Steaks, snags, and smokin’ hot tips for a tender summer marinade

Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Katie Clift puts meat in the hot seat and gives the Aussie barbeque a grilling.

Summer in Australia means cookouts and barbeques – and with Australia Day just around the corner you can almost smell the snags on the barbie.

While meat can be a great source of protein, vitamins and minerals – one of our favourite Aussie pastimes could be putting your health at risk.

Ruining a piece of meat isn’t the only thing you need to worry about when you’re cooking at high temperatures – high heat is also linked to producing chemicals with cancer-causing properties.

Some research suggests that burnt or charred meat may increase the risk of cancer – substances called heterocyclic amines are formed in foods that are cooked at high temperatures and blackened or charred. In animal studies, heterocyclic amines are linked to cancer.

While eating one charred sausage is unlikely to cause cancer, it’s best to err on the side of caution and avoid consuming burnt meat if you can.

Based on the evidence, there’s more reason to be cautious of processed meats than overcooked red meat, but we suggest you play it safe and if you do unintentionally overcook, scrape off any charcoal before consuming.

And while lean red meat provides a good source of nutrients, consumption of more than 100/120g per day, more than double the recommended amount, is associated with increased risk of colorectal and renal cancer.

Like all things in life – moderation is key. We know up to one third of cancers are preventable through lifestyle changes including eating healthy, quitting smoking, engaging in physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight.

For most of us, keeping our health on track can be as easy as making a few simple changes to routine diet and exercise habits – the key is to strive for a consistently healthy approach to stay happy.

For example, if you’re grilling or barbequing opt for smaller pieces of meat – they cook more quickly and at lower temperatures. Marinating meat first also prevents foods from charring, while keeping it tender and adding flavour to your meal.

Impress your friends and family with low-salt and no-sugar zesty citrus marinades, infusing intense flavour through use of garlic and ginger, or jerk spices like chilli, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves.

Limit or avoid processed meats, which are high in fat and salt, this includes sausages, frankfurts, salami, bacon and ham. Choose lean cuts of meat or chicken, and without skin – less fat should reduce flames and therefore smoke.

Limit consumption of burnt or charred meat, and choose cooking methods such as casseroling, boiling or microwave heating over high-temperature grilling, pan-frying or barbequing – if opting for these methods flip frequently so neither side has time to absorb or lose too much heat.

Non-meat options such as legumes provide many of the same nutrients as meats and poultry. There are also many benefits in eating fish – it’s an excellent source of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and may reduce the risk of diseases ranging from adult dementia to certain cancers.

And last but not least – portion your plate to be a healthy weight. Eating a healthy balanced diet, and sticking to recommended portion sizes can improve long-health and wellbeing, reducing risk of chronic disease. Stick to the right ration of 50 per cent veggies, 25 per cent protein and 25 per cent carbohydrates for a balanced meal.

Cheers to that!

More information about Cancer Council Queensland via Cancer Council Helpline 13 11 20 or on our website.

For interviews, please contact:

Katie Clift, Executive Manager, Media and Spokesperson, Cancer Council Queensland

Ph: (07) 3634 5372 or 0409 001 171

For more information, please contact:

Eliarne Iezzi, Senior Media Advisor, Cancer Council Queensland Ph: (07) 3634 5153