monthly health topic

grill safety – it’s time to clear the smoke


Grilling is a huge summer tradition that brings bold flavors to the table. Read about how to do this safely in our monthly health topic.

It's time to clear the smoke: grill safety tips are in this month's health topic.

grill safety – it’s time to clear the smoke

Grilling and barbequing have become a big part of American summer traditions, bringing bold flavors to the table. There is just one concern with this cooking method: the formation of carcinogenic compounds. Does this mean that you have to stop grilling? No way!

There are two ways in which these compounds form. When meat is exposed to high temperatures, a reaction between an amino acid and a sugar within the meat generates a compound called heterocyclic amine (HCA). Another compound called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) forms when excess fat drips onto the open flame, causing smoke to rise and envelope the meat.

Limit the formation of HCAs and PAHs. Prepare delicious, safe meals following these easy steps!

Tame That Flame

Prevent pesky flare ups by reducing the amount of fat that drips onto the coals. Choose lean cuts of meat, trim off excess fat, and remove skins. Place punctured aluminum foil on the grill to catch any remaining fat. All four of these techniques will reduce unwanted smoke from hitting your exceptional grilled entrées. Keep a spray bottle close to the grill to fight flare ups that do occur, and quickly move meat to another part of the grill until the flare up subsides.

Easy Does It

Who doesn’t like to save time? To cut back on grilling time, cut meat into small pieces. Choose quick cooking items like fish or shrimp, or cook beef to medium well rather than well done. When making a large piece of meat to serve multiple people, start it on the grill to get the smoky flavor and finish it in the oven. You can also work in the opposite direction by starting meat in the oven or microwave and finishing it on the grill. You can even turn your grill into an oven. Start a burner directly under the meat on medium high to brown chicken, then, turn off the burner. The meat will continue to cook from the heat of the other burners, but will not be exposed to direct heat.

Tug and Flip

Flip meat when it no longer sticks to the grill when gently tugged. Flipping meat too early can cause meat to rip, but flipping too late can cause charring. If charring does occur, cut off charred pieces before serving. Remember to regularly clean your grill before and after cooking to keep it in top shape for your next great barbeque.

Master the Marinade

Marinades are wonderful, flavorful liquids made up of herbs, condiments, spices, oils, and an acid such as lemon juice that are usually used to tenderize meat. But did you know that they can also help to protect meat from forming HCA. Experiment with new flavors! Try a marinade in place of your classic brine or rub. Add some sweetness to the marinade to give meat some caramelization. When adding a fat, such as olive oil, add only a little. Excess fat in the marinade can drip onto the coals and cause flare ups.

Cut the Deck

A piece of meat the size of a deck of cards is a perfect portion. This will leave room for plenty of other picnic sides. Beef and chicken may be safer for the grill than bacon and pork, so save those pork chops for the oven.

Try Veggies, Fruit, Even Bread!

Grilled fruits and vegetables provide the same smoky flavor as grilled meats, but contain antioxidants and many great nutrients to fuel your body! Try asparagus, peppers, zucchini, eggplant, corn, tomatoes, pineapple, peaches, or watermelon. Venture outside the box with a grilled, veggie-packed pizza.

Follow these easy grilling tips to improve the safety of your next barbeque and continue your summer traditions with ease.