For safer barbecuing this summer, season meat, chicken, and fish with vinegar before you throw it on the grill. A Portuguese study in the journal Meat Science found that this can reduce exposure to potential cancer-causing compounds that form when such foods are cooked at high temperature.
The researchers spritzed pork loin steaks with vinegar from a spray bottle (five sprays per side) immediately before grilling them on a charcoal barbecue (for 10 minutes at 200°C, or about 390°F, turning them once during cooking). Depending on the type of vinegar, the spraying reduced polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) on the cooked meat by as much as 82 percent, compared to no vinegar. PAHs form when fat drips on the heat source, and the plumes of smoke can coat the meat with them.
Elderberry vinegar showed the greatest benefit, followed by white wine vinegar (79 percent reduction in PAHs), red wine and apple cider vinegars (66 percent), and fruit vinegar with raspberry juice (55 percent). You can combine vinegar (which adds flavor without calories or sodium) with olive oil, mustard, herbs and spices, and other ingredients to make a marinade.
Choosing lean cuts of meat and trimming visible fat before cooking can also reduce exposure to PAHs and related compounds—plus improve the overall healthfulness of your meal.
This article first appeared in the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.