BBQ meats safely

BBQ flare-ups and scorched meat are the bane of any backyard chef worried that these cooking methods produce carcinogens.

A dietitian who surveyed reports on diet and cancer over the past decade says the links between well-done cooked meat and increased cancer risks are inconclusive.

Laura Pasut of Nutridata Consulting Services did the survey for the Beef Information Centre.

She says in four recent studies, two linked increased risk for colon cancer with a diet high in fried or barbecued meat. But two others showed no association between well done meat, poultry or fish and a risk of cancer.

Pasut says when high temperatures are used to cook meat, fish or poultry to the point of charring, the reaction between protein and sugars do cause compounds which are linked to cancer in test animals.

“We haven’t found good scientific evidence to link these compounds with any human cancers. But we’re assuming they have the potential to cause cancer in humans. So the advice is not to necessarily avoid the barbecue, but to go at it properly.”

*Use medium heat

Pasut advises setting the barbecue on medium rather than high heat.

“e of the rules of thumb is that if you can keep your hand over the cooking height for about four seconds, you probably have medium heat. With a high heat, you wouldn’t be able to hold your hand there for even four seconds.”

*Avoid flare-ups

Another tip is to avoid flare-ups. These lead to a higher formation of the carcinogenic compounds — heterocyclic amines (HCA). Pasut has a simple trick for this.

“Sometimes catching the dripping in an aluminum pan will stop the fat reacting with the charcoal and heat and rising with the smoke. My personal preference is for the lean cuts of meat, so there’s less chance of fat dripping.”

*Pre-cook in microwave

Pasut says pre-cooking meat, fish or poultry for a few minutes in the microwave can reduce the time it spends on the barbecue.

“You can finish grilling on the barbecue and get all the flavour with less exposure time. For example, microwave hamburger patties for one to two minutes. Pour off the juice and then barbecue.”

Pasut says of all the various types of cancer, colon cancer has been most strongly linked to dietary risk factors. She says about 20 to 30 per cent of all cancers may be related to what you eat.