Grilling with This Minty Marinade Could Reduce Carcinogenic Toxins

flaming grill photo

Before: how not to grill--high flame, smoke and charring. Photo via flickr by (appropriately) Combust

When barbecuing your free-range meats and line-caught fish this July 4th, be sure to whip up some marinade first. Yesterday, I offered ten ways to avoid carcinogenic HCAs and PAHs when grilling (or any high-heat cooking, for that matter).

Thanks to a comment from a reader, I dug digger into tip # 4, the marinating suggestion that lessens HCAs, and discovered some compelling results and recommended recipes for significantly reducing these toxins. Read on for ways to green the grill for a almost zero-carbon cookout. Hint: mint.

A Kansas State University study showed that marinating meat prior to grilling with certain ingredients reduces HCA formation -- but not all marinades are created equal.

Researchers marinated steaks for an hour in water, soybean oil, and vinegar, plus one of the following store-bought spice blends:

• Caribbean (thyme, red pepper, black pepper, all spice, rosemary, and chives)
• herb (oregano, basil, garlic, onion, jalapeno pepper, parsley, and red pepper)
• Southwest (paprika, red pepper, oregano, thyme, black pepper, garlic, and onion)

After cooking, analysis demonstrated the Caribbean mix reduced HCAs by a whopping 88%, compared with no marinade. The herbal blend reduced HCAs by 72%, and the Southwest version reduced HCAs by 57%. Conclusion: marinate meat/fish before grilling to reduce HCAs, and specifically use spices from the mint family, like rosemary, rich in anti-oxidants for the most effect.

A Healthy Grilling Marinade Recipe

Mix olive oil (or non-GMO soybean oil), vinegar and water Add spices, such as rosemary, oregano, thyme, sage, and basil Also, garlic is recommended and even tart cherries (see below).

healthy grilling photo

Better barbecuing: vegetables, marinated meat, and low heat. Photo via Flickr by Simon Aughton
Other low-carbon grilling tips:

• Make marinade from scratch. Some researchers note increased HCAs in commercial products, probably due to high fructose corn syrup.

• Make two batches of marinade: One for raw meat/fish before grilling, then toss.

• Use tongs, not a fork, to flip meat/fish and do often while cooking. Fork piercing causes juices to drip onto the grill, increasing nasty PAHs.

• Don’t overcook. Use a meat thermometer: cook poultry to an internal temperature of 165°F; ground beef, pork, and lamb to an internal temperature of 160°F; steaks and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145°F.

• Marinate food in the refrigerator (not the countertop)

• Cook over medium (not high) heat to avoid charring foods. Let flames settle. Remove charred portions before serving. (Note: this holds true for pan frying and broiling, too. Bake, poach, stir-fry, and stew to produce the least HCAs. Pro-longed cooking isn’t advisable either.)

It's not surprising that scientists in Italy found marinating in garlic, olive oil, and sage, blocked formation of HCAs. Red wine works well, too. And some preliminary studies at Washington State University show cherries, particularly tart types loaded with antioxidants, protect against HCA by 60 percent.

As for frankfurters, if you're one of the 150 million Americans who will consume a wiener on the Fourth—enough to stretch five times from LA to DC, per the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, skip the nitrite-laden dogs.

And enjoy all the zero-carbon HCA-free grilled, local, and organic veggies you desire.

More on Meat and Fish
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UN Expert Says Eat Less Red Meat To Reduce CO2 Emissions
Is This the End of the Line for Fish?
10 Tasty Fish You Don't Want to Eat

Grilling with This Minty Marinade Could Reduce Carcinogenic Toxins
When barbecuing your free-range meats and line-caught fish this July 4th, be sure to whip up some marinade first.

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