Top Chef: Your Action Plan
Unlike meat, veggies don't create carcinogens when cooked to a crisp. Still, there's no need to become a vegetarian or toss the grill completely. Try these safer ways to cook up a storm and stay safe in the process:
1. Go old school. Got spare ribs (and spare time?). Traditional BBQ methods are a safer route to take, since it involves slow cooking of meats over indirect heat.
2. Marinate wisely. Scientists have found marinades can make grilling safer by reducing the amount of carcinogenic compounds released in the air. (It's still unclear why exactly they help.) Try soaking some chicken breasts in one of these healthier options.
3. Nuke it. Pre-cooking meat in a microwave will kick-start the cooking process and lead to less time on the grill. Cooking meat in the micro for two minutes can reduce HCA content up to 95 percent. (Don't worry, microwaves are safe.)
4. Get a trim. When fat drips onto an open flame, flare-ups can spread nasty chemicals onto the meat. So remove the skin from chicken, and skip fatty meats like sausage and ribs. When food is burned, these chemicals stack up, so remove all charred or burned bits before eating, too. Flipping meat frequently at a lower temperature will also help avoid charring.
5. Use a thermometer. To prevent cooking at temps too high, use a thermometer to regulate how hot the grill gets. Steak should be cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit, hamburgers at 160 degrees, and chicken at 165 degrees. (To measure, place the thermometer in the thickest part of the meat, avoiding the bone, fat and gristle.)
6. Clean the grill. Make sure the grill is nice and clean to avoid cooking on leftover grease and pieces of char. But heads up—cleaning with metal bristles could leave a few pieces of wire behind (to be accidently eaten later on!). The solution? Clean off the grill with a non-wire brush (or an onion) instead.
7. Color it up. Try eating grilled meats with cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli). These superfoods contain fancy anti-inflammatory nutrients called isothiocyanates that change the way the body breaks down dangerous grilling chemicals, making the meat safer.