There’s nothing like going camping in the middle of summer. The sight of an open fire, the smell of meat on the BBQ, and long lazy afternoons by the lake all make for an excellent camping trip.
When it comes to cooking outdoors, though, whether at home or elsewhere, a pertinent question comes to mind:
What is the healthiest way to cook outdoors?
Grilling outdoors is the healthiest way to cook food. There are three ways to grill outdoors: gas burners, open flame, or charcoal. Of these three methods, a gas burner is the safest and healthiest way to cook outdoors.
What is the healthiest way to cook outdoors?
Grilling has long been touted as the healthiest way to cook outdoors because there are no additional calories from excess oil, batter, or sauces. In addition, fat drips away from the food.
There are various methods of outdoor cooking. Some are healthier than others, but all have the same choice of heat source: woodfire, charcoal, or a gas burner. In addition, the various cooking methods may call for the use of different cookware. For example, using vegetable oil, you could saute vegetables in a cast iron skillet over an open flame. Or, you could grill meat over charcoal, woodfire, or a gas burner without using cookware.
There is, however, something to consider. According to Columbia University, grilling meat over high heat and an open flame may cause the formation of chemicals that create cancer. Cooking food over an open flame with high heat exposes you to certain carcinogens. These include polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic aromatic amines (HCAs).
A 2016 study found that these carcinogens are mutagenic and can alter DNA, thus causing the formation of chemicals that create cancer. This process primarily refers to cooking muscle meat at high temperatures using cooking methods such as pan frying or grilling over an open flame.
Cooking with charcoal may not be a health hazard, but the smoke from cooking with charcoal may be a concern, as the smoke creates carcinogens that cause cancer.
How are HCSs and PACs formed during the cooking process?
Specific components in meat react at high temperatures and cause HCAs to form. These components include sugars, creatine or creatinine, and amino acids.
On the other hand, PAHs are created through the flames caused by meat grilled over a heated surface or from the fat that drips off the meat onto the open flame. The PAH is found in the smoke and then adheres to the surface of the meat.
This process may also occur during other forms of cooking, such as smoking meat.
Factors that affect the formation of PAHs and HCAs
Different types of meat will be impacted at different stages and in different ways during the cooking process. Cooking meat at temperatures over 300 ºF will initiate the process.
Other factors that may influence the formation of these chemicals are the time the meat is cooked. For example, from rare to well done or charred. And any cooking method that exposes food to smoke may cause PAH formation.
Different ways to cook outdoors
There are different methods of cooking food outdoors. You can boil food on an open flame. But this is hardly appropriate for cooking meat. It may work for dishes like vegetables, grains, pasta, legumes, or eggs. You could boil meat, but it would hardly have the same taste as using other methods such as grilling, which causes the Maillard Reaction.
If you are fortunate enough to own an outdoor pizza oven, you could make food such as pizza in your oven. But you will be limited to what you can cook inside it. And this still exposes you to the smoke responsible for carcinogen formation.
Alternatively, you can fry food in a skillet or cast iron skillet over direct heat, such as an open flame, charcoal, or a gas burner. In addition, you can roast or steam food outdoors.
To summarize, the options for outdoor cooking include grilling, boiling, baking, roasting, or frying.
Is grilling the healthiest way to cook?
Now that we’ve looked at the science behind it, let’s answer the question.
Yes, grilling is the healthiest way to cook outside. Grilling itself is not the problem. It is the heat source that is used during grilling that causes the problem. An open flame, charcoal grilling, and smoking food are all grilling methods that promote carcinogen formation.
What is the healthiest way of grilling?
Cooking with gas is the best grilling method. It produces a smaller carbon footprint than other forms of grilling. In addition, cooking meat or vegetables on a gas-powered appliance will decrease the number of carcinogens you are exposed to when grilling food. Grilling on a gas burner will enable you to create the Maillard effect on meat and achieve a beautiful sear on your food.
The added benefit of grilling on a gas burner is that you use less oil, and the fat drips away from the food. Grilling food is an excellent way to prepare food outdoors and helps to prevent cardiovascular disease and other health-related diseases that may be caused by other forms of cooking, such as deep frying.
Another great benefit of using this technique is that your cooking time will be reduced, ensuring that all the food’s nutrients remain intact. Grilling vegetables will also ensure that more of the vitamins and minerals in the vegetables remain intact. Remember one key point when grilling, though do not burn the food.
Many prefer to order their meat in a restaurant as “black and blue.” Or they may want their steak grilled this way. Black and blue refers to meat that is rare on the inside but char grilled on the outside. This cooking temperature is hazardous because the meat is cooked at very high temperatures over an open flame until the exterior is almost black. At the same time, the inside is still very rare. This cooking technique is a textbook recipe for carcinogen formation.
Is grilling healthier than frying?
Yes, absolutely. Provided that you are using the correct method of grilling. For example, using a gas burner is much healthier than using an open flame or charcoal to grill food. Frying food is an unhealthy option that is typically high in trans fats. According to research, this cooking technique is linked to increased heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and cancer cases.
What’s healthier, charcoal or gas grill?
Without a doubt, gas grilling is much safer and healthier than charcoal grilling. Gas grilling has a smaller carbon footprint and produces less harmful smoke than charcoal grilling.
It’s easy to understand why most people prefer a charcoal grill. This cooking technique brings a unique, rich, smokey flavor that is unrivaled by other forms of grilling. The method is simple and easy, which is why it is such a favorite, and, most importantly, it’s very cost-effective. It is a healthier cooking method than frying, for example. But at what risk? The smoke produced from a charcoal grill leads to the carcinogenic formation, and research suggests that this cooking technique leads to health hazards over time.
On the other hand, gas grilling is a very quick and effective way to grill outside. You simply turn a dial and have near-instant heat ready to grill your food perfectly. Another great feature is that these grills come in various sizes, which allows for more cooking space. You have much more control over your food’s cooking temperature and time when using a gas grill.
But, the single most significant benefit of a gas grill is that you are exposed to fewer carcinogens during the cooking process.
What is the healthiest outdoor grill?
It’s rare to find a home in America that doesn’t own a gas grill or hasn’t owned one at some point. The market is flooded with different gas grills, and deciding which is the best can be daunting. There is a lot to consider when purchasing a gas grill. For example, how big is your family? How many people do you normally grill for? How often do you grill?
Some gas grills are better than others because they offer a variety of features, including a wider range of temperature control, high quality, durability, and rust resistance. Ideally, you want a power grill that produces high heat in a short amount of time and delivers a perfect sear on your meat without the risk to your health.