July 4th is right around the corner so it’s time to bust out the BBQ grills which have seen no use since memorial day. On today’s menu…BBQ done right!
Meats should be kept cold prior to cooking because the lower temperatures will help slow the growth of bacteria like Escherichia coli and Salmonella. Unfortunately, Listeria Monocytogenes still grows fairly well at lower temperatures which is probably why it is the 3rd leading cause of food poisoning death in the US.
Although marinating your meats may help spread bacteria from contaminated cuts to uncontaminated cuts, the right marinade may also help to inhibit growth of illness-causing species of Clostridium, Enterobacteriaceae and Vibrio. Marinades can also affect the taste and texture of your meats so consider your choice of marinades very carefully. Marinades rich in salts, sugars, acids, or alcohols will be helpful in inhibiting the growth of microbes. Also, remember that pathogenic bacteria can contaminate vegetables as well, so be sure to wash those veggies well if you plan on eating them raw.
After throwing the meats on the grill, use a food thermometer to ensure that foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature: 145°F for whole meats, 160°F for ground meats, and 165°F for all poultry. Remove the meats from heat as soon as they are thoroughly cooked because overcooking meat can induce the formation of heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PACs). Some heterocyclic amines like PhIP have been shown to induce DNA damage which may be why HCA’s have been associated with an increase the risk of developing colorecteral cancer.
Fortunately, anti-oxidant rich marinades have been found to reduce the formation of heterocyclic amines during cooking, so marinate away! However, if the prospect of cooking the meat just right in order to avoid pathogens and NOT increase risk of cancer seems to be more work than its worth, consider adding more veggies to your barbecue this July 4th–especially since (as we’ve seen before), veggies are awesome!