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Charcoal Grilling--Avoiding Char?

Discussion in 'Grilling Tips' started by gatrapper, May 14, 2018.

  1. gatrapper

    gatrapper Newbie

    Hey y'all,

    I want to buy a Weber Kettle, but I keep reading numerous articles about how charcoaling grilling meat can increase your chance of cancer and other health problems.

    The article speaks about how the fat from the meat drips down onto the coals and the burnt fat smoke cooks into your meat.

    I have seen two products called the Slow and Sear and Drip N' Griddle pan. If I grilled over indirect hear and kept the meat over the drip pan, would I avoid the health problems?

    Thank you!
  2. SonnyE

    SonnyE Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Don't think I can help you much. Sounds like you are listening to the wrong talking heads.

    Char, as you are calling it, is the searing of the meat by exposing it to high heat, hot metal, or a heated skillet. It transforms the surface adding taste you cannot get otherwise.
    Frying is far worse for your vascular system than grilling is. Grilling, the fats melt off and drip into the heat source (Charcoal, Gas, Wood Fire), and flare into smoke. It doesn't "condense" back on the meat, the meat is too hot for that.
    Now frying, the meat sits there and boils in the liquid fat and remains with the meat.

    That's why my heart Doctors have me grilling salmon, pork, and chicken. The process further reduces the fat's that make the gobs of cholesterol that is the beginning of heart problems.
    Beef! It's what's for Dinner! Not around here, not anymore. That beautiful marbling of fat in a hunk of Beef is pure murder for your heart and arteries. Many folks can just pass it off.
    But if it begins to stick in an artery, the next little ball rolling along will eventually stick to that little booger stuck to the wall. Then you have two. And others come along looking for a place to stick to... And the white blood cells try and cover it up.
    Then, one day, that little bubble of fat chunks breaks open. And the white cells go crazy trying to attack the cholesterol because it see's it as an invading foreign substance. It forms a clot of blood cells and fat, and it plugs up an artery when it can't pass. And it causes a heart attack.
    In my case, the RCA (right coronary artery). They call it the Widow Maker, because the symptoms are so subtle guys deny it is happening. Until it's too late.
    The emergency Cardiologist that literally saved my life told my wife to say good bye to me. She said, "Well, I'll see him when he comes out, right?"
    He told he did not think I would come out. It was that bad. 100% blockage. The right side of my heart was dying.
    So, I do a lot of grilling to help remove the bad fats, but also to get the enjoyable taste of grilled food.

    I think you are far more apt to get cancer from the air you breath, the water you are drinking, and the traffic you sit in, or the things in your food you cannot pronounce, than from a char-broiled piece-o-meat.

    Here's a thought for you my friend:
    You can worry yourself to death. Or you can choose to live until you die.
    Me, I choose to live. Either way, we all die.
    Have a beer, and enjoy some Bar-B-Que! :D
  3. Geebs

    Geebs Smoking Fanatic

    I believe this is what he is referring to, this from Readers Digest, it was also on NBC Nightly News a few weeks ago.

    If well-done burgers or charred hotdogs are your thing, consider this: Regularly consuming well-done or charred meat may increase your risk of developing pancreatic cancer by up to 60 percent, according to a University of Minnesota study that tracked the eating habits of more than 62,000 people over a nine-year period. Why? Cooking meat at a high temperature causes chemicals called HCAs (heterocyclic amines) and PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) to form. These carcinogens can cause changes in DNA that can lead to cancer. Choose lean meats and trim the fat before grilling, because when fat and juices drip from meat, flames flare up and create more smoke, which leads to carcinogen formation. Flip frequently to reduce HCAs by 75 to 95 percent, according to research published in the Nutrition Action Healthletter. If you do char your meat, trim it away before eating.
  4. johnmeyer

    johnmeyer Master of the Pit

    This idea that the char on meat from burning fat causes cancer has been around for decades. But, if there was much truth to this, everyone in this forum would be dead a long time ago.

    As I get older, with all the experience age brings, I see very little correlation between these supposed carcinogens and people actually getting cancer. I am not saying that there is zero risk, or that this is total junk science (although it is pretty close to junk). Instead, I am saying that the increased risk is probably really, really small, like the risk you take when flying at 35,000 feet where various forms of radiation that are normally filtered by the earth's atmosphere are more intense, thereby increasing your cancer risk.

    These scientific studies are almost always done by asking people a bunch of questions about their lifestyle and then throwing the answers into a mathematical tool called "regression analysis." It is a complicated version of the old scatter plot we all did in high school where you attempt to draw a "best fit" straight line through a bunch of points on an X-Y graph, and thereby determine a mathematical relationship between the input and output variables. When you use the computer, you can do this with dozens of factors simultaneously and then attempt to assign a value to each one of the variables.

    If you actually read most of these studies, the increased risk is usually on the order of 5%, or 15%, or maybe even 30%. Since you actually have pretty small odds that one of these cancers will do you in, increasing those small odds by a small amount still leaves you with really small odds.

    Few researchers really understand this regression tool (it is really easy to screw up) and therefore almost always end up with bogus (i.e., wrong) results. But the media will print anything, so we get stories about coffee causing cancer (my state, California, just passed a law requiring warnings on all coffee products). Or alcohol causes cancer (also requiring a warning here in CA). Look out for nitrates in cured meat. And, of course, BBQ meat will kill you.

    My advice: enjoy your meal and find something else to worry about.
  5. SonnyE

    SonnyE Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    See? There you go!
    It's those words you can't pronounce that cause cancer.
    I'm not going to repeat them in my post. It might give me cancer. o_O

    PS: I had a good old dog that died of Pancreatic Cancer. Awful stuff, painful. Big Sam died in my arms at the Vet's.
    I never, ever saw him Bar-B-Que anything....

    Dog food must cause Cancer! :eek:
    Last edited: May 14, 2018
  6. Geebs

    Geebs Smoking Fanatic

    Im just going to keep on doing what I am doing. With the ways they are making food/drinks I believe I am bound to get cancer at some point, unfortunately its just the way things are these days. I am going to keep on living the way I live.
    SonnyE likes this.
  7. BKING!

    BKING! Smoking Fanatic

    Our ancestors were throwing food directly into the fire and burning it to a crisp. That was literally the first form of cooking. Malignant cancers were far more rare back then than they are now. Funny how that works. Not saying throwing meat directly into the fire and burning it to a crisp is healthy. What I am saying is that we should stop listening to the bozos of the world who eat fast food, smoke, drink excessively, don’t exercise, and then tell us it’s not healthy to grill our meat...
    SonnyE likes this.
  8. noboundaries

    noboundaries Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I use my Kettle all the time. Except for some searing, I grill/smoke with indirect heat the vast majority of the time. I get juicier results from indirect heat regardless of what I'm grilling. Once again, except for a sear where you can control the char, when I use direct heat my meat or veggies are often in a 15" paella pan. Fits perfectly inside the 22.5" Weber Kettle. Tried the 18" but the handles wouldn't fit with the lid closed.

    I have a Smokenator (the Slow n Sear is better), but rarely use it. I've worn out charcoal baskets. I use them just about every time I fire up the Kettle. Helps keep down the wasted charcoal. Kingsford is okay, but I prefer Royal Oak Ridge briquettes or just about any kind of lump.

    I'm only on my third Kettle since 1977, and still have two of those. Get a Weber Kettle. You won't regret it.
  9. SmokinAl

    SmokinAl Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    As in all things, moderation is the key.
    Eat what you want, just don't over do it!
  10. johnmeyer

    johnmeyer Master of the Pit

    Your great advice reminds me of that movie "Super Size Me," back in 2004. It was a documentary where some guy decided to eat three meals a day at McDonalds, and always ask to "Super Size Me" which meant they delivered extra large proportions. After three weeks he had gained some ridiculous amount of weight, and his vital signs were so bad that he suspended the experiment.

    His (wrong) conclusion was that this meant that McDonalds was serving unhealthy food, when the real story was that this fool was simply consuming way too many calories, and he would have had the same result eating too much of pretty much any other food.
  11. Be far more concerned about your food and drinks coming in plastic packaging than some char on your food (which makes it taste good). Think about since the explosion of plastic being used over glass and waxed cardboard and the rise in cancer rates. Just some food for thought.
  12. TomKnollRFV

    TomKnollRFV Master of the Pit Group Lead

    Having had friends constantly tag me on FB with this sort of crap..if you look into the 'sources' alot of it is just nut jobs spouting things off. These people will also tell you that chem trails make people into atheists, so on and so forth with their nutty conspiracy theories.

    There are people who do nothing but cook over open flame and they are some of the most healthy people I know. The connection to cancer would be the crap put into food these days...further more, it's not like you go and grill a ribeye daily, and season it with enough chemicals to make your dog throw up. Remember in the early 2000's, they claimed eating a pepperoni pizza reduced your life by months for each one. If pepperoni was -that- dangerous, I'd have died a long time ago. I eat smoked foods 2 or more days out of the week, either as sausages, or an actual entree made from it, etc. I candidly -feel- healthier because I am progressively removing the processed crap from my life and making my own. I know what goes into it, and the only odd chemical that isn't some thing I could probably find in a garden is the pink salt.
  13. johnmeyer

    johnmeyer Master of the Pit

    Plastic has been used for food storage and serving for over half a century.

    I just looked at the National Cancer Institute's web page, and death from cancer in the USA since 1990 has fallen 25%. So deaths are down, but what about number of new cases per year?

    If you go to CDC Cancer Data site:


    and then use their data visualization tool, you will find a very slight increase in the total number of new cancer cases each year over the past quarter century. However, if you then look at the rate of new cancer cases over the same period, they have gone down. That is because the increase in total cases is driven by our significant population increase over that period, not by an actual increase in the percentage of people getting cancer.

    So, to summarize: there is no "explosion" in plastic use, and in fact soda has come in plastic bottles since the late 1970s. And, cancer rates are down, not up, and cancer mortality is way down.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm no fan of plastic and try to use glass and other things for food storage. I also wish the beverage industry would go back to re-usable glass bottles. Many people in this forum are old enough to remember how beverages were sold up until the mid-1960s: when you finished your soda, you put it back into the carton and took the six-pack back to the store. They sent it back to the bottler who washed the bottles and re-used them. These bottles ended up looking rather beaten up, with the logos faded, and etching on the glass from the cleaning.

    Unfortunately, the same people who complain about environmental impacts of one-use items would be the first to object to the potential health hazards of reusing bottles, so this old approach will probably never come back into use.

    Finally, there is always some study that tells me there is something wrong with pretty much anything: aluminum cookware causes Alzheimer's disease; stainless steel leaches poisonous chromium and cobalt into the food; non-stick coatings cause cancer; iron from CI pans is toxic; etc., etc.

    Something is going to kill you, but I'll bet it won't be plastic.
  14. As to Stainless steel.. I'm a metal fabricator and at work they take hexavalent chromium pretty serious. It can lead to nervous system problems. Alzheimer's runs in my family. So who know what will be my demise? One thing I'm not worrying about is eating smoked or grilled foods.
  15. johnmeyer

    johnmeyer Master of the Pit

    Yes, chromium is deadly serious. The question is, does it get into your food from cooking on stainless steel surfaces, and even if it does, are the levels involved enough to do anything? I have no idea, but it sure seems like we'd know by now, given how many billions of people have eaten food cooked in stainless pots and pans.