Thursday, May 10, 2012

Green grilling: how to be safe and eco-friendly around the barbeque

Marinating your meat and adding herbs & spices are two of the simple ways your can make grilling safer.
My dad enjoyed his role as king of the barbeque. Not that he had any choice. No one else in the family was prepared to go near the gas grill since he always had some part of it jury rigged. In those days I thought that grilling was dangerous because of dad’s booby traps but come to find out there are things more worrisome than flames shooting out of the wrong places.  

It is now well understood that carcinogenic compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) form when meat is cooked at high temperatures and research has connected these compounds with higher rates of colorectal, stomach, lung, pancreatic, breast, and prostate cancers. It isn’t just the charred, crispy bits that are unhealthy. These chemicals form in the fatty juices all over the meat. Hamburgers appear to be the worst. 

As well, the fatty smoke from flare ups coats your meat with another family of carcinogens called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).  

Even though this is more than a bit alarming, there is no reason to give up on grilling. Knowing what you can do to limit the formation of these compounds will make your grilling safer. 

Research has shown that certain herbs and spices can reduce HCAs. In particular, rosemary, tumeric and ginger scored the highest in their ability to somehow inhibit the formation of these compounds. (A 2009 report in the Journal of Food Science found that rosemary extract reduced HCAs by 60 to nearly 80 percent.) 

Marinating your meat can reduce the amount of HCAs that form by as much as 99 per cent according to The American Institute for Cancer Research. Adding rosemary, ginger root or tumeric to the marinade is even better. Basting your meat with barbecue sauce helps too. 

Don’t char your meat, and don’t eat the charred bits, no matter how tempting. 

Cook your meat or fish on foil, on a soaked cedar plank or on indirect heat wrapped in parchment paper. 

Pre-cook your meat so it doesn’t have to spend as long over a flame. Or choose small cuts of meat that cook quickly. 

Cook over indirect heat. (One of my all-time favourite recipes is for chicken cooked on indirect heat. It takes a while but is moist and delicious.) 

Trim visible fat off your meat to avoid flare ups (choosing leaner cuts of meat will help) and keep a spray bottle of water handy to douse any unwanted flames.  

Clean your grill racks well. Soak them overnight in hot water and baking soda. If you’re rushed for time, scrub them on the lawn with a paste made out of baking soda and water. Then hose them down. 

Keep the bottom of your grill clean too (to minimize smoking fat). 

If you like to grill with charcoal choose natural charcoal or wood briquettes. Conventional charcoal is made with coal dust, sodium nitrate, sawdust or petroleum products. And the easy-light stuff is treated with lighter fluid. You don’t want those toxic bi-products coating your food. 

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