Munich - Barbecuing is more than a pastime – it’s a philosophy. The traditional open-flame cooking method has legions of fans in Germany. No wonder, then, that a current TÜV SÜD survey reveals two-thirds of barbecue enthusiasts prefer charcoal grills, with gas and electric grills also proving popular. Whatever the method chosen, an important issue is to avoid the food from becoming contaminated by undesirable substances during cooking. TÜV SÜD’s food experts have useful advice on how to achieve this.
It’s the flavours created by cooking over direct heat that make barbecued food so tasty, and the short cooking times ensure that meat or fish stays juicy. But for all the back-to-the-roots, close-to-nature character of barbecuing, the process conceals long-term health risks. When fat or oil from a marinade drips onto the coals of a barbecue or the heating elements of an electric grill, carcinogenic substances including benzopyrenes form, rise in the bluish smoke from the barbecue and then settle on the surface of the food. Even when the grill rack is laden with fruit, vegetables or cheese, barbecuing causes the levels of toxins on the food surfaces to soar.
Undesirable substances also occur on barbecued food at children’s parties, where kids love to grill sausages, twist bread or marshmallows on sticks – but often hold them in, rather than at, the open flames. The first commandment of successful barbecuing should therefore always be “golden, not black”. However, these effects can be reduced by using a few basic items of equipment and a little skill. For example, carcinogen levels are significantly reduced if the food is placed on aluminium foil trays for protection or, as in the case of gas or electric grills, is exposed only to indirect heat.
Dr. Andreas Daxenberger, food expert at TÜV SÜD, recommends keeping supplies of food that are not immediately needed in the refrigerator or cool bag. “Long barbecue parties involve the risk of microbial contamination of meat, sauces or sensitive side dishes due to inadequate refrigeration. On hot days the content of any bacteria already present in the food, such as salmonella, will explode.” Unpleasant consequences may result – however much fun went into planning the barbecue party.
Tips for successful barbecuing pleasure from the TÜV SÜD expert:
- Always ensure your charcoal/briquettes are glowing thoroughly
- Do not place food directly on the coals or heating elements
- If flames rise from the charcoal, wait until they die down before continuing to barbecue
- Leave at least a hand’s breadth of space between the grill rack and the heat source to avoid exposing the food to excessive temperatures
- Never grill meat or fish for longer than necessary
- To cut down on smoke, choose leaner cuts of meat and always pat them dry of any marinade or oil before grilling
- Do not eat black or burnt parts of the food – they are laden with toxins
- Avoid grilling cured sausages if possible
- Be careful to store raw meat and fish separate from salads and side dishes
- Keep marinades and sauces well chilled, using a cool bag if necessary
- It is better to avoid foods containing raw egg (authentic mayonnaise, tiramisu) in hot temperatures