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The Bad Habit of Barbecuing
America kind of has a monopoly on barbecuing meat. It’s kind of like jazz or the blues. Between the different regions and interpretations of America’s vast and diverse landscape, cook-outs are one of the rare areas where we can claim mastery. Whether it’s grilling a steak, smoking a brisket, barbecuing a chicken or frying a turkey, Americans know how to enjoy large quantities of animal protein in some of the most delicious ways ever thought up by humankind. And, with the Paleo and Gluten-Free diets on the rise, enjoying meat is more fashionable than ever. So, what’s the problem?
The issue is that there are health risks and environmental implications to grilling meats that often go unconsidered. If you use a charcoal or wood-burning grill, the fire is releasing “dirty” hydrocarbons and soot into the air and your respiratory system. In fact, Canada has recently deemed charcoal to be a restricted product under the Hazardous Products Act. According to the Canadian Department of Justice, charcoal briquettes in bags that are advertised, imported or sold in Canada must display a label warning of the potential hazards of the product.
So, you switch to a gas grill, but the temperature is still so high that the meat is charred, and the fat from the animal still drips repeatedly on the heating element. And, out of the smoke, comes polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic amines (HCAs)—carcinogenic pollutants that smell great but behave badly.
So, you take your meat back to the kitchen. You’ve been watching the cooking shows, and you figure there’s no reason you can’t cook your steak just as well in a pan, right? So, you fire up the stove, add a chunk of butter and go to town. But, the sad truth is that “HCAs can also form on broiled and pan-fried beef, pork, foul and fish, not just on grilled meats,” says Earth Talk of About.com.
In fact, National Cancer Institute researchers have identified 17 different HCAs that result from cooking “muscle meats” and that may pose human cancer risks. Studies have also shown increased risk of colorectal, pancreatic and breast cancers associated with high intakes of well done, fried or barbequed meats.
So, how can you cook your meats without polluting the air as well as your lungs in the process … and yet still get that smoky, charred taste? Well, you could trust the so-called natural charcoal brands like Greenlink, Lazzari, or Noram de Mexico’s Sierra Madre 100 percent oak hardwood charcoal with no coal, oil, limestone, starch, sawdust or petroleum products. Or, you could start researching a sous-vide machine
The information supplied in this article is not to be considered as medical advice and is for educational purposes only.