Editorials

Editorial

Health: Grilling the cooking police

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This time each year, millions of Americans resolve to cut down on fatty foods. And for good reason: Meals saturated in butter are among the reasons why about one-third of US adults are obese.

Those foods are what landed “Paula Deen’s Southern Cooking Bible’’ on the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s list of the unhealthiest cookbooks of 2011. In Deen’s kitchen, there’s nothing — from fresh vegetables to already-fatty treats — that can’t be improved by adding a stick of butter or cheese. While the physicians group may be using Deen as a celebrity scapegoat, its ranking offers a helpful reminder of what foods are unhealthy.

Unfortunately, the committee also included on its annual list “The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook,’’ a book of recipes compiled by the team that publishes Cook’s Illustrated magazine out of America’s Test Kitchen in Brookline. Its sin? Featuring 50 pages of recipes for grilled meat. The physicians group defended its pick by explaining that grilled animal products can contain heterocyclic amines, a family of mutagenic and cancer-causing compounds. While some studies have suggested that charring meats produces compounds linked with cancer, the health threats posed by the grilled recipes in “The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook’’ aren’t comparable to those posed by artery-clogging foods like Deen’s “lady’s brunch burger’’ — a hamburger patty piled high with a fried egg and bacon nestled between two Krispy Kreme donuts.

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Those hoping to eat better in 2012 shouldn’t throw out their grill recipes just yet. When prepared properly and eaten in moderation, grilled chicken kebabs are always a better choice than fried chicken.