Wednesday, November 3, 2010

To Grill or Not To Grill?

One of our favorite ways to cook is on the grill, so when I read Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival by T.S.Wiley and Bent Formby found a statement about carcinogens in barbecued meats I was pretty sad.  I gather a lot of my Paleo nutrition information from a combination of Internet and printed sources, and decided to try my luck at submitting a question to Robb Wolf's weekly podcast.  This podcast is a little geeky, but I find it fascinating (which probably makes me a little geeky too) and it has really helped increase my knowledge quickly since the podcast covers such a wide variety of questions.  If you're looking for an easy way to learn more about the pseudo-nutrition science of Paleo foods download some of Robb Wolf's podcasts and start listening to them when you're commuting, doing something mundane like checking all of your friends facebook statuses, or running 12 miles - whatever fits best into your schedule.

Here was my question to Robb and Andy, it was asked as #9 Grilling Meats in Episode 51:
I just finished reading Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival by T.S.Wiley and Bent Formby and have a question about a statement they made related to barbecued meats:

On Page 176 it says "The average serving of barbecued or burned meat imparts to you an amount of cancer causing particles equivalent to what you would get from smoking 250 cigarettes"

I understand the burned meat part, but what do they mean by barbecued?  I'm asking because I grill most of my meats/seafood for dinner - fish, steak, chicken, pork, turkey - it all tastes better on the grill.  Does grilling your meats- as long as you don't burn them or cook them to death - create the same carcinogenic compounds that they state in the book?  Since reading this I've been more cognizant of not eating any part that's burned but do I need to stop grilling too?

To hear Robb's response to my question, click here and fast forward to about 34:30.  I'm pretty proud that I asked a question that Robb has been dreading for years, the guy is a smart guy and gets TONS of questions! 

And the million dollar question, after hearing Robb break down the science of carcinogens and grilling meats what will I do, will I stop grilling?  In short no, I will make sure that I don't eat burned meat or burned anything for that matter and am going to grill less often - instead of grilling everything I'll mix in baking things in the oven and I'm even thinking about getting a pressure cooker and maybe a bamboo steaming basket for meats.  This is an instance where you can drive yourself crazy, but like Robb said, eating grilled burned meats even if they have some carcinogenic properties is still better than eating a bagel!


  1. FANTASTIC question, one that I will always remember as making Robb groan because he was dreading this question coming up for years.

  2. Hi Laura

    A great question - but one that does leave me confused any paleo preparation of meat would most likely be barbecued/burnt to some degree due to food contact with the naked flame. I am of the 'well done and get rid of all parasites' type of guy.

    I wonder if the high levels of antioxidants mitigate the risks?