When one heats meat there is the potential for forming heterocyclic amines (HCAs) which are cancer causing agents. Unfortunately there is no easy way to determine if these are formed during the cooking process. The temperature of the cooking is not the only variable for HCAs formation; if done properly, meat cooked at high temperatures can produce no HCAs, while cooking at low temperatures for long times may produce quite a few of these harmful agents. Scientists have developed a novel solution for preventing the HCAs from forming. Adding certain fruits to the ground meat can inhibit the chemical reaction that forms the HCAs since the fruits are full of effective antioxidants. The researchers have used tart cherries and found them to work quite well when added to about 10% of the content of the ground meat. The fruit also inhibits oxidation from cooked meat while it is stored in the refrigerator. Many tree fruits produce similar pigmented antioxidants and it is likely similar benefits can be obtained by grinding up plums, grapes or other fruits. The researchers also found out that adding a capsule of vitamin E provides nearly the same benefit as the cherries. The researchers found that barbecue sauce actually increased the HCAs by 2-300%.
Science News April 24, 1999 155:264-266
COMMENT: Seems that some simple kitchen chemistry can go a long way towards making safer meat dishes. It would be very wise to immediately add a vitamin E capsule to the ground beef as soon as you purchase it. It would be interesting to experiment with adding the fruit and see how that enhances the flavor of the meat. Avoiding barbecue sauce would also seem a prudent precaution.