Beer is the secret to a healthy barbeque
Beer is the secret to a healthy barbeque
Now that we are into barbecue season and grilling at lot more meat outdoors, we have to be aware of the cancer-causing chemicals produced when we grill meat. It turns out that by using beer as a marinade, you can completely cut out the carcinogens produced when you cook meat on the barbecue.
So should you forget all the other different types of marinade and just use beer? And if you do use beer what kind do you use? Should you marinate with ale, lager or barley type beer?
Recent studies have shown that if you are a health conscious grill-master, then beer is your best choice. By marinating your meat in the beer before throwing it on the grill, you can almost completely reduce the amount of cancer-causing chemicals that end up in your barbecued steak.
Chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are formed from free radicals during high heat cooking (e.g. grilling, boiling or frying). PAHs damage DNA and cause cancer in animals. In humans, high intakes of barbecued meat are linked to a greater risk of colorectal, pancreatic and prostate cancers.
PAHs are created when fat and juices from meat drip into hot coals or stones causing flames; they are deposited back into meat by smoke and flare-ups. The higher the heat and the longer the cooking time, the more PAHs are produced.
Since PAHs are formed from free radicals, it’s possible that foods and beverages high in antioxidants, like certain types of beer, could block their formation. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, countering their harmful effects.
A study published in April 2014 in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry put the antioxidant theory to the test.Researchers from the University of Porto, in Portugal, marinated pork in marinades made with Pilsner, non-alcoholic Pilsner and black beer, and then grilled the meat until it was well done.
All three beer marinates reduced the amount of PAHs in cooked meat, but black beer marinade did the best job, cutting the amount of PAHs in half compared with unmarinated pork.
Beer’s antioxidant powers are attributed to flavonoids, natural compounds in barley and hops used to make beer. One particular flavonoid in hops, called xanthohumol, is said to be six times more potent than those in soy. When combined with a source of vitamin E (e.g. grapeseed oil in your marinade), xanthohumol’s antioxidant powers are even stronger.
Ales have a higher antioxidant capacity than lager beers (e.g. lagers, Pilsners). This means better choices for marinating your sirloin include stouts, porters, dark ales, cream ales, India Pale Ale and pale ales.
There is another chemical that forms during high heat cooking: heterocyclic amines or HCAs. They also have been shown to cause changes to DNA that could lead to cancer.
Most of the evidence indicates that high intakes of HCAs increase the risk of colorectal adenomas, benign polyps that can develop into cancerous growths.
How much PAHs and HCAs end up in your meat depends on how long you cook it, the grill temperature and how it is prepared. Try and practise the following tips to minimize their formation and be able to eat your barbequed meat guilt-free.
Certain ingredients in a marinade, beer, wine, tea, vinegar, citrus juice, vegetable oil and fresh herbs, can help prevent carcinogen formation. A marinade also acts as a barrier, keeping flames from touching meat and poultry.
To reduce your cooking time, use smaller cuts of meat. Instead of a whole steak, grill kebabs since they cook more quickly. For meats that require longer cooking times, you could partially cook them in a microwave or oven, drain away the juices and then finish on the barbecue.
Low cooking temperature
Before you put the meat on the barbecue, turn the gas down or wait for the charcoal to become low-burning embers. Oven roasting and baking are done at lower temperatures so fewer chemicals are likely to form.
Flip your burgers
Continuously turning meat over can substantially reduce HCA formation. Flipping them every minute rather than every five minutes can make a huge difference in carcinogenic chemicals produced. To minimize juice dripping, use tongs or a spatula to turn foods rather than piercing meat with a fork.
Grill fish and shellfish
Most fish has less fat than meat and cooks in a much shorter time. Seafood also
produces much less HCAs when cooked. My favourite is using a good piece of salmon and cooking on a cedar plank. You can season the salmon with salt, pepper and lemon or sometimes you can coat the top layer with herbs au Provence or white wine and herbs. If you want my recipe, send me an email.
Fruits and Vegetables
Your mother always told you to eat your vegetables and it turns out she had good reason to do so. When you combine asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts or any healthy green or red vegetable, your body digests the meat in a totally different way. The carcinogenic effect of the meat is completely negated by these vegetables. Also eating plenty of flavonoid rich foods such as berries, cherries, red grapes, apples and citrus fruits also offsets the harmful effects of PAHs and HCAs. Research has found that adding one cup of mashed cherries to a pound of ground meat supressed carcinogen formation in burgers by nearly 80 per cent.
The summer is here and let’s all get outside and enjoy that wonderful barbecue. But let’s try and do it the healthy way and enjoy our steaks on the barbecue guilt-free and remain healthy for years to come.