As part of the American Chemical Society's big meeting last week, they hosted a chemistry-themed barbecue reception. Science News reports on the geek cook-out, including some news-you-can-use from two food chemists. From Science News (photo from Wikimedia Commons):
"Unfortunately, if you ask the [food] safety people they'll tell you to cremate everything," said Shirley Corriher, a food chemist and cookbook author from Atlanta. Meats should be cooked long enough to kill bacteria, she noted, but they don't need to be cooked beyond medium to be truly safe. For one thing, carcinogenic chemicals called heterocyclic amines form when creatine — a substance found in muscle tissue — reacts at high temperatures with amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. The amount of HCAs formed in grilled meats typically triples if meats are cooked well done rather than medium well, she noted.
Other research-proven tricks for reducing HCAs, as noted in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, include using marinades, garlic and onion, said Risch. A marinade of red wine, for instance, can reduce the formation of HCAs by 88 percent, she noted. Although scientists aren't sure exactly how these techniques work, moisture from marinades may ensure that the meat directly in contact with the grill remains at a relatively low temperature, she said.