What’s on your grill? Tips to reduce toxins when you’re cooking out

Summer means it’s time for grilling. That said, before we all hit the patio, I’d like to take a few moments to grill you regarding how to make outdoor cooking healthier:

• Are you aware that eating grilled foods could increase your intake of toxins?
• Do you know the ways to reduce toxins and your exposure to them when grilling?
• Do you know which foods are best for safe grilling?


You may not have realized it, but the high heat and smoke from your charcoal, electric or gas grill that make meat taste so delicious can also be creating chemicals that produce harmful compounds — heterocyclic amines (HCAs or HAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

But wait — before you hang up your tongs and skewers, there are several things you can do to minimize your risk. The first is to marinate your meat. Although the reason isn’t clear, researchers have found that marinating can help reduce carcinogens. Another good tip is to cut meat into smaller sizes to cook it more quickly and reduce the possibility of harmful charring.


In addition, the American Cancer Society gives us the following tips for safer grilling:

• Choose lean cuts of meat and trim any excess fat. Fat dripping onto hot coals causes smoke that contains potential carcinogens. Less fat means less smoke.

• Avoid charring meat or eating pieces that are especially burned and blackened — these have the highest concentrations of HAs.

• Add skewers or grill baskets of cut-up colorful vegetables and fruit to the grill. Many of the chemicals that are created when meat is grilled do not form during the grilling of vegetables or fruits. That way you can enjoy grilled flavor worry-free. They’re also naturally low in fat and usually need only a short time over heat to gain terrific smoky flavor.

Here’s a grilling idea that may be new to many of you —

Bison with marinade and BBQ sauce

Bison: 6 four ounce steaks

Marinade ingredients

8 Tbsp of olive oil
¼ C of cider vinegar
3 Tbsp of rosemary (fresh chopped or ground)
½ lemon, juiced
2 medium cloves of garlic (crushed)
Pinch of sea salt and pepper to taste

Note: Additional herbs can be added to taste

Directions: Combine marinade ingredients in bowl and mix well. Place bison steaks in glass baking dish. Lay steaks flat on bottom of dish. Cover with marinade. Use spoon or brush to coat steaks. Cover dish and place in refrigerator and allow steaks to marinade for at least two hours. Steaks can marinade overnight in the refrigerator.

BBQ Sauce ingredients:

1 14-oz bottle of organic ketchup (recommend Wholefoods 365 brand)
1 C cider vinegar
1/2 C Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp dijon mustard
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chili powder
2 Tbsp paprika
1 tsp hot pepper flakes
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dark brown sugar
2 C water

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a large, heavy saucepan and whisk. Bring sauce to a rolling boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, stirring often until thick, about 30 minutes. This sauce will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator.

General cooking instructions for Bison steaks

The general rule for bison really is to follow the cooking instructions for beef but for much less time and/or lower temps. With so much less fat in bison it tends to cook and dry out much faster than beef.

o Heat grill to 475 to 500F. This is the ideal temp for cooking Bison steaks. Be sure to check the surface temp of the grill with a thermometer. Place thermometer on grill and check temp in about 5 minutes for an accurate reading. Note: the grill lid should be closed while taking temperature.

o Reaching and maintaining temperatures in this range when using a gas grill is fairly easy. A little adjustment in the gas flow rate is all it takes. With charcoal it can be trickier so you should allow for more time to adjust grill elevation and/or the amount of charcoal used to reach desired temperature.

o Once you reach temperature prepare the Bison steaks by lightly brushing with BBQ sauce. Place steaks on the grill and close the lid allowing the steaks to sear for about 2 minutes. Open the lid and turn the steaks over allowing them to sear for another 2 minutes. You may want to brush the steaks with more BBQ sauce when you turn them.

o Turn the steaks again and move the steaks to the unheated side of the grill. Close lid and allow steaks to grill for another 4-5 minutes on each side. Be sure to check internal temperature of steaks and make sure it is at least 145F.

o Remove steaks from barbecue and let them sit for 10 minutes at room temperature, preferably on an elevated rack, before serving and slicing.



A backyard chef’s guide to healthier grilling. (2013). Retrieved May 28, 2013, from http://www.cancer.org/cancer/news/features/a-backyard-chefs-guide-to-healthy-grilling


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