There’s an unrelenting wave of fear sweeping the nation regarding red meat. Everywhere we turn we’re being told red meat is unhealthy and it should be avoided. Of all the hand-wringing concerns about red meat, only two are blamed for causing chronic diseases. One is red meat has saturated fat and cholesterol. The other is that when red meat is cooked at high temperatures it causes cancer.
Charred meat is definitely carcinogenic. Cooking until well-done, deep-fat frying, and high temperatures that char beef, pork, fish, and poultry produces two cancer-causing substances: heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Both are mutagenic, which means they cause changes in DNA that increase cancer risks with frequent consumption. Reduced cooking times and temperatures lower HCA levels. PAHs result from charring meat, so either not charring the meat or scraping off the burnt bits helps to reduce PAHs.