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Aug 1, 2008 10:22 AM

BBQ causes twist

Saw a news item on my Yahoo toolbar:
"Toxic Warning for all BBQ Lovers", so I clicked here:

A newsclip from ABC saying how charring creates HCAs, a cancer causing compound. Just found it interesting on how the commentator said something like "overcooking your meat can be dangerous". She said this a couple of times...
But the point was to avoid *charring*, not avoid 'overcooking'.
I'm also curious how the general public would interpret such a report.

I remember a few eons ago when I ran a fast food seasonal joint. Every summer, our local TV station would do a seasonal segment on BBQing hamburger patties. Their point that eating undercooked ground meat can be a potential health hazard (understandable). They also went on that when cooking frozen patties the potential is greater because it "looks cooked on the outside, but it may still be raw on the inside".

So I'd get customers asking if our patties were frozen. Well, I'd answer, they were previously frozen, but I cook them from a de-frosted state.
"Well nevermind, I don't want to get that 'hamburger disease' like on TV."
Of course I'd explain that they should be concerned about undercooked meat rather than whether it was frozen or not - but no way, their mind was made up: anything from frozen was dangerous...

So back to this report. I wonder if there'll be a mass misunderstanding. To me, carcinogens in BBQ have been established a long time ago. A potentially misleading report like this can maybe do more bad than good; "Mary, don't overcook my meat, they said it causes cancer"...

Not that I'm worried, I like my BBQ and don't mind living on the edge. Plus another reason for 'low and slow'

Whattya think?

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  1. I remember the '80s (sounds like a VH1 show), anyhow, and every other week there was another BS scare. It was hamburgers and then hot dogs and then charcoal grilling and then, honest, scotch whiskey. It was reusing bacon fat. (No, none of these are out of my hat made up examples, each of these I recall vividly) And there's a hundred more I forget.

    Turned out they were wrong about every single one. Sounds like nostalgia. I do not buy it. And there's no way I'm listening or taking that off my list unless something like three major souces, let's say the FDA, Stephen Hawkings and the Dali Lama all agree on it. :)

    Oh and as for "low and slow", sure. But you still gotta have some char on that baby (backs), or it ain't worth it!

    1. Just looked at that video report, and have something else to add. They say don't ever cook over a flame and cook everything well done. LMAO! Oh yeah, I'm sure all the Chowers are going to run out and cook everything well done from now on... when hell freezes over! LMAO! (Btw poker, not poking fun at you, but the report.)

      Don't char, don't sear, eat all your food well done ... Where do these folks get their so-called facts?

      1. I'll take my chances.

        Not giving up bbq in my smoker, or grilling prime steaks on the grill ever.

        1 Reply
        1. re: swsidejim

          Me too. What would life be like if you took all this BS news seriously.

        2. Hi porker (it sounds so weird saying that), I am trained as a toxicologist and have a background of studying these types of compounds. This is VERY sensationalized news. You must be from the states, lol. Your news seems very sensationalized overall. While it is true that charred meat does have some undesirable compounds formed in it (PAHs, etc), your body is able to detoxify the VAST majority of them and excrete them in a harmless form. You body is truly amazing. If you eat large quantities of charred foods there is more of a chance that something will not be detoxified and could potentially cause a mutation that could eventually lead to cancer, but that would be rare. Besides the same family of compounds that is being produced in charred foods is produced when you burn wood in a fire or when you burn gas in a car. We are already exposed to these sorts of compounds every day. I just want to let you know you can eat your meat however you like (in moderation of course). If you are worried about cancer, just be sure to eat all those amazing fruits and veggies that help your body to detoxify potential carcinogens. Hopefully, this answers your questions. I hate hearing that the news is scaring people.
          Best wishes,
          Barbara McEwen

          6 Replies
          1. re: brh973

            thanks for a great post, Barbara!!

            1. re: jeanmarieok

              Ditto, great post, Barbara. Thanks!

            2. re: brh973

              Hi brh973 (hey that sounds weird too - haha).
              Your post is quite informative.

              I just posted to show how riduculous some news items can be - yes it is sensationalized. I mean within the context of YOUR post, a truly factual news item should have explained the level of hazard, not simply put things in black and white.

              I am just surprised how the commentator simply says we shouldn't eat well done meat - she misses the point completely...its kind of mis-information.

              I'm not worried about my BBQ causing cancer, I'm not worried about the report, and I'm not from the states, I live in Canada, but I'm not Canadian either, but that's another story haha.

              Had me thinking, though, how someone seeing the report may denounce flame broiling altogether, without knowing any facts...

              1. re: brh973

                Barbara- I dont know if you are still around, but you made my day. I just bought a Big Green Egg, and these reports scared me. Thanks for putting things in perspective.

                1. re: gridder

                  "these reports scared me."

                  That was exactly the intended purpose. Sensationalized news sells.

                2. Thanks for sharing this link. It never did seem healthy to literally eat a layer of carbon (char) but I have to admit, I love my food charred. I'm glad you shared this though and I'll now watch out.