One thing that might have you rethinking the grilling plan is the recent studies popping up suggesting that the smoking and charring of food may increase in the risk of several types of cancer. These studies mention the grilling and broiling of animal meat causes the meat to release HCAs or heterocyclic amines which are cancer causing compounds. Now like with many studies, more research is needed to completely prove or disprove this fact, so what do you do in the mean time?
These same studies are also showing that meats marinated with herbs and an acidic component before grilling and choosing less fatty meats, reduces this risk by blocking HCA formation. Well this is a situation I can deal with because I love flavorful, grilled food and find that marinading with herbs infuses the meat with wonderful seasoning while also cutting the need for as much salt. You can use both fresh or dried herbs to give your meat flavor. For even more benefit, try growing your own fresh herbs on a windowsill, balcony, patio, or garden. Rosemary, basil, sage, mint, thyme, oregano, dill, parsley, chives, cilantro, or any of your favorite herbs are easy to grow or to find in your local supermarket or farmer’s market.
For the best results when grilling meat, marinate for at least several hours before cooking. The longer you marinate, the more flavor is infused into the meat. For more tender meats such as fish and shrimp, less marinade time is needed or you can over season them. Always bring the meat up to room temperature before placing on the grill to get the absolute best flavors. Finally, use some sort of citrus such as lime, lemon, or orange juice and an oil in the marinade. The citrus works to tenderize the meat, gives the marinade needed the acidic ingredient, and adds more flavor, while the oil helps the marinade ingredients stick to the meat, imparting more flavor. Your marinade can be composed of any combination of fresh or dried herbs, liquids, and veggies you wish. And never reuse your leftover marinade unless you boil it first to remove the bacteria that might have formed, instead use fresh marinade for basting and dipping.
While there are still plenty of questions to answer about the cancer risks of grilling, the fact remains that marinade just makes food taste better. So marinade all your grilled meats and veggies for a simple yet sophisticated flavor and give yourself a little extra piece of mind while you enjoy fireworks, food, family, and the flavors of life.