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Grilling Meat, Avoiding Cancer: 5 Important Tips


Warm weather, Memorial Day, July 4th - it's time to dust off the grill and enjoy some outdoor barbecuing. Just be sure you choose the healthiest ways to cook those steaks, burgers and chicken, so you don't increase your risk for cancer.

It's not that grilling causes cancer. It's that any high-heat cooking method that sears or burns the outside of meat causes chemicals to form that have been linked to cancer.

Grilling, broiling or even panfrying over high heat (350 degrees or higher) causes the amino acids and creatinine in meat to react and form heterocyclic amines, or HCAs, which some studies indicate cause tumors to form.

The science isn't absolute: Lab animals fed HCAs developed cancer, but the research on humans is less clear, says the National Cancer Institute. A National Institutes of Health-AARP study, however, found that eating a lot of red meat cooked over high heat may increase an older person's risk of pancreatic cancer.

Related: Join us in honoring the men and women who served our country

Bottom line: Don't put away your grilling tongs and apron. Just follow these five easy grilling tips to reduce your cancer risk:

Use a marinade or a spice rub. Marinating meats for as little as 30 minutes before grilling can reduce the formation of HCAs by up to 90 percent.

Turn down the heat. Keep cooking temperature moderate instead of at full blast.

Precook meat in the microwave, then finish on the grill. This cuts down on the time the meat is exposed to high heat, meaning less time for HCAs to form. An added bonus: Meats and chicken will be juicier. Zap burgers for 2 minutes per pound; chicken parts, 4 to 5 minutes per pound.

Choose leaner cuts. They have less fat to drip down, causing flare-ups that can singe the meat.

Trim off charred parts before serving. The burned bits have the most HCAs.


Photo: Maria Kallin/Flickr Open/Getty


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