Dark beer-based marinade lowers carcinogen levels, makes barbecue grilled meat healthier, study finds
Jason Rehel | May 13, 2014 | Last Updated: May 13 3:03 PM ET
Alex Brandon/APWhat makes grilling healthier? Smaller cuts, lower heats — and beer? That’s right: Beer… the beverage of choice for backyard barbecues, can help reduce the level of carcinogens in cooked meat if you marinade the meat in it before cooking, a new study has found.
A few years ago, Post dietitian columnist Jennifer Sygo gave us some tips on how to cook on our outdoor grills and still stay on the healthier side of things. Inspired by her tips and new research released in March, we’ve expanded our healthy grilling guide this year:
1. Choose a leaner, thinner cut. This can seem kind of obvious, since smaller, less fatty cuts will have fewer calories, but the other factor involved is cooking time. The longer meat sits on the grill, the higher the rates of carcinogens that build up in the meat while it cooks on high heat.
2. Skewer it. Using these cooking devices isn’t only fun, it also helps with portion control, and they generally require less oil and time on the grill to get that great barbecue taste. It’s also a great way to get veggies into the mix, too.
3. Consider red meat alternatives. Everyone loves a great steak, brisket or burger. But roasted chicken, poached fish, grilled shrimp and squid all produce great grilled results, too, often with fewer calories and more healthy fats. Plus, most fish takes less time to grill, meaning it won’t produce as many PAHs.
4. Clean your grill regularly. While this is a no-brainer when it comes to prolonging the life of your barbecue itself, it can also help keep the grilling process cleaner and possibly help your meal produce fewer carcinogens.
5. Cook meat at lower temperatures. With roasts or rotisserie attachments, this is easy to do since cooking times are much longer, but it is still possible to make a perfect burger that takes a little longer, but produces fewer PAHs because it’s cooked on a grill that’s set to medium-low heat vs. medium high. Plus, this is a great way to experiment with flavourings, sauces, etc.
Beer makes every barbecue better? You bet it does. But better for your body, too? Sure, why not?
Before you wash that thick, juicy steak down with your favourite craft lager or ale this spring and summer, consider dunking the meat in a seasoning concoction that includes said ale or lager. Why? Simple: a new study released earlier this spring suggests that beer-based marinades help reduce the formation of potentially harmful substances in grilled meats. The study appeared in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in March.
Researchers (those lucky scientists) tested out three examples: grilled samples of pork marinated for four hours in Pilsner beer, non-alcoholic Pilsner beer or a black ale, cooking their samples to well-done on a charcoal grill. OK, those are extreme conditions (who cooks meat on the ‘cue to “well done?) but the results they found at the beer bath limiting the formation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which form when meat is cooked at high temperatures, were very encouraging. PAHs are linked to a higher incidence of colorectal cancer, and are also common in car exhaust and cigarette smoke.
The black ale had the most pronounced effects, “reducing the levels of eight major PAHs by more than half compared with unmarinated pork.”
It’s been known for some time that beer, wine or tea marinades help reduce potential carcinogen levels in cooked meat, but little was known about how different beer marinades affect PAH levels, until now.
“The intake of beer marinated meat can be a suitable mitigation strategy” against the harmful PAH compounds, researchers said.