BBQ and grilled foods are popular meal choices, especially in the warmer months when nobody wants to heat up the oven. Unfortunately, recent studies about possible connections between carcinogens and BBQ foods have led to some misunderstandings and myths, particularly when it comes to meats with fatty areas.
In many cases, the studies about BBQ and grilled foods have been misinterpreted or exaggerated. While there may be some connection between carcinogens found in heavily charred foods and cancer in lab rats, very few people eat heavily charred foods, and certainly not in the quantities it would take to replicate the studies.
It's Not About The Smoke
Others have questioned whether BBQ meat cuts with more fat absorb more smoke. Research shows that fat does not absorb more smoke than any other part of the meat. And besides, it is not the smoky flavor that is the concern, but the burned or charred areas of the food.
Because fat does tend to burn more easily than other parts of the meat, it may contain carcinogens if charred, thus providing the basis for the myths and misunderstandings. If the fatty areas aren't burned, they are just as safe as the rest of the meat, and even if they are burned, they usually comprise just a small portion of the meat. The lab rats in the studies were fed a diet that consisted of mostly charred foods.
Good News for BBQ Lovers
This is good news for many BBQ lovers, especially because the fatty areas often contain better flavor, and everyone knows, a cut of meat with good marbling of fat will often be more tender and tasty. Of course, it may not be the best choice in regards to calories and other dietary aspects. If you have concerns, simply cut off the fat.
When it comes to BBQ and grilled foods, the smoke is dangerous only if you inhale it while cooking, which is why it's best to use your BBQ in a well ventilated area, and never indoors. In addition, if using lighter fluid or self-starting charcoal, don't linger over the grill when starting it, and wait until the fuel has burned off and the coals have a good gray color before putting food on the BBQ.
Most people enjoy a good BBQ and often find that grilling allows for healthier meals because, unlike frying or even roasting, the fat drips away from the foods. Although it is important to continue to research any possible health concerns created by different cooking methods, the hype about BBQ foods and cancer just doesn't hold up under closer scrutiny.