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BBQ Causes Cancer

Aug 17, 2007
Now, as you all know I am all for BBQ in any way, shape or form. But there have been rumors floating around about BBQ causing cancer. If that's true then I am putting myself in harms way several times a week. So I had to get to the bottom of the statement: BBQ or Grilling Causes Cancer

The Facts:

Grilling meat produces at least two types of potentially dangerous chemicals: polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic amines (HCAs). PAHs are products of imperfect combustion found in smoke and burned matter. In large enough quantities they will definitely cause cancer in humans. In BBQ grills they're commonly formed when dripping fat flares up, charring the underside of the meat. In reality, you can get PAH's when you burn your toast.

HCAs, whose possible role in cancer was more recently discovered, are the result of reactions between chemicals in muscle meat produced by high heat or prolonged cooking. In contrast to PAHs, HCAs are found inside the meat, not just on the surface, and can't be easily scraped or trimmed off. Also in contrast to PAHs, HCAs aren't necessarily more likely to be produced during grilling, they can be created when cooking in an ordinary frying pan if it's hot enough.

So Do I have to Stop BBQ'ing?

Are all types of BBQ equally risky? No. Mainly we're talking about grilling over open flame at high heat, backyard barbecuing, in other words. Slow barbecue methods, which generally involve lower temperatures and minimal flame exposure, seems to be less problematic. When grilling, cooking meat till it's well-done supposedly generates the most HCAs and PAHs, so you are better off leaving a little pink on the inside.

More Tips To Decreasing Your Risk of Cancer

Use a gas grill, you have better control of the heat and will have less flare ups. You are also not subject to the chemicals present in store bought charcoal.
  • Don't burn your food
  • Avoid Flare Ups
  • Cook at lower temps
Microwave your meat for a few minutes before grilling, it will cook faster and decrease the time above an open flame.

Are We Grilling Tonight?

Of course! While the data is convincing, I am still going to BBQ when the mood hits me. I will however take a bit of caution, and pay more attention to how long my meat is on the grill. Honestly, slow cooking draws out the flavor of many cuts of meat anyway. So it is all still great BBQ in my opinion!
About the Author
Sarah Jones grew up loving all things BBQ. When she isn't trying out new marinades or grilling in the backyard she is sharing her love of BBQ with others. Learn more about her BBQ secrets at ForBBQ.com
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