smoking meats vs grilling
Expert Advice, Healthy Eating

Is Smoked Meat Bad For You?

May 25, 2021

Whether you’re a fan of brisket or ribs, everyone knows the smoke plays a huge role in the flavor. But what role does it play in your health?

Smoked vs. Grilled

Smoking and grilling meat require outdoor space and a large piece of equipment, but they’re not quite the same thing. According to Spoon University, the biggest difference between the two cooking methods is the amount of time required to finish a piece of meat. 

  • Smoking can take anywhere from a few hours to all day to get right, and constant lower temperature monitoring is required to ensure the meat cooks thoroughly and evenly. 
  • Grilling only takes a few minutes, is at a higher heat, and is much less labor and time-intensive, but doesn’t achieve the same level of juiciness or tenderness as smoking. Taste and texture are just a few of the benefits of smoked meat.

Smoking and Lung Health

Americans learn from a young age the detrimental health effects of smoking tobacco and e-cigarettes. While there is some discourse surrounding whether smoking cannabis or other herbs is as detrimental as smoking tobacco, generally inhaling any type of smoke is worse than not inhaling it. So, even though the smoke used to cook meat is different than a cigarette, it’s still best to make sure you’re doing it somewhere outdoors with excellent ventilation. 

Carcinogens in Meat

Scientists have found that the cooking process that creates the flavorful blackened crust on meats actually contains heterocyclic amines, which may be carcinogenic. The “burnt ends” of smoked foods are the parts with the highest concentration of these amines and the highest likelihood of health risks. 

Safely Enjoying a Summer Cookout

Though it may now seem daunting, there are ways to make the food at your gatherings safer from Memorial Day all the way through Labor Day. Here are some tips:

  • Balance your plate! In addition to meats, you can add veggies like corn, squash, watermelon, pineapple, or other cruciferous veggies to the smoker too.
  • Make sure your smoking area is well-ventilated. Even if you’re outside, ensure there are no trees cutting off the smoke and causing it to pool in the smoking area. An open, breezy spot is best!
  • Choose wood. Lighter fluid and charcoal emit carcinogenic gasses when burned, so opting for a nice piece of wood will add flavor and keep your lungs more clear.
  • Cut your meat into smaller pieces before smoking. It’ll help it cook faster and reduce the total amount of time you’ll spend around fumes. But don’t cut it too small – it’ll be easier to overcook and will end up less juicy.

There’s no shortage of things in life that can’t be made healthier simply by enjoying in moderation. If you make smoking meats a special event that only happens a few times a month, not only will you build excitement for it, but you can have your brisket and eat it too. 

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