Dressed To Grill
Our hard-working Polish mother, Alfreda, always cooked from scratch and made the best homemade hamburgers when we were growing up. She didn’t have the luxury of a $1,000 gas barbeque but grilled our burgers on an old-fashioned, rickety, beat-up charcoal barbecue that our dad had picked up at Canadian Tire.
We’re not sure if it was her extra-special seasoning that made the burgers so scrumptious or whether it was the charcoal briquettes that we doused with lawn-mower gasoline (do not try this at home, kids!) that imparted the unforgettable smoky note. Regardless, we’d have tons of fun helping mom pack the seasoned ground beef into her K-Tel Patty Stacker while dad frantically extinguished the towering inferno we’d started in the backyard. (We had a thing for fire back then and once set our rec-room chesterfield ablaze. Uh…AND our front hall closet. Don’t ask!)
If you’re as fired up as we are that outdoor cooking (and summer!) is finally here, you might appreciate these hot tips for healthifying the meat that you eat.
Most people have heard that when you cook meat (whether it’s grilled, broiled or seared), some carcinogenic compounds called HCAs (heterocyclic amines) can form. Charring or burning meat at high temperatures can produce a higher concentration of HCAs, and may accelerate aging and disease over time. The more well-done, the more chance YOU’LL be well done!
No need to chuck the ground chuck, though. Honest! There are plenty of ways you can counteract and/or drastically reduce the nasty compounds formed when barbecuing and still enjoy the occasional grilled meat.
Happily Marinated: When you marinate meat in citrus or vinegar, or a rub containing rosemary, you reduce carcinogenic compounds formed during grilling. The spices thyme and oregano, like rosemary, also contain plenty of antioxidants that have been specifically cited in studies as being powerful inhibitors of HCAs. Plus, they taste great!
Best Grill Friend: Adding garlic to meat or poultry also appears to reduce the production of cancer-causing chemicals that can develop in meat when it’s grilled at high temperatures.
Stew Good to Be True: By the way, did you know that cooking meats in liquid, like you would when making soups and stews or using a crockpot, or using marinades, is the HEALTHIEST way to cook meat? Cooking meat in a water base has been shown to eliminate the problem of the HCAs. Marinate, braise, baste or stew. All are better for you!
Skinful is Sinful: Always remove the skin from poultry and fish, not because it contains fat, but because that’s where most of the toxins accumulate. The same goes for trimming fat from meat. Fat is where a lot of toxic gunk is stored.
Make Well-Done a Rare Occasion: Charring is SO not cool! We’ve never really understood why anyone would want to ruin a perfectly nice piece of meat by burning it at the steak. Rare, medium-rare or medium are healthier choices. But if you’re one of those rare individuals who enjoys well-done, make sure you load up on antioxidants to combat those extra carcinogens. Spices, teas, berries, colourful veggies and dark green salads and even supplemental antioxidants like resveratrol, acai or goji juice will protect you. Our bodies are very resilient if you give them a helping hand!
Get Out There and Kick Some Grass! If you can find grass-fed meats, you’re doing your body a lot more good than if you eat grain-fed. Grass-fed meat will give you more healthy, protective Omega-3 fat, and it also contains Conjugated Linolenic Acid, a type of fat that helps you burn fat. Grain-fed meat has an out-of-balance ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fat. Too much Omega-6, common in the standard, North American diet because we ingest so many processed, refined oils, can lead to inflammation and chronic disease. The solution to this problem is to eat more Omega-3 fat! (If you eat grain-fed meat, make sure you take an Omega-3 supplement like flax oil or fish oil.) And of course, organic, humanely raised sources of meat are better overall–without antibiotics, hormones and other health disruptors. Your body, and the environment, will say, “Mucho grassias!”