Sausage experts know that the key to perfect meat is simmering in beer first - and in Science 2.0's definitive article on outdoor cooking, The Science Of Grilling, we learned that beer has multiple uses in cuisine, and an article in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry adds to this important body of work, noting that a beer marinade helps reduce the formation of potentially harmful substances in grilled meats.

There have been studies finding that grilled meat leads to colorectal cancer, which has led overzealous epidemiologists to declare that red meat causes cancer. Then they declared that grilling causes cancer. Then they declared that eating meat is as harmful as smoking.

Why? Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are substances that can form when meats are cooked at very high temperatures, like on a backyard grill. And high levels of PAHs, which are also in cigarette smoke and car exhaust, are associated with cancers in laboratory animals, although it's uncertain if that's true for people.

Meat fibers before and after cooking. Beer can make this whole process healthier too.

Nevertheless, the European Union Commission Regulation went ahead and ignored science again and mandated indicators for the occurrence and carcinogenic potency of PAHs in food and attributed maximum levels for these compounds in foods. Beer, wine or tea marinades can reduce the levels of some potential carcinogens in cooked meat, but little was known about how different beer marinades affect PAH levels, until now.

The researchers grilled samples of pork marinated for four hours in Pilsner beer, non-alcoholic Pilsner beer or a black beer ale, to well-done on a charcoal grill. Black beer had the strongest effect, reducing the levels of eight major PAHs by more than half compared with unmarinated pork. "Thus, the intake of beer marinated meat can be a suitable mitigation strategy," say the researchers.

Citation: Olga Viegas, Iria Yebra-Pimentel, Elena Martínez-Carballo, Jesus Simal-Gandara, and Isabel M. P. L. V. O. Ferreira, 'Effect of Beer Marinades on Formation of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Charcoal-Grilled Pork', J. Agric. Food Chem., 2014, 62 (12), pp 2638–2643
March 8, 2014 DOI: 10.1021/jf404966w