Is Your BBQ Toxic?

bbqIf you are planning on spending a lot of time around the barbecue this season then you had better make sure that it is not poisoning you and your family. Barbecued meat can contain toxic carcinogens because of the way you are cooking it.

There are certain ways to make your barbecue safe, but first you have to understand what causes the toxins to be formed.

When is a BBQ Toxic?

When you grill meat on a Barbecue it is exposed to very high temperatures because it is over extreme heat. These high temperatures cause an amino acid called Creatine to combine with natural sugars and produce Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs) in your meat. HCA is the same thing that is found in cigarette smoke.

HCA is really bad for you and can cause cancer if you breathe it in as smoke or if you eat it. When you have a barbecue you might be eating and breathing HCA’s at the same time!

In a study by Scientist AJ, Sinha R. “Meat-related mutagens and carcinogens in the etiology of colorectal cancer” Done in 2004,the more barbecued meats you eat the more likely you are to develop colorectal, pancreatic, laryngeal or prostate cancer.

Aside from HCAs there is another toxic element to the average barbecue, Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). When fat drips into the flames it burns and smokes and this releases PAHs. The PAHs enter the smoke from the grill which infuses itself into your meat. It will also be breathed in by anyone standing around the barbecue. This is very bad news because like HCAs, PAHs have been found to cause cancer.

If you like your meat well done the chances are that the levels of these carcinogens will be even higher in your food. Meat that shows actual charring has three and a half times the levels of HCAs in it than meat that’s done medium rare.

The kind of meat you are eating also plays a role in how bad your BBQ is. Different meats heat and release HCAs at different rates. Unfortunately the biggest culprit is Bacon, a favourite for many people. The next highest HCA and PAH rate is found in pork steaks. Beef is the next highest on the list and chicken comes in right at the end of the meats. Therefore choosing chicken over pork is much healthier.

Vegetables however don’t release HCAs or PAHs. Grilling veggies on the BBQ is actually perfectly healthy and completely delicious.

A really nice way to prepare vegetables on the BBQ is to slide cut up pieces of veggies like mushrooms, pineapple and courgette on to a skewer stick to create your own exotic BBQ skewers.

Great Veggies for the BBQ include tomatoes, bell peppers, mushrooms,pineapple, onions, eggplant, mango, zucchini (or courgettes) and even fruits such as apple, mango, pineapple and pear.

We always like to wrap a jacket potato or two up in tin foil and put them right around the coals. You have to use heavy duty foil though, and peel off any charred bits of skin before eating.

Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you can’t BBQ meat anymore! There are ways to make your meaty cook out a lot healthier.

Marinade your meat to make your BBQ healthier

In a recent study by the Cancer Research Centre of Hawaii, Scientists found that certain marinades, herbs and spices actually reduce the level of HCAs and PAHs released during grilling.

Teriyaki, a thin, vinegar-based marinade applied to meat before barbecuing,reduced HCAs by 67%. This is because the meat cooks at a lower temperature and the marinade makes it more difficult for the sugars and amino acids in the meat to form HCAs and PAHs while it heats.

Garlic and Turmeric sauce (also thin and vinegar based) reduced these carcinogens by up to 50%.

The trick seems to lie in the base and thickness of the sauce, as well as in some special ingredients.

A thin vinegar or olive oil based marinade reduced carcinogens where as thick sugary sauces actually increased the HCA levels by three times in some cases.

Herbs and Spices from the mint family also lowered the HCAs and PAHs found in grilled meat. Mints are all rich in the antioxidants carnosol, carnosic acid and rosmarinic acid, which lessen the carcinogenic effects the meat has on your body.

Good mint choices for seasoning your marinade include: regular mint, rosemary, marjoram, basil, thyme and oregano.

For optimum marinating results you want to marinate your meat for between one and two hours. Remember to refrigerate any meat marinating for longer than half an hour. Make sure that you coat your meat in enough marinade to really let it soak in. Use quite a lot of good marinade, filling the marinating dish so that the meat is half submerged.

When you put your meat in to marinade don’t pour all of the marinade in with the meat. Keep some of the marinating sauce aside for basting while you cook. You don’t want to baste your meat in the same sauce that it soaked in because the raw meat juices that get into this sauce will then drip into the flames. When that happens it allows for meat proteins and sugars to get directly into the flames, giving off more PAHs. For the same reason you shouldn’t pierce the meat while you are grilling.

More ways to make your BBQ healthier

Choose lean meat. The fat on meat drips and burns and this releases more PAHs . By cutting out fat you illuminate part of the problem right away.

Cut your meat into smaller pieces. This will let it cook through more quickly which means less time for the meat to char and develop HCAs.

If you do char the outside of your meat, cut that bit off. The charred part of the meat contains the highest concentration of carcinogens.

Keep turning the meat over so that each part of it is exposed for a shorter period of time. This allows less time for HCAs to form.

Try to use pieces of whole meat rather than processed meats like sausages which contain more chemicals and nitrates and therefore produce more HCAs.

Wait until your coals are burning low, or turn your gas BBQ mark right down, So that your meat is not directly exposed to flames.

Pre-cook longer cooking meats like chicken before you barbecue them, so that they don’t need to be exposed to the flames for as long.

Last but not least, always clean your grill properly after you have finished cooking! This removes any old food that may be stuck to it. You don’t want old food on your grill because it will burn and release both HCAs and PAHs into your new meat and vegetables the next time you have a BBQ.

To protect yourself from these BBQ toxins, go to the next page and learn more about the ‘most powerful healing nutrient known to man’ for a stronger immune system.



About the Author:

Emma Deangela is the best selling author of The Alkaline Diet Program and 80/20 Fat Loss. She has helped over tens of thousands of men and women to lose weight and transform their health with sound nutrition advice.

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2 responses to “Is Your BBQ Toxic?”

  1. Michael Rosen Avatar
    Michael Rosen

    What this post describes is “grilling” NOT “barbecuing.” Grilling is done over high-heat, usually directly over the heat source. By contrast, BBQ is done low and slow. Typically, BBQ involves a cooking temperature of 200-250 degrees. Often, the meat will NOT be placed directly over the heat source. For these reasons, true BBQ will not involve flare-ups.

    The article would be more valuable if Emma explained the relative dangers and benefits of grilling v. barbecuing. Also, it would be helpful to know whether burning wood or charcoal is part of the problem. If it is, then cooking on a gas grill (without woodchips) would seem to offer a healthier option.


  2. DLNY Avatar

    Michael, In many parts of the South we would call your description more akin to smoking not barbecuing as it would require the use of a lid. I knew quite a few southern barbecueists who would say the first thing to do when you bought a new barbecue was to throw away the lid. If you want to smoke it then put the food in a smoker (which was also perfectly delicious).

    Often they parboiled or blanched their meats prior to grilling on the barbecue as this article favors, not for the health effects (they didn’t seem to concerned about that), but for the ability to slow cook the meat thoroughly prior to grilling. Also it sped up cooking time and didn’t leave the meat dry as a shoe.

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