Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A cautionary tale about grilling… by Jeanette Andrade MS, RDN, LDN

On a beautiful Saturday morning you wake up feeling happy for finally there is a clear, sunny day; a perfect grilling day. You prepare your meat with your favorite spices- garlic, onion powder, pepper, and a dash of salt. The grill is already going and you cannot wait to eat this savory hamburger with a side of fresh greens. You’re about to place the delicate meat onto the grill when a voice inside your head yells out, “WAIT”. You pause as you want to hear what is going to be said. The voice inside your head continues, “Don’t you remember the news report about the dangers of grilling meat?” Your hopes dash as you recall this news report. You gingerly place the meat back onto the plate and rush inside your house to the computer. You open up your favorite search engine site and type in, “Dangers of grilling meat.” There it is, the dreaded report you wished never popped up. You scan the report and see, “grilling meats at a high temperature create two chemical compounds: heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic carbons (PAHs)”(1) “NO, how could this be?” You yell out. But you are intrigued, so continue reading. You read that HCAs are formed when cooking meat at high temperatures such as on the grill. They are found at the highest concentration in charred or burned parts of the meat. Thus, when you eat the grilled meat, HCAs will be consumed as well(1). PAHs are formed when juices from meat drip onto coals or other hot surfaces and create smoke. Thus, you can obtain PAHs from breathing in these fumes and eating the grilled meat(1). You find some positives to reduce the amount of HCAs and PAHs from grilling such as cleaning the grill from leftover products that were burned or charred, cutting off the pieces of meat you char or burn, precooking foods prior to grilling, and placing a vinegar or lemon marinade on the meat prior to cooking(1). You shake your head as even though these techniques are good for reducing these chemicals, you still are not satisfied. You bang your head on the computer, defeated as you are not going to enjoy your meat. However, you have an idea. You scan the news report again and again. Yup, it clearly says, “grilling vegetables and fruits are safer as they do not produce these chemicals”(1). YES!!  You can finally use that portable mushroom sitting in your frig. The grilling day is saved.

1)      Worth, T. (2010). How to make grilling safer. CNN. Retrieved from


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