Your Memorial Day barbecue

Meat on a barbecue, learn to protect your health

So here we are, this is Memorial Day weekend and a lot of us are getting ready for a great barbecue!

Before you start your barbecue

Here are a few things to keep in mind so you can enjoy your meal even more. First of all, if this is the only time of the year that you are having a barbecue, don’t worry too much about this post. If on the other hand, you love to do it all summer long or even more, you might want to consider these few pieces of advice.

A barbecue uses direct combustion to cook food. It produces gas and smokes that contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) such as benzo(a)pyrene (B(a)P). Those fumes are even more toxic when flames burn the fat from the meat. When you charbroil your meat or fish, this is generating a large amount of B(a)Ps. These are present in the black charcoal-like parts and give it its smoky taste that we love so much. B(a)Ps are also found in coal-tar, in automobile exhaust fumes (especially from diesel engines), in all smokes resulting from the combustion of organic material (including cigarette smoke).

Barbecuing causes another problem: protein combustion leads to the formation of heterocyclic amines (HCAs), even more so if you overcook the meat or fish.

Those two groups of chemical compounds, PAHs(including B(A)Ps) and HCAs, have carcinogenic properties and you should try to limit your exposure as much as possible.

Tips for a safer barbecue

Do not overcook and certainly do not burn your food. However,  we also don’t support under-cooking meat and fish because heat is the best way to destroy parasites and bacteria. The goal is to find the right balance.

Avoid putting the food in direct contact with flames.

Discard the black parts (and that is also true for your breakfast toasts), even if you like the taste of it!

Limit the dripping of grease directly onto the flames.

Clean the grill regularly so you do not burn the left-over fat over and over.

If you are the designated ”barbecuer”, try not to inhale the fumes.

Certain ingredients that are anti-oxidant can inhibit the formation of those nasty HCAs. So add tomatoes, onion and so on to your barbecue and to any meat or fish dish. There was a good reason our grandmothers used to cook delicious roasts with tomatoes, garlic and onions!