Summer barbecuing is here and everyone loves the taste of foods hot off the grill or barbeque.
However, health practitioners tell us that barbecuing comes with some hidden dangers. The last thing you want to do is give your guests (or your family) food poisoning, burns or even worse, cancer.
Chicago Healers Practitioner Dr. Martha Howard says that raw or undercooked meat, fish or chicken can cause illnesses like salmonella, e coli and other bugs. Grills can be temperamental and, if handled incorrectly, are prone to explosions and giving people burns. Even more worrisome, charred meat produces three cancer-causing chemicals.
It is easy and simple to keep barbecues light on danger and heavy on fun, says Dr. Howard. Here are her tips for throwing the healthiest and safest barbecue this summer.
The process of barbecuing meat causes the three cancer-causing chemicals:
- PhlP, which has been proved to cause cancers in rats. An April 2006 presentation at the American Association for Cancer Research showed that when this barbecue/char chemical was added to rats’ food, they developed cancerous changes in their intestines, spleens and prostates within four weeks.
- HCAs (heterocyclic amines). They are also produced when meat is charred. This compound can increase the risk of breast, stomach, colon, and prostate cancer.
- PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) which are produced by smoking fat from chicken, fish or meat.
The good news? You don’t have to give up your barbecue entirely. Here’ are some ways to decrease risks from these cancer-causers and from other barbecue dangers:
Clean the grill—get rid of the old fats
- Avoid petroleum starters for charcoal. Use a wood starter and stack charcoal up in a two-pound metal can (no paint on the can, please) with the ends cut off. Lift off the can with tongs and spread out the coals when they are well started.
- Know how to turn a propane grill on and off safely. Avoid a time gap between opening the valve and starting the grill.
- Wash your hands after touching raw meats and use separate plates and cutting boards for raw and cooked meats. Be sure to wash your hands again before putting on long, heat-proof barbecue gloves.
- Trim most of that fat—less fat means fewer PAHs.
- Use marinades—they tend to protect meat from charring. Put marinades on the meat of choice and put all items back in the refrigerator until ready to go. Don’t let meat sit out.
- Prior to grilling, follow proper pre-cooking instructions, especially for items like raw brats. Avoid taking burgers, chicken or other meats directly from the freezer to the grill.
- Cut meat and chicken into smaller pieces so they cook thoroughly.
- Turn down the fire and turn your burgers, steaks, chops, or chicken often, so they cook through, and come out a gorgeous golden brown.
- Use a meat thermometer to be certain it’s safe to be served.
- Chicken: 165 degrees.
- Hamburger: 160 degrees.
- Pork: 150 degrees.
- Hot dogs: 140 degrees.
- Steak 145 degrees for medium rare (only if you know where your steak comes from) and 160 degrees for medium
- Don’t forget about veggies; throw them on the grill too! Make kabobs to incorporate meat with veggies. Brush all the veggies with oil, cook the onions with the meat, and grill the other vegetables separately. That way the meat gets done, and the vegetables don’t get overcooked.
- At the end of the barbecue, be sure to put out charcoals or double-check that the propane valve has been turned off.
Chicago Healers (www.ChicagoHealers.com) is the nation’s pioneer prescreened and integrative health care network, offering a comprehensive understanding of each practitioner’s services, approach and philosophy.