae family (basil, mint, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sage) can also reduce HCA formation dramatically.
Don’t baste your food during grilling with the liquid the meat was marinating in (this passes raw meat juices to your cooked meat)
Marinate meats and poultry for at least 1-2 hours, fish and vegetables for about an hour
Reduce grilling time – Smaller portions cook faster and spend less time on the grill. Try using skewers for meat, or pre-cooking the meat in the oven, then finishing it on the grill.
Flip food often – Frequent flipping discourages HCA formation, according to recent reports. Use tongs or spatulas instead of a fork to prevent juice loss.
Grill more fruits and vegetables – PAHs and HCAs don’t form on grilled fruits and vegetables! Tomatoes, onions, peppers, zucchini, pineapple, mango, and even apples are all great-tasting candidates for grilling.