The smoky aroma and the charred grill marks are popular features of grilled food and we indulge in massive amounts of it every summer. However science doesn’t have good news for us on grilling. When smoke flares up on a grill and when food is charred or blackened over the grill, that releases harmful carcinogenic chemicals. The fat from grilling meat in combination with charcoal creates the smoky flavor but that consists of the chemical compound polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are formed in particular when meat fat drips over coal and flares up with smoke and are found to cause cancerous tumors in animals. Heterocyclic Amines are another class of carcinogenic chemical compounds also formed when meat is charred or blackened. Both of these chemicals have been linked in several studies to colorectal and pancreatic cancers and are both on the list of carcinogenic compounds.
Grilled foods can be enjoyed safely if one minimizes the smokiness and also pays attention while grilling not to cook the meat too much and to avoid charring it. In fact, research shows that those who eat well done meat are more likely to have stomach cancers than those who eat medium rare steak.
In general, it is advised to pay full attention and not be distracted while working over the grill. It is easy to get distracted by family or friends but thats when we might unintentionally burn the food. It may also be mentioned that any meat processed at greater than 300 degrees, such as deep fried meat, is also likely to contain the harmful PAH and HCA chemicals. The best is probably to eat more slow cooked meat and to supplement meals with fresh vegetables. At the same time we should not forget our friendly fruits with lots of phytochemicals and antioxidants.