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Growing up in Texas, BBQ was a weekend ritual. My mother enjoyed barbequing, as I reminisce on her homemade BBQ sauce, the smell of homemade rolls, and the mixture she would make to marinate the Brisket and Lamb. Texas and BBQ go together like a hand and glove of which will always remain an ingrained cherished memory. However, as clients ask the question, is barbecuing Meat healthy? I must admit, “I have a different point of view on BBQ.”

The American Institute of Cancer Research findings states, healthy people who report eating BBQ meats tend to have a higher occurrence of cancers of the GI tract over time. The chemical structure of Meat creates an environment conducive to producing various carcinogens when subjected to heat. Studies have shown when cooking Meat over high temperatures such as grilling or barbecuing to the point of exposing grill marks or charring, activates two chemicals. The chemicals contained within Meat are known as heterocyclic amines (HCA) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). Once these two chemicals are activated, they began to change or alter the DNA structure of Meat. Thus this new altered charred Meat is now a threat to health increasing the risk of cancer.

Also, what makes barbecuing more intriguing is when the fat hits the hot charcoal creates both a flame and then smoke which coats the Meat. This smoke contains a lot of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) from the burned fat increasing more exposure to a carcinogen.

Knowledge is power; in summary, it is increasingly important to avoid exposing Meat to high temperatures or charring to prevent excessive activation of (HCA) and (PAH). Therefore, as I combine my love for BBQ meats with evidence base science listed below are tips on how to safely prepare meats for the grill or BBQ pit.

  • Slow Down: Cook the Meat at a low temperature for a more extended time. However, by cutting Meat into smaller pieces will cook more quickly at the lower temperature.
  • Avoid open flame and high temperature. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends a temperature no higher than 300 degrees. Also, leaner cuts of poultry, beef, or pork have less fat, which will reduce flames and smoke, choose leaner cuts of Meat.
  • Precook in the microwave: According to research cooking in the microwave for two minutes may decrease HCA by 90% before putting it on the barbecue pit or grill.
  • Remove and avoid all areas on the Meat that has been charred or burned. Turn the Meat often to prevent charring. Do not eat charred or burned areas of Meat.
  • Marinade: Always marinade the Meat. Marinades create a meat-and-flame barrier which reduces the amount of HCA carcinogens.
  • Frequency: Do not eat smoked BBQ meats frequently due to the potential carcinogenic effects of (HCA) and (PAH). Remember, all things in moderation.

The decrease in the cancer risk of consuming barbecued Meats is possible by employing the tips presented. Enjoy the taste and pleasures of BBQ as I remember, as the Meat-cooked the music and fun always followed. Enjoy Safely!