Red meat gets the green light

A sizzling sausage or spicy kebab snatched off the burning coals may be just the thing you need to ward off December’s chil s But there’s stuff you need to know before these treats make their way onto your plate on a daily basis

Red meat gets the green light 300x198 Red meat gets the green lightRaw Facts

When we eat meat or fish, we’re eating muscle tissue — mainly muscle cells, some collagen that makes up connective tissue (the more collagen, the tougher the meat), and fat. Cooking turns the tissue pleasantly firm and juicy by altering protein inside the muscle cells so it gets more compact and squeezes out water, according to On Food and Cooking, Harold Mccee’s classic book on food science.

High Heat

Any burned protein may contain heterocyclic amines, but the amounts in eggs and beans (soy, rajma) are small compared to those in meat derived from muscle tissue — be it red meat, fish or chicken — because muscle tissue is well supplied with creatine.

More than the type of meat, high temperature is the crucial factor in heterocyclic amine formation. That’s why grilling, frying, and broiling are the problem: They heat meat to extremely high temperatures. Heterocyclic amines are usually concentrated in the outer few millimeters of a piece of meat closest to the heat source.

Marinade muddle

Marinating meat is often suggested as one way to cut down on the formation of heterocyclic amines. The thinking is that the marinade will help keep meat moist and its temperature down. In addition, some marinades imbue meat with antioxidants that offset the heterocyclic amines.

Some tips

Even if marinating isn’t the answer, techniques that let you cook meat at lower temperatures and for shorter periods of time should reduce heterocyclic amines. Here are some grilling tips from the NCI and other sources that may make grilled meat a bit safer to eat:

Cook smaller pieces. They cook quickly and at lower temperatures.

Choose leaner meat. Less fat should reduce the flames and therefore the smoke that contains cancer-causing agents.

Precook in the microwave. The NCI says microwaving meat for two minutes before cooking it decreases heterocyclic amine content by 90%. Don’t overdo it, because microwaving can dry meat out.

Warm it up. In On Food and Cooking, McGee says the warmer a meat is when you start, the less time it takes-tQ cook. He suggests wrapping steaks and chops and putting them in warm water for 30 to 60 minutes.-&itjfyou do this, cook the meat immediately, because bacteria grow quickly on warm meat.

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