Ruining a piece of
meat isn’t the only thing you need to worry
about if you’re cooking at high temperatures.
High heat can also produce chemicals with cancer-causing
properties, reports the June 2007 issue of the Harvard
When meat is cooked at high temperatures, amino acids
react with creatine to form heterocyclic amines, which
are thought to cause cancer. That’s why cooking
meat by grilling, frying, or broiling is the problem.
Grilling is double trouble because it also exposes
meat to cancer-causing chemicals contained in the smoke
that rises from burning coals and any drips of fat
that cause flare-ups. How long the meat is cooked is
also a factor in heterocyclic amine formation; longer
cooking time means more heterocyclic amines. Depending
on the temperature at which it’s cooked, meat
roasted or baked in the oven may contain some heterocyclic
amines, but it’s likely to be considerably less
than in grilled, fried, or broiled meat.
Marinating meat is often suggested as one way to cut
down on the formation of heterocyclic amines, but the
evidence that marinating helps is mixed. The Harvard
Health Letter suggests some other tips that may
make grilled meat safer to eat:
- Cook smaller pieces: They cook
more quickly and at lower temperatures.
- Choose leaner meat: Less fat should
reduce flames and therefore smoke.
- Precook in the microwave: Doing
so for two minutes may decrease heterocyclic amines
by 90%, according to some research.
- Flip frequently: That way, neither
side has time to absorb or lose too much heat.