The health benefits of burnt food

Joined Dec 7, 2009
Are there any?  I am a little sloppy with the shishkabobs on the grill and perhaps I dont watch them enough.  We have a fair amount of black charcoal on some of the chicken and veggies.

Are there serious health problems with a little charcoal?  I suppose it is charcoal, right?

Is not charcoal used to absorb impurities in the human body?
Joined Feb 1, 2007
Kevin, in large amounts, the charring you refer to can have negative health effects, as it represents certain chemicals and chemical changes, along with condensates from the heat source itself. In normal grilling, don't worry about it.

However, it is not charcoal. Charcoal is the result of combustion in the absence of oxygen. Traditionally it was made by digging a pit, filling it with wood, and setting it afire. Once the fire was burning well they'd backfill the pit, cutting off the flow of air. About three weeks later they'd open the pit and, Voila! A hole full of charcoal----providing they didn't open it too soon. Doing so results in a rather spectacular explosion.

Nowadays the same basic process is used, but the combustion takes place in special retorts.

BTW, I would suggest that the charring you're experiencing isn't the result of time on the grill. It's likely coming from flare ups---usually from oils dripping off the meat. Try moving the stuff around more, so that if you get a flare-up the meat doesn't remain over the open flame.

Many grillers also leave a "safe zone" on the grill. That is, a place where the coals or gas are not directly under the grate. Sort of like indirect grilling. If nececessary, the food is moved to the safe zone where it can continue cooking but without the high heat of direct grilling.
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Joined Apr 3, 2010
Health concerns have been addressed for years re. Char Grill cookery. It is said that on cooking smoked items, franks etc. that the sodium nitrate and nitrites released from the product hit the hot coals and the results going back on the food or in our lungs is bad. If this be true I don't know. Over extended and repeated time it could well b ,.But then so is drinking alcohol.
Joined Jul 28, 2001
Well Shoot,

Here I am on the other side again.

There a quite a few studies that show charred meat contribute to cancers in rats and mamals.

I have some knowledge here since I lost a precious 19" of my Colon in 2008. I loved the burnt parts of

barbque and smoking anything.

This is a hard thing to google because most of what you'll read has an agenda. The idea of meat that turn into the charcoal

that is used to absorb things in humans is different. That's activate the charcoal to expand surface area.

2-3 very good studies out of UCLA

Many studies as to where the fat hits the coals and gives of aromatic hydocarbons that goes back into the meat.

I can pull some literature if anyone cares. the worst is heterocycliciamine? spelling?.

Same old story, anythingin moderation

If you don't have to burn those kabobs then don't.

chef tomain

Joined Nov 17, 2008
The carbon helps with digestion problems. I don['t buy into the cancer study that rail against bbqed foods.

Their is more cancer causing chemicals in your drinking water and the FDA approve poison allowed in food manufacturing.
Joined Feb 1, 2007
The carbon helps with digestion problems.

I'd like to see documentation on that statement, Chef Tomain. Sounds like one of those things people use to justify something they otherwise like.

The fact is, the chemical reactions that take place when a hunk of meat is tossed over live fire are fully understood---to the point that the byproducts can be identified based on the exact fuel that is used. Just because the result tastes good does not change the chemistry involved. If somebody (me, for instance) considers the flavor as a positive trade-off to possible health issues, I have no argument with them. But let's not obfuscate the issue with junk science.

As to the rest of your comment, I've never understood that kind of argument. It's like saying cocaine is ok because it's not heroin.
Joined Jul 28, 2001

You're right.

I try to stick to scientific studies.  Like I said, it's hard to find info on the WWW that does'nt have an agenda. I'm not bashing barbque/smoking nor was my post.

But I do cut off those little charred goodies and pitch them

Joined Feb 1, 2007
Jeff, my post wasn't directed at you, but at Chef Tomain who claims that all that char and burn and condensate is an aid to digestion. Lotsaluck documenting that one!

All I'm saying is that one should be aware of the potential health hazards. If you are, and choose to ignore them, no problems on my part. Heck, I ignore them more than the average cook, because so much of my cooking is done over live fires. Has to be, because my current job is running the foodways at a living history museum that interprets the 18th century. Weren't no induction stoves back then. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/rolleyes.gif

As it turns out, I just finished a book on 18th century foodways that required all sorts of recipe testing. And, yes, I'm aware of the potential health hazards, and, yes, I choose to ignore them in favor of the flavor imparted to the food. What I haven't done is come up with some off-the-wall health benefits claims to justify what I'm eating.
Joined Jul 28, 2001

I understand completely. I still smoke meats regularly. I choose to eat them.

While I have you, I would like to know if you've done this.

30 yrs. ago we had the oportunity to stay with my wifes uncle in France.

We cooked most meats in or near an open fire. He had cast iron vessels under the meats to catch the drippings. He would then baste the meats with

the drippings. The one thing I will always remember is how we stuffed and trussed all the fowl. We then hung them from various hooks near

the flame. We then gave a twist and the birds would spin slowly in one direction then reverse it self and spin the other way. They continuously turned throught the cooking process.

I have never been able to get same results in the ofen. Ever done this?

Joined Feb 1, 2007
A variation of it, Jeff.

A fairly common practice, back in the 18th century, was to hang a trussed fowl from a string, in front of the fire. You'd twist the string tightly and let it go. It would untwist and retwist until needing to be retwisted again. Naturally there'd be a drip pan under the bird to catch the drippings. Ours are forged rather than cast, but samee-same.

When Friend Wife discusses this with visitors she usually ends by saying, "even better than Ron Popeil's four payments of $39.99 vertical roaster." That always gets a laugh.

Really well-to-do folks actually had things like clockwork spits which acted just like our present-day electric ones.

Hearth cooking utilizes all sorts of common and specialized utensils. Most cooking is not done in the fire, itself, but in front of it (as with the birds), or over coals that are raked out on the apron. That's why so many old-time cooking vessels have legs, so they can sit above the coals. In addition, as you note, there are all sorts of hangers---S hooks, trammels, rachets, even chains---for adjusting height when you do cook in the firebox. Flat-bottomed cooking vessels were also used, and came in two types. One had a swiveled bail, that could hang from one of those hooks. The others would be used with trivets of various heights. Nowadays we mostly use trivets to protect tables and counters from hot pots. Back then they were more often used as cooking tools.

Here's an interesting bit of trivia: If a shallow pan had legs, it was a skillet. If it had a flat bottom it was a frying pan. Oddly enough, there were no cast iron frying pans we can document. Instead they were made of other materials: copper, tin, hammered iron, etc. I have no idea why this was so.

A lot of cooking equipment was based on reflected heat, too. There were reflector ovens, to be sure. But also things like bird roasters. We have one, for instance, that's about 16 inches square. Mounted to it are ten hooks, from which you hung small birds like quail and pigeons. This sat in front of the fire, and cooked from both sides. Ours has a built-in drip pan, including a pour spout so you could easily transfer the drippings to a saucepan to make gravy.

When cabins are first built they'd use a lug pole that rested in recesses in the chimney walls. The first labor-saving device would be a crane, that rotated in sockets attached to a sidewall. With it you could swing pots and kettles out of the fire, instead of having to reach in and lift a hot, heavy container.

Well, you've gotten me to hijack this thread big time. Maybe we should start a different one, if others are interested?
Joined Feb 26, 2007
True charcoal is supposedly good for your digestion ans keeping you regular.  Bur, I believe, only from what I've heard,  burnt meats are carcinogenic.  Which is what Kevin is talking about.

But,  it's so tasty!!  :)
Joined Dec 21, 2015
Charred food is charred proteins, fats, carbs..activated charcoal is oxidized at high temp with steam and air, and is made by insoluble carbonized wood. It's construct is porous, allowing absorption when used in the gut can absorb 100x its weight in unwanted bacteria, toxins, etc.  
Joined Jun 28, 2017
My grandmother taught me that when something was burnt like toast that it was good for the digestive system. I don't know how true that is but that's what I was raised to believe
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