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Tips for safer and healthier grilling, from the Harvard Health Letter

June 1, 2007

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 Health Letter.

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.

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