As we know, eating meat may increase our risk of cancer, depending on how we prepare it. Why? Because the level of heat regulates the formation of cancerogenic heterocyclic amines. The higher the heat (barbecuing, broiling, and frying), the higher the temperature and the longer the cooking time, the more heterocyclic amines are produced. So what can we do to enjoy our meat without worrying about the possible danger of cancer?
One way is to use the moist heat ( steaming, boiling, poaching or simmering) of your meat, keeping the heat relatively low. Lower temperatures and shorter cooking times can minimize the formation of the carcinogens. But on the other side, you need to be sure that contaminating bacteria in the meat are thermally inactivated. It means that the cooking temperature has to be at least 70 degree C for beef.
The moist heat is healthier, but would not be appreciated by the real meat lovers. Luckily there are at least 2 other ways to minimize the production of the heterocyclic amines and still enjoy your meat:
1. by cooking at lower temperatures and/or for less time
Lowering the pan temperature and turning the patties frequently can greatly reduce the formation of heterocyclic amines and help achieve bacterial inactivation with almost no increase in cooking time. In this way you can be sure that your meat is safe to eat.
2. by adding some other products to marinades and flavouring to reduce chemically the formation of heterocyclic amines before and during high-heat cooking. The good representatives of such products are:
- cherries, dried plums and apples: they are not only good in reducing heterocyclic amines, but also keep meat fresh longer, make a finished cooked product moistured. Moreover, even apple and grape seed extracts can be used in meat preparation to achieve the reduction of total heterocyclic amines content by 70%!
- vitamin E and rosemary extracts due to their antioxidant effects seem also to be very effective at lowering heterocyclic amines production
- various marinades, such as
… teriyaki and turmeric-garlic marinades (after 15 minutes of cooking, the meat in teriyaki or turmeric-garlic marinade has 60% lower heterocyclic amines levels than the unmarinated meat);
… beer and wine marinades, where beer shows better results in decreasing production of heterocyclic amines;
… onion-garlic-lemon juice marinade. Here, the optimal ratio is 2 parts each of onion and garlic and 1 part lemon juice. By the way, using only garlic at 20 gm/100 gm in marinade is able to reduce carcinogen production by about 70%;
… marinades based on virgin olive oil as it turned to be better than any other oil.
Please, keep in mind, that not all marinades have the same positive effect in reducing heterocyclic amines. For example, a standard barbecue sauce (with tomato solids and sugar) caused a significant increase in chemical formation, doubling and even tripling levels after 15 minutes of cooking (!)
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to enjoy your meat. All you need to do is be aware of them! I hope this summary will help you with that.