There’s a story in the WashPost today about how spicy marinades decrease the heterocyclic amine (HCA) content in grilled meat. They think you should care because HCAs are likely carcinogens. There are many things about this that get my back up so lets make a list:
1) Nobody knows how much cancer HCAs may be causing. As far as I can tell (I’d be glad to be e-mailed some reasearch that disputes this), there isn’t any study that directly links HCAs to human cancer, qualitatively or quantitatively. I’m not saying they’re not carcinogens, I’m pretty certian they are, but the only studies that I know of look at the link between cancer and how much well-done meant someone eats. Well-done meat has more HCAs, but heck, it’s also got a lot more polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, as well as a whole host of other baddies. So we can’t really pin this on HCAs alone.
2) If you’re eating enough meat for HCA risk to be a problem, you’ve got much bigger problems. Namely, risk of serious heart disease. Cut down on the meat.
3) If you’re eating meat that’s well-done, you’re also a bad cook. Beef should be cooked to 135 deg. (internal) for tastiness (that’s medium rare); 140 if you must. By the time you form enough HCAs to be a problem you’ve ruined your dinner. For people that worry about pathogens, consider this: Any bacteria should be on the outside, it’s toast. Also, when was the last time you heard about anyone getting sick from beef that wasn’t ground?
So, what have we learned here? You shouldn’t eat too much meat (we already knew that). You shouldn’t ruin your dinner by overcooking it (we alreday knew that, too). Marinades are good (with the exception of a T-bone/porterhouse/cuts contained therein, I’ll concede this).
Can we stop doing studies that tell us things we already know? I get sick everytime I see that our tax dollars fund these stupid things (like this gem that tells us that runners are healthier).
PS And for goodness sake, don’t follow the advice at the bottom of the article about nuking your meat before grilling. A crime against eaters! Do follow the advice about veggies; grilled portobellos are a wonder.