In case you were thinking of shunning turkey for Christmas dinner this year and chowing down on hamburgers, researchers from the University of Arizona have some advice that could help to reduce the formation of potentially cancer-causing chemicals and inactivate food poisoning bugs in grilled meat.
When you pop your burger on the barbeque – or under the grill in this weather – it goes nice and brown and crispy. But at the same time, chemical reactions that take place as the meat is heated produce chemicals called heterocyclic amines. These chemicals are thought to be partly responsible for the increased risk of cancer in people who eat a lot of meat. Cooking meat at a lower temperature can reduce the formation of the chemicals, but also increases the chances that bugs like E. coli - which can cause food poisoning – don't get destroyed.
But the Arizona researchers suggest that a compound called carvacrol, found in the herb oregano, could help to solve both problems.
Carvacrol is an antioxidant, and the scientists think that it might reduce the formation of heterocyclic amines as meat is cooked. And as an added bonus, the compound also have anti-bacterial properties and can inactivate bugs like E. coli.
The scientists, led by Sadhana Ravishankar, are currently testing a range of plant compounds mixed with hamburgers, to try and find the most effective combination that still tastes nice. Yummy!