Sure, everybody knows that eating seriously cinder-ized meats from the grill isn’t the smartest move you can make (unless you’re trying to get cancer, in which case have we got a blackened rib-eye recipe for you!).
But a study review just put out by the U.K.’s Food Standards Agency has found that the same cancerous substances that show up in over-grilled meats can also lurk in over-cooked starchy foods, including everything from scorched potato chips and french fries to charred coffee beans and toast.
The evildoer is acrylamide, a chemical that’s been connected to cancer in lab studies. It’s produced not only when tobacco is burned (hey, the Marlboro man didn’t die by falling off a horse), but also when foods containing water, sugar, and amino acids are burned at temperatures higher than 250°F.
And the higher the temp a food is cooked at, and the blacker it gets, the more acrylamides it’ll have. Acrylamide has also been linked to reproductive and nervous system damage.
Steer clear or get burned. Here are some other common cooking snafus that can spell disaster, or worse, death.
1. Cross-contaminating raw & cooked foods
Always change out utensils, plates, and cutting boards when you’re handling/prepping raw food. Pathogens and bacteria from uncooked meat can spread to fully cooked, prepared meals and cause food poisoning. An Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics survey found 24 percent of Americans report not properly separating raw and ready-to-eat foods.
2. Eating spoiled food
3. Eating undercooked meat
Hey, it might have even killed Mozart, according to the JAMA Network.
4. Not washing hands before cooking/between handling raw and cooked foods
Take the extra 30 seconds and wash your hands after preparing raw food. Transferring bacteria from your raw chicken to your freshly grilled kebabs can lead to food poisoning and/or other illnesses.
5. Eating potentially dangerous foods
Yeah, this one’s a no-brainer. But you’d be surprised how many foods—like almonds, rhubarb, and lima beans—have potentially lethal parts or can be fatal if improperly prepared (or at all). You’ve been warned.
6. Exploding slow cookers
Yep, you read that right. Be sure to monitor your Crock-Pot closely, or it could become a high-pressure explosion waiting to happen.