Beer and meat lovers rejoice! A study from the March issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry is suggesting that when certain beers are used as a marinade for meats, they can make grilled meats healthier.
Grilling food which has been marinated in beer has proven to be a healthier option.
Healthier in the sense that they reduce the amount of harmful polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PCA), substances found in many common food items, including smoked and charcoal grilled foods, which are linked with colorectal cancer.
In the study, four-ounce pork loin steaks were marinated for four hours in either pilsner (classic style of lager) beer, nonalcoholic pilsner beer or a dark ale and compared to unmarinated steaks.
Steaks were grilled for 10 minutes on a charcoal grill, while turned once halfway through, and allowed to reach a minimum internal temperature of 75 C.
While all three beers were effective at reducing PCA, the five per cent dark ale showed the highest and only significant cancer fighting potential, followed by nonalcoholic pilsner and then its alcoholic counterpart.
According to the authors, the differences between the cancer fighting activities of the different kinds of beers could be explained by several factors, including the type of fermentation and the presence of food colouring, sweeteners, flavours and other additives.
How do these cancer-causing compounds occur on grilled foods? By either contamination of smoke onto the food, burning of food (those crispy burnt, black sections on grilled meats) or, more frequently, by contact with dripping fat on hot embers.
The main factors that affect PCA concentration in charcoal-grilled meats are its closeness to the heat source, amount of fat in the raw meat product and cooking time.
Aside from marinating your grilled meats in beer this year, try the following to keep your grill healthy.
Be creative with marinating.
Ales generally have more antioxidants than lagers, so the former is likely the better choice for marinating, as was shown in this study.
Other studies have shown that the addition of onion, garlic, spices such as rosemary, cumin, coriander and black pepper, and lemon juice can all help to reduce the PCA content in cooked (not just grilled) meats.
Marinating meats in red or white wine and tea have also proven effective in reducing PCA in grilled meats.
Choose a leaner, thinner cut. You’ll save on both calories and carcinogens here. The longer meat sits on the grill, the higher the rates of PCA that build up in the meat while it cooks on high heat.
Kebabs are a good idea, as they can help to cut down on portion size, help foods cook faster, and are a great way to add veggies or fruit.
Try red meat alternatives — red meat meaning beef, pork, and lamb. Chicken, fish and shellfish, and vegetarian options like soy burgers or portobello mushroom caps have less calories, and work well on a grill.
Along with less overall fat, options like fish and veg take less time to cook, which both mean less PCA.
Turn foods often. Continuously turning meat on its opposite side can considerably reduce PCA formation. Use tongs or a spatula to turn instead of piercing meat with a fork, as this will help to reduce drippings, again reducing PCA formation.
Add fruit and vegetables to your plate. Rich in antioxidants, these foods work similar to marinades in reducing cancer-causing compounds in the body.
Ideal for the grill are tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, carrots, pineapple, broccoli, peppers, onions, corn cobs, mushrooms or baby potatoes.