How to Barbecue Safely This Summer

Written by Canadian Lentils Dietitian Gloria Tsang, RD

Barbecue season is here! If you’re like me, you can’t wait to open up the barbecue and start cooking outside. You probably know that it’s important to ensure your barbecue and propane tank are operating safely, but did you know that it’s also important to implement some safe cooking strategies to prevent the creation of carcinogens in barbecued food?

Research shows that substances in barbecued meats can increase the risk of some cancers, including breast and colorectal cancer, especially if the meat is well done. This is partly because of the high heat used in barbecues, and partly because of smoke and flame flare-ups that occur when fat and juices drip down onto the flame below. 

The good news is that you can easily minimize the risk of creating carcinogens when you barbecue so you can enjoy safe outdoor cooking worry-free all summer long. Here are my top tips for safe barbecue cooking this summer.

 Top Strategies for Safe Barbecue Cooking

Minimize cook time: The longer your food is on the barbecue, the more time there is for carcinogens to develop. Cook meat to medium rather than well done, or start your cooking in the microwave. Ensure any food that’s been frozen is fully thawed before you place it on the grill. And keep in mind that carcinogens are concentrated in charred meat, so trim off any sections that do get charred.

Choose lean foods: Dripping fat is a key source of those flame and smoke flare-ups that can cause a carcinogenic chemical, so choose lean cuts of meat for the barbecue. You should also trim any visible fat before putting the meat on the grill.

Go veggie: Meats are the prime candidates for creating carcinogens when you barbecue. There are plenty of vegetarian options for barbecuing, like these Vegan Lentil Burgers. Or, if you simply can’t picture a meat-free barbecue, mix vegetarian ingredients in with your beef burger for a lower-fat version that’s less likely to drip onto the flame, like these Beef & Lentils Burgers.

Bump up the flavour: Marinades – especially those with herbs – reduce the risk of carcinogens caused by the heat of the barbecue. Of course, they also kick the flavour of your meats up a notch! You can also try marinating Portobello mushrooms as a vegetarian alternative to steak.

Savour the side dishes: Let’s face it: barbecues can be a mighty meat-heavy affair. To help cut down on fat and calories as well as limit your intake of carcinogens, load your plate with healthy salads and veggies. This Marinated Lentil Salad is perfect for spring, and Caprese Salad is my favourite once the tomatoes and basil are in season.

And there you have it. Five simple ways to ensure you can enjoy your barbecue all summer long without exposing yourself or your family to unnecessary cancer risk.

 

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