This post is not really a recipe per se. It is pretty informational and mostly delicious. Last week in the Weekly Growler Fill on PorchDrinking.com, I posted a news article about how marinating beer helps cut down the carcinogens formed during the grilling process. I actually already knew about this, but of course, I needed to try it out.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, a carcinogen is a potentially cancer causing chemical. That doesn’t mean it just automatically causes cancer, but it has the ability to hurt your cells and eventually lead to bad things. The chemicals that occur during grilling, or cooking over an open flame, are called heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. For our purposes, we will call them HA’s and PAH’s. The HA’s are created when the components of protein in meat break down while cooking and PAH’s come from the fire and stick to your meat. So, how do these little jerks hurt us? Well, they can get into your cells and either delete some chunks of DNA or mess it up. What is really bad is when they cause mutations in ‘oncogenes’ or genes that are known to be linked to cancer. Usually, your cells are built to deal with mutations but sometimes they can’t. If the cells start replicating out of control, you get a tumor. So now you know how these chemicals cause cancer.
We are currently aware that HA’s and PAH’s can lead to cancer in animals if they are exposed at high levels. We can’t confirm that it causes cancer in humans, mainly because we don’t do studies like that on humans – that’s just cruel. Also, the key words here are ‘high levels’ – which I don’t think you’ll be obtaining from a few steaks. So please, keep grilling, it is delicious. To make it even more delicious though, and to cut down on these bad guys trying to hurt us, some awesome dudes figured out that soaking your meat in beer does some pretty great stuff. They used a dark ale, soaked the meat for a couple of hours, and then grilled it. They compared the beer-soaked meat to the not-soaked-meat and found that the levels of PAH were about cut in half. Lagers worked too but ales were better because they had more anti-oxidant activities. So….now we must try it out….
I used Route des épices by Brasserie Dieu du ciel in Montreal. It is a rye ale brewed with black and green peppercorns, which made it the most perfect selection ever. My marinade was simple: the whole bottle of beer and some shallot-pepper seasoning from Penzey’s. If you don’t have this, I suggest something with garlic, tarragon, and bay leaves. I stabbed my two filet’s a few times with a fork, put them in a dish, and coated them in the marinade. They sat in the refrigerator for 5 hours and were then grilled to medium-rare. Clearly, my house is not set up as a science lab, so I wasn’t able to figure out if the steaks had less carcinogens. What I can tell you is, they tasted absolutely-freaking-amazing. The rye and peppercorn flavors of the Route des épices were prominent throughout the whole cut of meat and I loved it down to the very last bite. Although I can’t tell for sure whether the steak was healthier, I’m going to believe it so I can keep eating this incredible meal.
Look how beautiful they are after their beer bath!