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Careful with that barbecue

Carnival time, time to barbecue
Carnival time, time to barbecue
Photo by Miles Willis/Getty Images

Everyone loves a barbecue, being outdoors when we cook, stirs something wild and ancient in us. Makes us feel as if we're cooking wild beasts for our tribe, to nourish us. Fortunately we are much more evolved and modern than before, when we killed our own game, and have many intricate tools to get the job done.

But what has also changed is the amount of fat in the meat, the animals are not at all wild and lean. Additionally, the smoke volume in our barbecue cooking routine has increased along with the carbons from burned meat. The cuts of beef are fattier, see the fats in a simple hamburger drip, and even hotdogs are full of fat and fillers; sausages ditto with the fat. The problem is when we cook those dripping fats on a really hot grill. The process of burning fats, generates heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which can alter the DNA of our genes and potentially contribute to the development of certain cancers. Add in thick heavy smoke, and you have a hazard to your health. I know smoke adds flavor, but just don't over do it!

Lower the temperature of the barbecue if you can, use leaner meats, (better calorie wise anyway) and cook s-l-ow-ly. Marinades and herb rubs lend flavor so you can open the grill to let the smoke out. Keep a spray bottle with water to spritz on the meat if it's cooking too fast. Above all, do NOT eat any burned or blackened foods. It has been shown to have a link to stomach and colorectal cancer. Expert grillers rarely have burned food/meat, whether it's burgers, ribs, steaks or chicken.

If you use charcoal starter fluid to barbecue, wait a long long time for the starter fuel to burn off. This is important for two reasons. Besides the cell damaging chemicals in the fuel, health wise, no body wants the awful overwhelming taste of starter fuel in their food. Better yet, use a charcoal starter that uses paper and charcoal in a cylinder. Google charcoal starters.

If friends/guests get impatient, show them the drinks, and tell them it's healthier this way. Ideally the charcoal should have a bit of ash on it before you add the meat to the grill wires, above.

Be sure you have slow grilled veggies on the BBQ. Choose: squash, eggplant, well washed peppers, tomatoes on a stick, etc. Also have a big green salad, and fruit to offer, along with the veggies, the anti-oxidants in fruit and veggies versus the smoke and HCA's.

Get out the aprons, grab the tongs, and have a barbecue on low heat, lean turkey sausages and beef and with plenty of fruits and vegetables. You’ll have a more healthful cookout.

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