There's something about grilled food that makes it look and taste really good. Could it be the the zesty marinade or the fresh taste that comes from cooking over high heat in so short a time? Could the grill lines forming on the food or the aromatic smoky flavor got something to do with it? Or is it the general notion that grilled food is a healthier choice?
While all of the above are true, there is a downside to grilled food when it comes to those yummy charring that forms on the food. It contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic amines (HCAs) which are potentially carcinogenic. PAHs form when fat from the meat drips onto the hot coals or grill element. They're then deposited on the food courtesy of flame-ups and rising smoke. HCAs are produced when red meat, poultry and fish meet high-heat cooking, such as grilling or broiling.
To avoid the formation of these cancer causing compounds, the following tips can help you keep grilling the healthier way.
1. Grill With Fruits and Vegetables
It's a great idea to alternate your grilled meat, poultry and fish with fruits and vegetables. In addition to reducing your risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, obesity, and some types of cancer, PAHs and HCAs don't form on grilled fruits and vegetables. They are also rich in antioxidants, such as tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, eggplant, zucchini, endive, apple, mango, pineapple, or pear.
2. Grill Without The Fat
Grill with less fat dripping on the coals by using lean cuts trimmed of visible fat and skin. If you put a very lean cut of beef or pork, or skinless chicken, onto the grill, you're off to a healthy start. (Following Tip No. 3 can help make most lean cuts more tender and tasty, too.)
3. Marinate Before Grilling
Not only does marinating make food taste really flavorful but it also makes grilled food more tender and helps reduce the formation of HCAs by as much as 92% to 99%, according to studies. Most favorite ingredients for marinade include low-sodium sauce, vinegars, lemon or lime juice, wines, garlic, onions, herbs, spices, and honey. Limit the fat that drips on the coals by using fat-free or low-fat marinades on your grilled meats, fish, and poultry.
If you intend to baste your grilling food with the marinade, set aside for this purpose before you add the meat to avoid passing raw meat juices to your cooked food. Marinate meats and poultry for at least 1-2 hours while fish and vegetables only need an hour of marinating.
4. Limit Grilling Time
Spend less time on the grill by making smaller portions of meat, poultry, and fish for faster cooking. You may also precook the meat, fish, and poultry in the oven or microwave, then finish cooking on the grill.
5. Flip Without The Drip
Make sure to flip the food frequently to prevent the formation of HCAs. Avoid piercing with fork so as not to release juices that drip onto the coals. Instead, use tongs or spatulas.
6. Use A Skewer
Threading small pieces of meat, poultry, fish, fruits, and vegetables in a wooden or steel skewer cuts down on grilling time. If you don't have a skewer, you can use branches of rosemary. It does not only infuse some flavors into the food as it cooks, it also makes for an appealing food presentation.