Simple Safety Tips for Grilling with Dad

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Father’s Day is almost always accompanied with grilling and spending time together outside with your old man. Don’t let this year be an exception.

You may have heard of some risks from polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic amines (HCAs) from grilled meat. According to the NIH, these compounds have been found to be mutagenic. In other words, they cause changes to DNA which may increase risk of cancer. PAHs form when the fat from meat drips into an open flame and the reaction forms the carcinogen. HCAs form in a similar fashion, but instead of fat, it involves sugar, amino acids, and creatine, all present in meat. But did you know there are easy ways to reduce the formation of both of these compounds? Let’s go over three quick-and-easy tips to perfect your grilling game.

Manage the Flame and Your Meatgrilled vegetables and meat

It can be easy to become distracted while grilling. But managing the temperature and avoiding any direct contact between meat and fire is one of the most effective ways to reduce HCAs and PAHs. Distributing the heat and lowering the temperature also helps. Besides producing a healthier end product, this is what any worthy grill chef should be doing in the first place! Also, while it may seem obvious, flip your meat often. Avoid letting part of the cut become charred or blackened.

Learn to Love Lean

PAHs are formed from fat in the meat reacting with the flame. The equation on this one is pretty straightforward: less fat, less PAH formation. Try your hand at grilling a good turkey burger or marinated chicken breast. In addition to reducing PAH levels, your body will thank you for leaner meat in general. For vegetables, the concern for PAH is non-existent. Vegetables naturally contain little lipid content in comparison to meat. Grill up that asparagus with no hesitation, my fatherly friend!

Small Steps/Small Chunks

Another easy tip is to dice up your meat and skewer it, instead of using whole or thick cuts. Small cubes of steak on a kabob cook much faster than a thick-cut T-bone. Reduced grilling time lowers the amount of HCA/PAH formed. It also helps to guarantee you are reaching the right internal temperature.

This Father’s Day, and throughout the summer, don’t be afraid to get your grill on!

This article was written by Jacob Farr, PhD and reviewed by Tamika Sims, PhD.