I just love a BBQ. Partly because it means the sun must be shining (not that you couldn't BBQ in the rain but it wouldn't have quite the same vibe!). But mostly because of the food. From the meat, fish and vegetable kebabs that go onto the grill, through to all the extras like colourful salads, corn on the cobs, coleslaw and new potatoes, it's a meal that has something for everyone.
But the heat of the BBQ is intense. So my top tip for your BBQ is to thoroughly marinate the food that goes onto the grill. It adds loads of flavour, but it also protects our skin and our health.
Here comes the science part... As the BBQ reaches its high temperatures, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are formed. Essentially this is a chemical which is thought to lead to increased risk of disease. It is also inflammatory and increased exposure has been linked to skin conditions such as atopic eczema.
There are over 100 PAHs in the environment because they are found naturally in air, soil, water and food as well as being found in car emissions and cigarette smoke. So we can’t completely avoid them, but we can minimise our exposure where possible.
So how does marinating help?
As the meat cooks, the fat drips down onto the coals below where they cause flames and smoke, producing PAHs in the process. They are then carried back up in the smoke where they coat the surface of the food being cooked.
Marinating though, with ingredients such as garlic, rosemary, sage, olive oil, and lemon juice, have been shown to reduce the formation of PAH by up to 90%!
Don't eat meat? You aren't let off the hook. We can still absorb the PAHs in the smoke through our skin, as well as inhaling it when we breathe in
One of my favourite BBQ recipes is a River Cottage one. A great one if you have a bay tree in the garden! It's a perfect example of how a marinade can be so simple, yet so delicious.
Prep time: 2 minutes
Cook time: 8 minutes
Total time: 10 minutes
2 gutted mackerels
6 mini branches of bay leaves (each one needs a good handful of leaves on it)
Salt and pepper
Rub each mackerel with olive oil and season with salt and pepper
Once the BBQ is ready put a thin layer of leaves on the grill
Place the mackerel on top of the bay leaf bed and drizzle over a bit more olive oil along with a squeeze of lemon juice
After 5 minutes turn the fish over and cook for a few more minutes until cooked
The flames and smoke send the flavour of the bay up through the fish and it is so simple yet so tasty!